Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Easters

On Easter morning, we repacked our gear and headed for the border crossing. . . I was over 10,000 miles from the beautiful sanctuary where I normally proclaim God's Word, sitting beside a large river that forms the boundary of two countries. On one side of that river is religious freedom and on the other side, Christianity is violently opposed.

I have seen the sunrise on many an Easter morning, yet the events and memories of most of them are vague: what we ate that morning (probably ham); what we wore (probably dress-up clothes); what the weather was like (more than likely chilly); who was beside me when we took the elements (probably parents, wife and kids, or surrounded by deacons), and where we went after the service concluded (most likely to our parents' or some friends'). For the most part I cannot recall vivid memories.

But on Easter morning, 2005 . . .

Our bus ride through Laos, which should have taken 6 hours, has turned into a 13 hour odyssey. We are at the border crossing, but it is closed for the day. Once again, we tramp from hostel to hostel trying to find a place to rest our weary bodies. Once again, we go to bed very late, and trust God to work out any details. We have been out of communication with our U.S. contact for about 36 hours. It's a little nerve-wracking.

Now, even before the border opens, we are foraging at a little hole-in-the-wall cafe for something to eat. Melancholy thunderclouds are building in my spirit. I miss my wife, kids, and spiritual family back in the southeast. But equally heavy is this: the greatest adventure of my life is drawing to a close.

Though where I stand it is Easter morning, Christianity's holiest of Holy Days won't arrive in the U.S for another 13 hours, Eastern Standard Time. Shuffling 360 degrees in my beaten, muddy hiking shoes confirms there are no tall-steepled churches to be seen. None! Yet, I have no doubt that within a stone's throw Christians, driven underground for their own safety, are about to break bread and drink from the cup.

As sunlight emerges from beyond the horizon we, too, want to celebrate the Lord's resurrection . . . on Communist soil. From the makeshift cafe' we have a loaf of bread to symbolize the broken body of Christ. We have mango juice and coffee to represent the shed blood of Christ. Each of us have Scripture committed to memory. So we take the elements and pray. Our act of worship ascends into God's presence as a sweet sacrifice.

The Journey has ended. Mission completed.

Down at the river we climb into long skinny boats awaiting to ferry us to freedom's side of the Mekong River. Even from halfway across the the river we can see our friends gathered, elated and relieved that we are safe and within sight. Little children are excitedly running up and down the shoreline. I believe all eight Roadmakers feel like returning heroes--our lives forever changed . . .

To the present - Easter Morning, April 24, 2011

My sister, Barb messaged me this morning and said, "I wonder what Dad's first Easter in heaven is like?" My response, "I can only imagine." On the 29th of April it will be a month since he was safely ferried from foreign to eternal soil. Since that brief exchange with my sister, the refrains of an old and folksy gospel song come to mind.

This world is not my home. I'm just a passin' through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door, and I can't feel at home in this world anymore. . .

Dad, you were the last of your family to break camp and make the crossing. In your last days on earth, like so many that fade into that thin place between the temporal and eternal, you had eyes to see things and ears to hear things to which we remained blind and deaf. Often you reached out to an unseen hand or called out to your "Papa" and mother. To your younger brother Skip. To your sisters.

I thought of the little children that excitedly welcomed the Roadmakers back from their journey on that Easter in 2005. In heaven, I imagine there was a little guy named Glendon running up and down eternal shores, wide-eyed, glad that his hero-father had finally come home . . .

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