“I don’t think God’s wowed when we go across an ocean, I think he’s dazzled when we go across the street. Make it happen right where you already are.” – Bob Goff
When I was younger, somewhere in my high school years, I was set on a dream — to travel to Africa. Africa was my mission, my purpose, my passion. I collected African decor for my bedroom — a tall, wooden giraffe, colourful beads that dangled from my door frame, a map of the continent hung above my headboard. I read and fell in love with books with African connections, Roots and Night Come Swiftly and Cry, The Beloved Country. I repeated the words of Psalm 139 every night as I gazed out my window at the stars.
Even if I rise on the wings of the dawn, even if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. – Psalm 139:9-10
I imagined myself on an airplane, flying across the Atlantic, living a life in Africa. To settle on the far side of the sea. This was my calling.
After high school I went straight to university to start working towards my teaching degree. It wasn’t me who flew to Africa right away but my twin sister, who went to stay with our friends who were missionaries in Rwanda. We wrote e-mails back and forth, and while she hiked among gorillas and learned how to wash clothes by hand, I spent late nights in the library, writing papers and studying for exams. But I wasn’t jealous. I had wanted to be a teacher since elementary school. I knew my time in Africa would come, and I would have a smart degree to put to use once I was there.
But then I got married, started working, had a child, and then another child. And that dream to move to Africa faded into the background. I became immersed in the life I was building right here in Halifax. And it was a beautiful life. How could I be a better wife, mother, friend, neighbour? These were the people, the ones I interacted with every day, that were tugging at my heart. And learning to love them more fully, with more of God and less of myself, became my mission.
Last week a Ukranian family arrived on our street. A mother and her two young boys had fled their homes a few months before, and had been waiting in Poland for the news that they could come to Canada. She found out on Wednesday that their paperwork was clear. She and her boys arrived the next day, bringing with them a single suitcase and backpack. They are living in my neighbours’ basement for the next little while as the mother looks for work and settles into her new life, an ocean apart from her parents and siblings who stayed in Ukraine. Our community rallied together and donated bags of clothes and shoes and toys, we bring meals and treats and gift cards.
The Sunday after they arrive my family sleeps in and we don’t make it to the morning church service. But the sun is shining and we play out on the street with our new neighbours. It’s the closest thing to church I’ve felt in a long time. The boys bike and scooter and shoot baskets together.
Our new friends speak very little English, so instead we draw on the pavement with chalk, guessing what fruit the other person has drawn. Pineapple? Yes! Tomato? No…Apple? Yes! The mom and I sit in silence, laughing at the kids, using Google translate to ask each other a few questions. How many siblings do you have? What kind of work do you do? What are your hobbies? We share from a big bowl of watermelon I’ve brought over, wiping the pink juice that drips from our boys’ chins.
And it’s these little moments of connection that matter to me now, more than that childhood dream to travel overseas.
We pray, Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Or, as the ESV translates, We pray that your kingdom come — that what you want will be done here on earth, the same as in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, emphasis mine).
We pray that your kingdom come — that what you want will be done here on earth, the same as in heaven – Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
And He answers. He works through us to bring his love and light and life right where we are. His kingdom can come, can dwell, can shine, here on our streets where our families live and our children play and our neighbours chat. When we work with Christ, and dig these human hands into the rich, holy soil of our lives, heaven can bloom right beneath our own two feet.
And God, our good, good Father, is delighted.