When I was 15, I had the privilege of going to France on a mission trip. While I knew this would be a major life event, I never thought seriously of how this experience would influence the person I would become. Our team was a big one, and we suffered through the rigors of boot camp together. It was June, in Florida. We were wearing pants and combat boots. (That was required.) We bathed at our campsite, with our swimsuits on, using a bucket. Each morning we had to check our boots for wolf spiders--you know spiders that are the size of your fist. I discovered just how much dirt can accumulate in the crook of your elbow. And then our two weeks in Florida were over and I flew over the Atlantic for the first time, arriving finally, in Guebwiller, France. Gooberville, we called it.
For the next month, we worked at a family manor, run by missionaries, that would house a Christian school. There were three classrooms across the orchard, and several in the manor itself. I spent most of my time in the three classrooms, painting copper pipes, helping to lay fire-retardent wallpaper and then painting this wallpaper a rather strange peachy color. We'd learn Bible verses in our spare time, write the mandatory letters home each weekend, gossip about others on the team, and borrow each other's clothes. We'd take day trips around the amazing countryside and do devotions. We discovered there was a church that met just around the hedge, so one Sunday our whole team trooped in (all 40 of us). The church was shocked to find us there--they had never interacted with the school before. We talked with the missionaries at the manor and played with local kids who would come over and check us out.
We were blessed with incredible leaders who truly cared about us, our growth as kids and as followers of Christ. And we became such tight friends. How could you not when, after spending several hours playing on the grass in a beautiful park, someone finally works out the French sign nearby says "Stay off the grass." Or when people say they know we're American because we smile too much? Being awed by the grandeur of the town's cathedral yet chilled by its emptiness. And there's that language we tried to make up so we could talk about anything we wanted in front of the boys. (Unfortunately, they caught on faster than we did.) The Lord taught me so many things that summer that I sill carry with me now.
One of those lessons is my friend Julie. She was from San Jose and I was from Colorado, but that didn't stop us from maintaining our friendship after we came back home. Our mountaintop experience was over, but just to have someone in my life who understood that experience, had been there with me and knew it all, was invaluable. And now, here we are, 15 years later and we are still friends, still joined by that experience. Although we no longer have each other's addresses memorized (now we can just email and facebook), when we were able to have lunch this past weekend, I was amazed at how easily the conversation flowed. How quickly we could talk about even deep issues, though we hadn't seen each other in 13 years. I can truly say friends ARE friends forever if the Lord's the Lord of them. (Stop rolling your eyes.) I have prayed for you, my friend, over the years and have been blessed to see you graduate from high school, go off to college in the Pacific northwest, get married, move with your husband, have babies, live life. Thank you for sharing so of yourself with me, and I am tremendously blessed that we can still connect--over a newborn's nap and a 2 1/2 year old's naked time--and know that because of our common foundation in Jesus Christ, we really will be friends forever.