My heart was trembling in agony and I was sobbing so hard that I could hardly talk. I was standing in the Minneapolis airport getting ready to say good-bye to my younger sister Sheila. It was the summer of 1993 and communism had recently fallen in Russia and my precious baby sister was flying over to Moscow to become a missionary. Even though Sheila is younger; her wisdom is far greater than mine. Sheila looked at me and told me that I needed to stop crying and pull myself together. She asked me what is the worst thing that could happen to me over in Moscow? I told her that she could die over there and than what would I do!
I will never forget her response to my fears. “Michelle, whether I live or I die, I will be with God. What more could you ask for?” I was humbled and I felt ashamed that I had not put my trust in God. I remembered the little pin that I was going to give Sheila as a farewell gift. It was a picture of God’s hand and resting in His palm was a young girl. It goes along with Scripture passage from Isaiah 49, “I will never forget you my people, I have carved you on the Palm of my hand. I will never forget you, I will not leave you orphaned, for you are my own. Would a mother forget her baby? Or a woman a child within her womb? Even if these forget I will not forget you because you are my own.” I had bought pins for myself and our other sister Jimella, to wear close to our hearts while Sheila was in Russia.
The time had come for our final hug and although the tears were streaming down my cheeks and dripping off the end of my nose; I felt a peace from deep within. It was not a peace that could come from me, it was the peace that passes all human understand, the peace that can only come from God. My heart ached as I knew it would be almost a year before we would see each other again; and this was long before e-mail and cheap phone rates. I was excited for Sheila and all of the people that I knew she would touch with God love and to be able to share His precious word with them.
Sheila had been in Moscow for a few months and it was the beginning of October. That week-end I decided to go home to visit my parents. That night we were watching the news we saw the horror that was happening in Moscow; they were in a midst of a Civil War. We sat there in shock and disbelief; and we watched the events unfold right before our very eyes. The phone begin to ring with family and friends calling from all around the world asking if we had heard from Sheila. We had no way of getting a hold of her and so all we could do was pray and ask others to do the same. After the phone had quieted I shared with my parents the talk that I had with Sheila at the airport. I had given my mom a little statue of a little girl carved in God’s hand. We talked about how we knew that Sheila was with God no matter what happened and that He was holding her close to Him right now. We found comfort that Sheila was living with a Russian family and she had quickly become their adopted daughter and they were very protective of her.
As I went to sleep that night I held onto to two thoughts: Sheila is with God and He has her in the Palm of His hand. I awoke many times and I could feel God’s peace surrounding me and I prayed that it would surround and enfold Sheila and also my parents.
The next morning the phone rang; I’m not a track star but I made record time in running down the steps to get to the phone, we knew it had to be about Sheila. Hearing her voice on the other end of the phone brought tears and hearts that were grateful to hear her beautiful voice. She said she knew she had to call because we would all be worried sick; she shared that while it was bad it was not as terrible as the news stations were sharing with us. Her Russian family had forbidden her to go out and would not do so until it was once again safe in the streets of Moscow.
It's hard to let go of our loved ones. I weep everytime I say goodbye to parents after visiting them, because deep in my heart I know I will never be ready to say a final good-bye to them here on earth. I know someday my boys will grow up and I will need to let them venture out on their own. It is a part of life.
I have the privilege of having friends all over the world and I long to have them all close by. I know the Lord holds them all in the palm of His hand.
Whenever I think about heaven one of the things I like to think about is how I will never have to say good-bye to anyone there. Because we will have all of eternity to spend together.