A Glimpse of Heaven from Oklahoma City

Two weeks ago today, we arrived in Oklahoma City. All of us were sick. All of us were tired. We had cancelled the rest of our appointments for our “home ministry assignment,” but we still had to get ourselves back to Seattle. So, we were looking at several long days of driving across the U.S. in the middle of winter. We almost didn’t even go through Oklahoma City at all since the shortest route to Seattle from Nashville puts you through Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota up to I-90.

But our friends Lj and Kari had made arrangements for us to stay at the Mission House near the Oklahoma Christian campus. And so, thinking that at least we could rest there and not worry about bringing our germs into a friend’s home, we went. I’m not sure what I really expected from our time there. To see old friends from our Japan days, to see Rusty’s nephew Robbie, who is a student at OC, to rest and relax for a bit before we made our big push west.

I didn’t expect to be totally overwhelmed with love and care. I didn’t expect to be ministered to. I didn’t expect to wish we could just stay forever. I didn’t expect to catch a glimpse of heaven from Oklahoma City.

From the time we arrived, our friends poured out for us. Seriously — we have the best and most thoughtful friends! People came to visit. They brought my kids a Wii to play. They invited them over to play. They brought food — every single one of our meals during our 2 days there was taken care of! They took us out to eat after church on Sunday. They invited us to their small group. They hugged us and encouraged us, and we laughed and reminisced together. They laid hands on us and prayed over us and our ministry, and it was so beautiful and so needed.

On Sunday night as we were packing up to leave the next morning, I started crying. I told Rusty I didn’t want to leave, that I wished we lived here, near friends, near kindred spirits. It’s amazing how you don’t even realize how lonely you’ve been until you’re suddenly – not. For a little while, anyway.

It probably sounds strange when I say I caught a glimpse of Heaven from Oklahoma City. Because, really, there are more beautiful places in the world. I think even people who live in OKC would acknowledge that! But what makes OKC beautiful to me is the people. So many of our dear friends from our English-teaching days in Japan live and work there now. There’s just something about those relationships that we formed in the early years of our marriage, during our first stint in our first foreign country. Every time I go to visit, I sort of feel like I’ve come home. And I’ve never lived there! But I’m with my people, my family, my tribe. I’m accepted and loved and understood. I matter to them.

I think this is what I mean. This is what I imagine Heaven will be like – a great big homecoming. The homecoming to beat all homecomings. We’ll throw our arms around each other and we’ll laugh long and loud. And maybe we’ll shed a tear or two. We’ll tell each other the stories of how we watched God work in us and through us and in spite of us. There will be food and there will be light and there will be warmth. Everyone will matter and everyone will belong.

This is what Heaven will be. And this is what I caught a glimpse of in Oklahoma City.

(A million thank-you’s to our dear friends Lj and Kari Littlejohn, Kelsey and Lisa Herndon, Mark and Charity Chan, and Damon and Amy Britton. You encouraged my heart in ways you can never know. I am blessed to know you and to call you my friends.)

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Grateful for the Body of Christ

What a week it has been!

This time last week, we were still in Nashville, and Rusty and I were debating whether to take Elizabeth into a clinic as she seemed to be pretty sick (high fever, congested, having trouble breathing). He eventually left the house with her, the address of a local clinic programmed into his phone. Several hours later, when I saw them again, it was in the emergency room at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. We had been trying to avoid a trip to the E.R. by visiting a local urgent care clinic, but we landed there anyway, and even added a ride in an ambulance to boot as the clinic decided she was doing so poorly that she needed to be on oxygen for the brief trip to the hospital.

Elizabeth was diagnosed with croup and given steroids and a breathing treatment, and after several hours of observation, they sent us home. As has been the case every time our family has faced a crisis over the years, I was humbly amazed and unspeakably grateful at the outpouring of support we received from our church family. Terri gave me a ride from the church to where our car was parked so I could drive it to the hospital. Amy went with me to the hospital, helped me find it and figure out where to park, walked inside with me, waited with us, and went to the cafeteria and bought Rusty something to eat. She and her doctor husband, Nathan, kept Alex and Stephen at their house overnight and most of the next day. Jane stayed with Benjamin at her house and put him to bed. Nathan called us repeatedly to check up on us. Claudia brought dinner one evening. Henry and Jane graciously allowed us to stay a few extra days with them as we attempted to recover (our entire family ended up getting sick at the same time).

I have not even allowed myself to dwell on how much our little trip to the E.R. is going to end up costing, but we have already had several people ask and offer financial assistance if we need it. As we began to consider the possibility that we might need to cancel our remaining speaking appointments for this trip and just head back to Seattle early, we had nothing but support and genuine understanding from all those we were considering backing out on. Many prayed for our family and offered words of encouragement via Facebook.

It’s enough to make you wonder what people who aren’t part of a church community do when things like this happen to them? I have wondered this often over the years. When your house burns to the ground, or there’s a death in the family, or your baby is 2 born two months premature, these are the times when I have witnessed churches pull together, rally the troops, and surround the one-in-need with real, tangible help, not to mention emotional and spiritual support. What happens if you aren’t part of a body like this? I suppose family members can provide this to some extent, but what if you live far from extended family?

At the end of the day, as we all collapsed exhausted into our beds, Elizabeth finally breathing somewhat peacefully, I was overcome by a profound gratitude for all the myriad ways we had been ministered to in our time of need by the body of Christ.

We spent the next several days recovering, decided to cancel most of the rest of our appointments for this home ministry assignment, drove to Memphis on Thursday, Oklahoma City on Friday, and tomorrow, we will begin the push westward to Portland, and finally to Seattle.

The Catch-Up Post

Whenever I start writing again after a long hiatus, I feel like I should do a sort of “catch-up.” Where I am, what I’ve been doing. Not just to satisfy this drive to have some sort of chronological record of those months that have passed, but also to set the stage for what I really want to say later.

Of course, when so much time has passed, the “catch-up” phase that I feel I have to do just begins to seem more and more overwhelming. Where to begin? What to talk about? And so I keep putting it off and putting off and getting further and further behind.

I could talk about our new job and ministry at Camp Bellevue. How much we are enjoying it. How settled we feel. How thankful we are to have followed God’s leading to this place and for the chance to do Kingdom work together as a couple and a family (which is something we never really had with the jungle ministry Rusty was involved in before).

I could talk about our new home. How beautiful the area is where we live. How much I enjoy living out in the country as opposed to the noise and congestion of the city. How these things come with a price, because now that we live an hour and a half from Quito, I don’t see my sister nearly as often and can’t participate in our homeschool group as much as before. How there have been times since moving out to the camp when I have felt profoundly lonely and out-of-place and found myself missing even more the camaraderie we had with the Angola Team.

I could talk about our new baby. How beautiful and perfect and amazing she is. How thankful I am to have a daughter and how much I am enjoying little girl clothes and hair-bows! How fiercely I love her and want to protect her. How she is changing the way I think about church and the “women’s role” issue. How desperately I want her to grow up in a faith community that values her gifts and her voice and doesn’t try to shunt her into a specific ministry based solely on her anatomy.

I could write about the week I spent in Brazil in October with about 50 other missionary women. How wonderful and refreshing and soothing it was. How neat it was to look back and see how far I had come emotionally since the first Continent Care Connection conference I attended two years before (I was really a bit of a mess at that first one — yikes!)

I could write about “home ministry assignment” and all the places we’ve been and people we’ve seen since coming back to the States in October. How special it was to spend Elizabeth’s first Christmas with my parents. How, despite how truly good it’s been, we are also so tired and really ready to get back home and back to our own beds and our routine.

So that’s the background — where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing over the past year and a bit. And if you read my other blog, which focuses more on family / ministry news, or follow The Campbell Family in Ecuador on Facebook, then you are already aware of most of the above. And if not, well, now you know! The Campbell Chronicles has been sadly neglected too, of late, so part of my New Year’s resolution of writing more will include trying to get caught up over there as well.

Resolved

I’ve been feeling the itch for awhile. The itch to write again, to get back to this space. And January the first just seemed like an appropriate day to do it. After all, I began this blog on January the first two years ago.

Every year, I go back and forth… to make New Year’s resolutions or not? This year was going to be a NOT, but then I decided to blog, and somehow I found myself making them.

I therefore resolve —

To take my vitamins every day. To drink more water and less soda. To move a little each day, even if it’s just a walk in the sunshine or splashing in the pool with my kids.

To pick up my YouVersion daily Bible reading plan again. And stick with it this time.

To set an alarm clock for the same time each morning, at least a half hour before my children wake up. To go to bed on time each night (by 11:00) so I’m not tempted to just turn it off and go back to sleep.

To be intentional about time spent with my children. To participate in the things they are interested in. (This will probably mean I have to learn to play Skylanders.) To yell less. To listen more. To encourage and celebrate creativity even if it means I have to grit my teeth and put up with messes.

To start the practice of daily writing again. I may not will not blog every day, but I want to at least write every day. Maybe some of what I write will later turn into a blog post. Maybe not. Maybe it will end up on my other blog. Or maybe it will stay tucked away in my private, pen and paper journal. Whatever happens to the words, I want to write.

January first is a good day to begin again. But really, any day is a good day to begin again with God. I want to remember that the first day I fail to follow through with one of the above!