Later on this morning (it’s a dreary, rainy Thursday morning) I’ll be driving to JFK airport with one of our deacons to drop off an Indian family who is flying back to India today. Mercy and Manoj had become a very important part of ministry here at NDC over the last 3 years. Two years ago I had the privilege of baptizing them and then watching them grow into leadership roles at our church. Manoj has been serving as a deacon and adult Sunday school teacher over the last year while Mercy has been serving as a Sunday school teacher and VBS teacher the last few years. She was also instrumental in helping us get a new Good News club stated at James Madison Middle School this past spring. Manoj and Mercy had to leave rather suddenly when Manoj received word last week that his visa extension had been denied.
One of the more difficult parts of my pastoral ministry here at NDC has been to make a high investment of time and energy into people lives and then to see them need to leave to go elsewhere. This has especially been true with our Indian friends and families. But on occasions like this I’m reminded of the words in a Michael W. Smith song that says “Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Parts of my heart have been sent to China, India, Texas, Florida and many other places since I’ve been serving here at NDC. I think of Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in the 20th chapter of the book of Acts where he says “and now behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more” (v.25 NASB). I’m glad that I don’t know how God is going to lead in my life and how He’s going to open up doors of future ministry through the parts of my heart He’s sent worldwide.
I chuckle when I think of the invitation by the mother of one of our Indian families 5 years ago when she was visiting her daughter and she invited me to come to preach at her church in Hyderabad, India. This past November I was supposed to do exactly that but Sandy postponed our flight to make that impossible. But I did get to have lunch with this mother and her daughter who had lost her job in America and had to return to India in 2009. Who knows how God is going to lead and work in these days of uncertainty before us? We’ll just keep making disciples and trust that God will grow them wherever He plants them
I’m reminded on occasions like this of the people’s reaction to Paul’s words in the 20th chapter of Acts. We read, “and when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all and they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face more. And they were accompanying him to the ship” (v.36-38 NASB). I was struck yesterday when my friend Manoj told me how meaningful it was for our church to have prayed over his family this past Sunday followed by a cake reception. We embrace our friends in Christ’s love and with our whole heart. And, now I prepare to accompany them to the plane for their next journey on life’s adventure. Knowing with a good deal of certainty that this is not the end of our friendship, “for friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Maybe we’ll see them again in Piscataway, or maybe I’ll end up in Chennai visiting them; but most certainly we will have eternity together to rejoice in the great love of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Rich Sivo