Checking in with Friends

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As I said in my last post (see Welcome!), I am on a road trip to Boston to meet with missionaries, friends, and Allegra, one of my ministry partners.  The only problem with a road trip is that by definition it means spending a lot of time in the car, which is exhausting and leaves little time for writing.  However, the good thing about it is my subject for today: checking in with friends.

Friday and Saturday

The first of the friends I checked in with was Hannah, my roommate on my first trip to Israel.  I still haven’t written about that trip because on the tour our days were so full that I simply found no time or energy for writing.  But I’ll introduce Hannah to you now: Hannah is a Messianic Jew—the only one on our tour.  We hit it off like gangbusters, and have been close friends ever since.  Hannah became one of my prayer partners, so that gave me a double incentive to see her while I’m in Boston.

I left New Jersey very early in the morning with the idea of doing my best to miss the morning rush hour as I skirted New York to the north.  This strategy got me into Boston by late morning.  I am staying at an affiliate of Bella Vista, our residence in North Carolina, and it’s a pretty sweet deal because I can stay for free.  Not only that, but the former managers of Bella Vista had been transferred to Boston—and they are also part of my prayer team.  So first I checked in at the Boston residence, called Colonial Gardens.  Bob and Stella were not there because it was their day off, so I checked in, called Hannah, and met her for lunch.

Hannah took me to lunch at a Jewish delicatessen/restaurant in Brookline, which is a Jewish neighborhood of Boston.  After a lunch of Israeli couscous (more tender and delicious than regular middle-eastern couscous), we went to the Israeli bookstore.  I got Genesis and Exodus illustrated in Hebrew—beautiful!—a Hebrew calendar, and a Torah scroll.  When Hannah showed me the scroll, the Holy Spirit came on me so strong that I couldn’t move.  I just stood there for a minute or so breathing and feeling the emotion of holding that handwritten scroll of God’s Word.  I also picked up a copy of the Bedside Torah, which my friend, Myra, had recommended to me just before coming to Boston.

The bookstore was closing because of the Sabbath, so we went back to Hannah’s house, where she has an office out back.  Her office is filled with books, mostly Bibles, Torah, and Jewish writings.  She had put up shelves over her desk and put out a Christmas village on it, complete with streetlights, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and dancers.  Hannah has made her office very homey, brimming with equal parts beauty and comfort.

Still high on holding that Torah scroll, Hannah took me to dinner at her favorite place.  She said the same thing she had said at lunch: “Everything here is good.”  And it was.

The next morning, I saw Bob and Stella and had coffee with them.  But of course, they were busy, being on duty.  And I had a breakfast appointment with Hannah, who wanted me to enjoy her favorite local diner.

The diner was small and packed, so Hannah and I sat at the counter.  Vivian, the diner’s owner, was a small woman in constant motion.  Practically everyone there knew Hannah, and seeing her greet all her friends was a bittersweet reminder of relationships sacrificed by moving so much in my life.  Perhaps if I had remained rooted in one place, I might never have found either the boldness or the desire to move to Italy as a missionary.  The cost of ministry keeps coming back to family and friends.  At the same time, God has compensated me by allowing me to visit and reconnect with friends, as I’ve been doing on this road trip.  Also, the immediacy of email and skype has shrunken the world so that Italy doesn’t feel quite so far away.

Vivian took our order and refilled our coffee cups, which had not gotten even half empty.  I watched as Vivian greeted people that came through the door.  Every child was greeted with a hug.  After finishing, each child was allowed to go behind the counter for a lollypop to take with them.  One woman came in and sat beside Hannah.  They talked a bit in low tones, and Hannah put her arm around the woman.  The sadness on her face touched my heart.

After breakfast Hannah took me to meet her friend, Darlene.  The sad woman, she explained, was Polly.  She was the only daughter in a family of five brothers.  Polly had been left to stay in their parents’ house and care for their aging mother.  The mother and brothers all treat Polly very badly, and speak harshly to her.  As the mother’s health has deteriorated, so has her treatment of Polly.  When her mother dies, Polly knows that she will be forced to move out.  Since she has devoted herself to caring for her mother, Polly has no job, no money, and no place else to go.  Meanwhile, Polly is no longer young, herself.  As Hannah spoke, I began to pray.

Then we arrived at Darlene’s house.  Darlene’s daughter lives next door, so her daughter, her grandson, and another daughter came through the living room where we were visiting.  It was a lively house, brimming with love and activity.  Darlene’s grandson, Tyler, greeted us with hugs—a gesture so sweet and rare for a boy of ten.  Hannah knew that Darlene and I would become instant friends, and she was right.  There’s something about other women of prayer that makes the person familiar enough to be a sister, even in the absence of any blood relationship.

We went to lunch at a diner near Darlene’s house, and afterwards we prayed together for each other and for Polly.  When Darlene prayed, her supernatural gift of intercession became instantly obvious.  And not only that, but her gift empowered my prayers and Hannah’s as well.  That is something I’ve noticed about the gift of intercession.  I love praying with people who have that gift.  As we said our goodbyes, I knew that God would keep us in each other’s lives from now on, both here on earth and in Heaven forever.

More tomorrow.  God is good!

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