Wednesday, December 28, 2011
It didn't happen overnight; I didn't see it coming. But recently I've found myself feeling extremely homesick for God. Of course, He is always there. But I easily find myself slipping farther away from Him and getting lost in my own world of comfort and self-reliance. Some days I don't think much about Him until I'm crawling under the covers at night and remember to read a few Bible verses as I quickly fade into a deep sleep.
The other day I was at my parents' home and I found my cherished box of old journals hiding under my bed. I sat on the floor of my old room for hours and read through the pages of all 20+ journals while laughing, crying, and marveling at God's hand on my life through the years.
Reading through some of the things I wrote in middle and high school made me miss the faith I had back then. I trusted God completely and had such a pure passion for Him. I wanted more than anything to share His love with others. When I first realized my deep love for God as a young teenager, I couldn't get enough of Him. I would sleep with my Bible tight to my chest every night, wanting to soak up all that I could. I beamed with joy when my friends at school would ask me about my faith, and I didn't care about money or possessions or anything (for the most part :).
I know that the core of me still has those same desires. I still love Jesus so much, but I guess my light just feels a litter dimmer now. As I'm becoming more of an adult, my focus on Jesus has been clouded by the need to make money, get a higher education, make plans for the future, etc. These things are not bad, but I have gradually allowed them to replace my first love without even realizing it.
As I read Revelation 2:1-7 tonight, I was convicted of my sin:
"...I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated [many things] because of My name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love [you had] at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent..."
How easy it is to go through the motions of serving God simply out of habit rather than out of love for Him. I want to return to my first love...I will return to Him.
I'm tired of pretending to love God more than I actually do. I'm tired of using empty words with no actions to back them up. I'm tired of intending to spend more time with God, but never following through. And I'm tired of depending on my past experiences to define my relationship with God today.
I desire to have a constant, daily, exciting relationship with the Lord. I want to hunger and thirst for His Word. I want to sit at His feet and marvel at His beauty. I want every breath that I take, every word that leaves my lips, and every dream that I have to glorify God. Even if it means giving up my possessions or my comfort or my reputation. I would rather give up everything than abandon my first love.
Father, forgive me for fading into a state of complacency. "Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit." (Ps. 51:12)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A place so distant, it hardly seems real to me. I've heard the horror stories of the Rwandan genocide and couldn't eat for days after watching the film "Hotel Rwanda." But still, it all seemed like a terrible, made-up story. Something too horrible and far away for my mind to comprehend.
That was, until yesterday.
Last week, a couple from my church stood up on stage with a young Rwandan boy named Jean Claude and told us his story. Jean Claude was born with a facial deformity. His mother is dead and his father is in prison. He grew up in a village as an orphan. He is now 15 years old, but already dropped out of school because the other children made so much fun of him.
This couple from church had been to Rwanda on several mission trips and was impacted by Jean Claude's story. They worked it out for him to come to America for 3 months to have a surgery to fix his nose and recover before returning to Rwanda. Since Jean Claude does not speak any English, they also brought a young Rwandan pastor, James, to travel with him and be his interpreter.
When I saw them at church on Sunday, I just felt so compelled to hear their stories. So yesterday, I took the two of them to Muir Woods so they could see the famous California Redwood trees. From the moment I met Jean Claude, he completely captured my heart. Though he only knows a few words of English ("okay," "good," "hi," etc.) he has such a sweet spirit about him.
I was able to talk to James quite a bit on our hike and his story completely floored me. He is 35, so the genocide is very much a part of his past. Three of his siblings and seven of his step-siblings and step-mother were all killed. He has seen so much death and hatred and injustice. What really amazed me was when he told me that he went back to the village where his family had been killed and befriended those who had killed them. He forgave them and shared the Gospel with them. Many of them accepted Christ. They said they just couldn't understand how he could forgive them when they had done something so terrible to his family.
I had such a wonderful time with James and Jean Claude. When I dropped them off that afternoon, tears began to stream down my face. I can't even really explain why. I guess spending time with them just opened up my eyes to see the realities of the difficult life they face every day in Rwanda.
I have been so blessed, yet I find myself complaining and sulking over pointless things. Seeing the outlook Jean Claude and James have on life was refreshing and inspiring for me. They are both so strong and rely on the Lord with everything within them.
What a blessing it was to spend time with them yesterday and to get a small glimpse of what God is doing in a country on the other side of the world. Rwanda is on my heart today and all the little boys and girls like Jean Claude.
Please be in prayer as he has his first surgery next week.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Well, not exactly Jesus, and maybe he wasn't really Mexican...but God spoke directly to me through a stranger last week. Let me explain...
So for the past month I've been wrestling through options of what to do after I graduate in May. I had narrowed it down to two really great options. Both would be doing ministry I love. The big difference is that one is very close to my family and the other is very far away. After much prayer, I felt God leading me to the job that is a day's plane ride from the ones I love the most.
I felt a peace about the situation...and still do. But I also realize that there's despair that comes with any decision. Last Wednesday, I was particularly in "the depths of despair" (as Anne Shirley would say). I felt guilty for always choosing to live far away from family and wondered if I had really made the right decision.
So I got off work at 10am and had an hour or so to kill, so I decided to get a cup of coffee. When I got to Starbucks, the line was out the door. I didn't feel like waiting, so I drove around to a local cafe, but of course there was no parking. So I just decided to go to the gas station and get a cheap cup of coffee there.
I started filling my car up with gas and walked inside the old gas station. After walking past the tempting aisle of day-old doughnuts and chewy sprees, I put my $1.39 cup of coffee on the counter and waited for the man working to ring me up.
He was a Hispanic man and was very smiley and friendly. He started some small talk and I told him I went to the seminary right down the road. His eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, so you're a Christian too?!" Knowing that the county I live in is 97% unreached, I was surprised to hear that he accepted Christ a few years ago and is a committed follower. He introduced himself as Juan Carlos.
I didn't say much in our conversation, but he started quoting scripture to me. He knew absolutely nothing about me, but the last thing he said to me was, "It says in Mark that any man who leaves his father, mother, sister or brother for God will be blessed." Then he drew a picture on my receipt. He said, you are down here, with your family and friends. Then he drew and arrow up to God and said, "You need to be up here with God. No one else."
Bam. Smacked me in my face. I'm pretty sure I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could mutter a confused, "Uhh...thanks," as I realized that God had just used this man to confirm my decision to move away.
I walked away in awe. God seemed so personal and so tangible that day. He knew that I was doubting my decision and He spoke directly to me in an audible way. It was through Juan Carlos (who's initials just so happen to be J.C. :), a man who I wouldn't have met if the first two coffee shops I went to hadn't been too crowded. Praise God for being real and personal and for continuing to speak to us through unique experiences and conversations.
I have a feeling that whenever I start to doubt my decision again (which I'm sure I will), I'll be able to look back on this day and say, "Oh yeah, remember what the 'Mexican Jesus' said? Okay...I'll start trusting God now."
Oh, and if you're curious about where I'll be moving, here's a little hint:
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
I can still remember the very first time I met Lori. It was January 5, 2003, and I was in the choir room at
The next time I saw Lori we formally met each other and I was so intrigued by this girl who had grown up in
I didn’t have much time with Lori because in May she had to move back to Africa, but in the 5 months that I knew her, we became so close it seemed that I had known her my whole life. We had many sleepovers and hung out as much as possible. I remember one specific time when Lori and her parents came by the house because they wanted to introduce me to Lori’s older brother Marc. Lori had shown me his picture and I thought he was so cute and she promised that she would introduce me to him! When he walked in the door I’m sure my face turned all red and Lori just gave me this silly grin that screamed “Told ya so!” I was so embarrassed but Lori thought it was hilarious that I had a crush on her big brother!
For Lori’s 17th birthday, the youth at
When it came time for Lori to go back to
The year did go by somewhat fast though. Lori and I kept in touch through e-mails. She told me secrets about boys that I wasn’t allowed to share with anyone else. I felt so important to be worthy of hearing her secrets! She told me about her school in
When Lori came back to
We got together as much as we could that summer. One funny memory I have is of us trying to learn the VBS dance moves. My mom had a video of this funny man dancing, so Lori my mom and I all spread out in my living room and danced along with this strange man. It was a Japanese themed VBS and the dance moves were hilarious. We were laughing SO hard at each other and couldn’t even sing because we were laughing so much! Lori helped out at VBS that year and the two of us taught the second grade class together. Though VBS only lasted 3 hours a day, Lori and I would just look at each other like “When will this day be over??” Those kids wore us out! But we had a blast singing, dancing, and telling Bible stories.
In June Lori came to the beach with my family for several days. Some friends of ours have this huge beach house down in Beaufort and I was so excited to take Lori with us. The whole 3 hour drive down to the beach was filled with laughter- mostly my mom and I laughing at Lori’s hilarious stories- she always found something to talk about! And at one point my mom needed something from out of the trunk and Lori was in the back seat, so she pulled down the seat and crawled into the trunk while we were riding, looking for whatever it was. All I could see was Lori’s back side sticking out and I was afraid she was going to get stuck! After a few minutes of searching she finally came out with the item in hand and said, “Phew!!”
We had such a blast that week. We stayed in this really fun bedroom with all these bright colors and we had a big bathroom to ourselves, plus a huge front porch with white rocking chairs. We went swimming and kayaking, and laid out on the deck. We stayed up late talking- catching up on the whole years worth of girl talk we had missed. We explored Beaufort- walked around downtown and took a bike ride one day. I have never been much of a bike rider, so why we thought it would be a good idea to ride bikes down the busy sidewalks is still a mystery to me. So I was leading the pack and Lori was riding right behind me. At one point I was riding through a crowd and I got really nervous, so I flung my foot over the bike and nearly kicked a woman passing by. I looked back at Lori with a “oopsies” look and Lori could barely ride because she was laughing so hard. She said that woman gave me the meanest look ever! We pulled around the corner, hopped off of our bikes and laughed and laughed!
Lori was so sweet to my whole family. Some of my friends don’t really take an interest in getting to know my brothers, but Lori always did. She would tease
When we were at the beach, we decided to be really girly, so we went to the grocery store and bought facial masks and a manicure set. She did my nails and we put on the bright green masks, but Lori and I forced
Before I knew it, the summer was over and it was time to tell Lori goodbye once again. Lori was headed off to her freshman year at
When she came to NC the summer after her freshman year, I went to her house in Coats to spend the night and she gave me advice before I started college myself. She encouraged me to stay strong in the Lord and to meet as many people as possible.
One thing I loved about Lori is how honest she was. When she was struggling with a sin, she didn’t try to cover it up. In fact, she confessed it to people- and that’s what we’re supposed to do! I tend to hide it and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but not Lori. The Lori people saw was the real Lori. She was open about her struggles and her weaknesses and she wanted to use those things to help others in their walk with the Lord and hopefully prevent them from making the same mistakes that she did. I always admired this about her and still hope that I can be more like that one day.
When I started my freshman year at
While we were in college, I didn’t get to see Lori very often, but I don’t think that hurt our friendship. I’d always see her when she came to NC for a visit. She came to
I regret not spending more time with Lori. At one point we thought we might work at Mundo Vista together, but I ended up taking a summer missions position in
The last time I talked to Lori was on April 19th, 2008. She called and left a message saying that she was thinking of me and wanted to see how I was doing. She said I didn’t have to call her back or anything, but she had some free time and just thought she’d touch base with me. I called her back that night and we talked for a while. I hadn’t talked to her on the phone in several months and we had a lot to catch up on. She told me about her recent trip to
She said she had no idea what she was going to do next. Her friends were all still in school and she felt kind of distanced from them because they were in different stages of life. She was considering going overseas for a year to teach English, but wasn’t sure if that would work out. She loved helping people and was so compassionate. Whatever she ended up doing, she wanted to help others. She said she hated living so far away from her nieces and nephews while they were growing up. She adored them so much, like she adored the rest of her family.
She told me she had been sick for a while, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. She always brought the conversation back to me and asked how I had been, how my family was doing. Lori was so concerned about other people and even though she was sick, she didn’t spend time complaining about it.
I told her I was coming to Campbellsville May 18-21 for training for a camp and she was so excited. It had been over a year since I saw her last and I was so excited to see her in a few weeks! We giggled and talked about how fun it would be to be reunited, but this time it would be in Kentucky! She said she would make sure that she was there on those dates so we could be sure and hang out.
We talked about how the thing we love about our friendship is that we can go months without talking, but when we do talk, we just pick up right where we left off and it’s like no time has passed at all. She is one of the few friends I have who remained constant throughout time and distance. For the majority of my friendship with Lori we were not together physically, but we felt just as close as ever. She was a true life-long friend…one that would have for sure been in my wedding one day!
As the conversation ended that night we were still excited about seeing each other soon.
“I’ll keep those dates open,” she said.
“I can’t wait to see you Lori!”
“Me too, it’s been too long! I hope you have a good night, Meredith!”
“You too, Lori, and I hope you feel better soon!”
“Thanks, me too! Bye! Love you!”
“Love you too! Bye.”
If I had known that would be the last time I would hear her voice I would have never hung up that telephone. I would have talked to her for hours and days and told her how much I appreciate her friendship and what an amazing young woman she is. But I didn’t know.
My parents called me on April 26th and told me the terrible news about my dear friend. She died unexpectedly during the night. I can’t describe the way I felt at that moment. I was sitting outside studying in the middle of the academic circle. It was a beautiful day, but suddenly everything started spinning. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. For several hours I couldn’t feel anything. It was like all of the emotion had left my body and I was left feeling like I was in a terrible nightmare. I called Lori’s cell phone and as it rang I prayed that she would answer. I just knew it had to be a misunderstanding. She couldn’t really be gone.
Throughout the next day the reality began to sink in and that’s when the overwhelming grief came. I cried until I had no energy left in my body. I looked back over our old e-mails and in my mind I replayed all of the memories I had with Lori. I’ve never lost someone this close to me before and it was difficult to know how to even begin to handle it. On top of the sadness I was feeling, I was even more overcome with sorrow for the Morrison family. Lori adored her family so much and was so close to them. My heart went out to Uncle Charles and Aunt Kaye and Angela, Mary, Jeff and Marc. I cannot imagine the amount of pain and grief they are experiencing and I hurt for them all so much.
It’s hard to look on the bright side of a situation like this. It seems so unfair and so wrong. 22-year-old girls are not supposed to die like this. Not when they are loving and compassionate and kind and full of life. But I can’t change what happened. It is so wonderful to have the assurance that Lori is with Jesus now. I can’t grieve for her because she is so happy now! I can just imagine Lori up in Heaven right now. She’s probably sitting on Jesus’ lap staring at Him in awe. I bet she’s dancing and singing her heart out up there, completely satisfied and care-free. She doesn’t have to worry about her future anymore. No more worries about being jobless and all the good men being taken. She is at home. I guess I’m a little jealous of her. I can’t wait to see her again. I am going to miss her so much. Maybe God will put our mansions right next to each other so we can still have sleepovers!
Lori Anne Morrison was an absolutely beautiful young woman. She touched my life in a special way and I treasure the memories and the friendship that I shared with her. Lori touched so many lives- people all over the world were impacted by her big smile and her friendly personality. I will miss her dearly and I will never ever forget her and the legacy of love she left on this earth.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
As the sun began to rise, I prayed for that city. For my city (still getting used to saying that). I was somewhat overwhelmed when I looked at the tall buildings and thought of the hundreds of thousands of people living there- 97% of whom don’t know Jesus. My eyes filled up with tears as I begged God to revive this place. As I was praying, I realized that though I was praying for revival, I wasn’t really believing it was possible. I mean, we’re talking about San Francisco- one of the most “pagan” cities in the world. How could this sinful place ever be radically transformed by the Gospel? But despite my doubts, I continued to pray. I know in my heart that with God all things are possible and that he really does have the power to do the impossible, even when I can’t wrap my mind around it.
Then my prayer shifted to Japan. We hear about it on the news, but then we go about our normal lives. But for those people, every day is still a struggle to survive. A dear friend of mine who is studying in the States is from Fukushima, which is close to the nuclear power plants. She is terribly worried for her family and has asked for prayer for them and for her country. Sometimes I don’t know what to pray in situations like that, so I opened my Bible and began flipping through the Psalms. I ended up in Psalm 46 and was shook by the words I read:
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts." (v. 1-6)
It was one of those moments where I could sense the Lord's presence so intimately. I was reminded that even when I freak out about life and even when there are wars and earthquakes and all kinds of crazy things that I can't understand, God is our refuge. He's on our side and will fight for us.
My heart was heavy as I felt the weight of the lost city I was looking at, and the suffering country a few thousand miles across the water. I struggled with how God could sit back and allow these disasters to happen and how He could let an entire city perish without knowing Him. But as I lifted up my cries to God, I felt like He was saying, “Trust me.” Even though I was overwhelmed and confused and anxious, I was flooded with peace as I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. He sees the big picture. He has a good plan. I need to trust Him more. I want to truly take refuge in Him.
I wish I had mornings like that more often. It wasn't a "feel-good" quiet time or anything like that, but I feel like I truly encountered God that morning. I didn't get answers to all of the questions I asked, but as I drove back to school, I knew without a doubt that God had heard my prayers and that He will answer them in His own time. Until then, I've got to take refuge in Him in these crazy times.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
I was coming to Malaysia to take a couple of classes about Urban Ministry through Golden Gate seminary. But my desire to go to Malaysia and passion for its people took root many years before I was a seminary student. In the late 1950s, my grandparents first came to Malaysia as missionaries. They served there for 10 years and worked among the Tamil speaking Indians. Malaysia is where my dad spent his childhood; so I’ve always felt like part of my heritage is in Malaysia. Though I was thousands of miles away from home, I felt strangely connected to my family as I looked out of my little window and imagined my dad landing on the same runway when he was just a little boy.
I snapped back into reality as the plane came to an abrupt landing and I stepped foot into the hot, humid air. As I made my way through the crowded streets of Kuala Lumpur, I encountered people from all different cultural backgrounds. Not only did I notice the three main people groups of Malaysia (Malay, Chinese and Indian), but I also saw people from Africa, the Middle East, Europe… nearly the whole globe seemed to be represented in this urban city.
The scent of incense weaved in and out of the air while mixing with the smells of sizzling meat from road-side stands and diesel fuel from the busy roads. I heard voices all around me- I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the Tamil, Chinese and Malay languages. They all seemed to blend together into a conglomeration of syllables that were foreign to me. Colorful fabrics were draped along the walls of small shops. The vendors beckoned me to “come have a look.”
I felt like I was in a wonderful dream, only it was real! I was really making my way through the colorful, crowded, chaotic, cultural streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And my journey had only just begun! Over the next two weeks, I would have many eye-opening experiences and be reunited with some of my dearest friends from college. I would learn things through our class activities that I would never learn in a classroom. My eyes would be opened to ways that God is working in cities all around the world and I would be exposed to ways that God could potentially use me in the future. Adventure was beckoning me, and I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Over the course of my trip, my eyes were opened to see the rich, unique culture of the Malaysian people. In my classes, I learned about their customs, their religions, and their lifestyles. As a class exercise one day, we sat at separate tables at a road-side outdoor restaurant. Our task was to observe the people for an hour. We were to record what they looked like (What were they wearing? What language were they speaking? What noises did we hear? What did it smell like?).
So many times I am in such a hurry that I rarely take the time to stop and observe those around me. I walk past people every day without even looking at them. But this particular day, I looked deeply into those people. So much so that I began to feel like I knew them personally. I watched as Chinese women shopped for fruits and vegetables in the market and Indian men cooked roti canai at the restaurant. I saw people offer fruits and candies at the Buddhist temple and my heart ached because they didn’t know the truth of Jesus. Though this wasn’t necessarily a “mission trip,” God was still working in my heart and giving me a passion for his people.
Sometimes when I go on trips, I enjoy myself, but by the time the 10-days is up, I’m ready to come home. But every now and then, I am deeply touched by a place and its people. This happened in Sri Lanka and again in Hawaii. And now I can say Malaysia impacted me in the same way. I guess it’s just one of those places where I feel like I “fit.” I felt totally comfortable there and as I was walking through a busy street in the city one day I thought to myself (or maybe God nudged me), “I could totally live here.”
I can’t predict the future. And I have no idea what God may have in store for me. But if He called me to live in Malaysia, or a place like Malaysia, I would be more than willing to go. My heart was singing the whole time I was there. As I imagined my grandparents serving in that same place decades before, I was filled with awe and thankfulness. God is so faithful. How cool it is that I was able to go to the same place and share the same passion for its people that my grandparents had.
Another highlight of the trip was being reunited with my Malaysian friends who graduated from Campbell. In 2005, when I first arrived at Campbell, I went to the International Student Office and told them that I wanted to meet international students. The first students that I met were five girls from Malaysia. We began a friendship that year that has continued until today. Each year after that, exchange students would come to Campbell and I would always be excited to meet them. By the time I graduated, I had about 20 friends from Malaysia who had come to Campbell. Many of them live in the states now, but I was fortunate to be able to meet up with several of them on my trip.
Again, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. When I said goodbye to these friends 3 or 4 years ago, I wondered if I would ever see them again. But here I was, years later, in their home country, sharing a meal with them. And now I was the international student! We sat around the table late at night, laughing and reminiscing on our memories from our time at Campbell. We talked about the first time I met each of them, and I’m just surprised I didn’t scare anyone off! One guy said, “You just showed up in my apartment my very first morning in America and I had no idea who you were but you were so excited.” Another girl said, “I was in a car and you ran after me and introduced yourself because you knew I was Malaysian.” Thank goodness they weren’t too afraid of this crazy American girl!
My good friend Jamie is from Malaysia and though she’s still in North Carolina, I was able to spend a day with her family. I had talked to them before and heard all about them for years, but had never met them. It was such a joy to go to Jamie’s hometown and sit in her house with her family. Her dad brought out his guitar and as we sang praise and worship songs, my eyes filled up with tears. I was flooded with memories of my time at Campbell with my sweet Malaysian friends. Part of my heart ached to go back to that time when we were all together. But then another part of me was just extremely joyful and thankful for how God has been at work in all of our lives over the past few years. Being in Malaysia was a great reminder that even though my friends are scattered all over the world, God is just as real over there as He is in America. He’s working all the time, even when I can’t see it. But I’m so thankful that for those two weeks in Malaysia, He allowed me to see a small glimpse of His plan for my dear friends there. What an incredible journey.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The Tower of Terror is one of my favorite rides at Disney World. The ride takes place in an elevator in a haunted hotel. Once you get up to the 13th story, the doors open up, revealing to the passengers the height of which they are about to fall. Then without warning, the elevator drops. Everyone screams as their stomachs go through the roof. But after a few seconds, the ride is over. No one is actually ‘terrorized” by the experience, and most walk away thrilled rather than traumatized. It’s a fun ride.
I learned the other day, however- that real life elevator mishaps are not so thrilling. Though it’s a comical story to tell now, I was scared out of my mind at the time. It all started when I went with my class to the Kuala Lumpur communication tower in Malaysia. This is the 5th largest communication tower in the world. Its 260+ floors offer an impressive (yet overpriced) view of the city.
Our elevator ride up the tower was great and took exactly 58 seconds. After spending some time up top, Dr. Pate, Michael, Bekah, Alan and I got on the elevator along with 3 Chinese Malaysians. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. As the doors closed we were all laughing and Alan joked about how he was going to jump and make the elevator stop. We went down, down, down, until all of the sudden we heard what sounded like emergency breaks. “Boom! Boom! Boom!” The elevator shook and I gripped the handle as it came to a sudden, unexpected stop. We were all still laughing and I was having a flashback of my childhood memories at Disney World.
As the laughter died down, reality began to sink in. The doors were still closed, there was no “ding” to tell us we had arrived at the ground level, and worst of all- there was no airflow. We hit the intercom button several times and finally a voice came through the speakers.
Yes! A connection to the outside world! Unfortunately that connection was not very comforting or helpful. In broken English, he asked how many people were in the elevator and how many of us were foreigners. I’m still not really sure why that mattered. Do they rescue one nationality more quickly than another? We told him there were 8 of us and 5 were American. The voice told us “Rescue coming” and then disappeared, leaving us alone in our confined little box.
At this point, we’re in high spirits thinking that if rescue is coming, it will be soon. But as minute after minute ticks away, my imagination gets the worst of me and I begin to picture every scenario that could take place. We realize that there are no vents in the elevator and it is HOT. Very hot. In my mind I’m thinking “There are eight of us in this confined space. We are going to use up all of the air and I’m going to suffocate!”
Sometimes I think about the way I want to go out. If I don’t die in my sleep, I guess I’d at least like to go out while doing something admirable or exciting. Suffocating in an elevator is not the way I imagined leaving the earth at the age of 23. Everyone is still talking and laughing. I, on the other hand, am sitting on the floor, knees glued to my chest, eyes squeezed shut, all the while thinking, “They need to stop laughing…they are using up valuable oxygen and we need to conserve it!” (pretty sure it doesn’t even work like that…but still).
I start wondering how they are going to get my body all the way back to America. Should I scribble a farewell not to my loved ones on the back of my receipt? It doesn’t help that my jokester professor is recording a message to his sons on his flip. He starts out by saying, “Boys, if you’re watching this alone, that probably means it ended up poorly for all of us.” Awesome. Thanks for the encouragement, Dr. Pate.
About 30 minutes have passed now and there’s still no sign of rescue. I’m really sweating now, but I’m trying to save the last few gulps of water I have in my water bottle in case times get worse. Someone makes the comment, “Do you think we’re on a Malaysian game show?” Maybe they will open up the doors and have a camera crew filming us, waiting to see how we interacted as a team. If only it was a joke. We put our brains together and think that there must be a way to crawl out of the top. I mean, that’s how they do it on the movies, right? But alas, there’s no secret escape up top. We are closed in from every angle. At about 3:35, Michael has the brilliant idea none of us had thought of before. We can manually push the door open! Without much effort, the door opens and my spirits soar. It doesn’t matter that we are against a concrete wall and still have no way of getting out…we now have airflow!
I make a comment that now the worst case scenario is that we’re trapped a few more hours, but now at least they could lower us some water in through the door. Dr. Pate bites his tongue thinking that there are much worse scenarios (aka plummeting to our deaths- I didn’t think about that one).
The voice enters the box we’ve come to call “the sauna” again. It’s been over an hour now. To our surprise, instead of giving us an update, asks again, “How many people are in the elevator?” Seriously? Did you forget this already? And why does it matter? Or is he checking to see if anyone has died since he last checked in on us? We are getting frustrated with the voice now. He says, “Rescue coming from outside.” He tells us we need to keep the door closed. Dr. Pate informs the voice that if the door is closed we can’t breathe and we are going to die. In hopes of speeding up the process he adds, “We have four ladies lying on the ground fainting. You need to hurry.” I cup my hand over my mouth so the voice won’t hear me laughing at my professor’s exaggeration.
After an hour and a half, I start looking for entertainment. Bekah and I play a few rounds of tic-tac-toe. We get to know our Chinese neighbors (Yap, Tan and May). I’m trying to do anything to get my mind off of the obvious. I’m no longer worried about suffocating. Now my mind is on the more pressing matter…the fact that I most definitely have got to go to the bathroom.
You know, through my travels, I’ve had some unique bathroom experiences. In China, I used a hole in the ground with no stalls separating me from the strangers beside me. In Sri Lanka, it was a wooden shack on the side of the road with mud and bugs. Either one of those options now seemed great compared to the predicament I was in. Not only was I in mixed company, I was also in a very confined space.
I began weighing my options. “Maybe if I move around a lot, I can sweat it all off.” Not likely. I suppose I could use my water bottle- but that would mean sacrificing the sacred final drops of water- not sure I want to do that. Then I had the most brilliant idea of all…the shaft! I was already sitting closest to the door, so if I told everyone to turn the other way, I could position myself directly over the shaft and hope that the inside of the elevator stayed clean. At least I was wearing a skirt.
I’m already preparing myself for the utter humiliation that I’m about to experience when, as if from heaven, we move an inch down. Everyone starts cheering! The voice was right- after 2 hours and 15 minutes, rescue had finally come. Slowly but surely, we are lowered down inch by inch. As I peer down the shaft I still see nothing but concrete. But then, I see it- an eyeball looking up at me from a hole in the wall! It was the most beautiful eye ball I had ever seen. It represented hope and freedom.
Soon we saw light coming in from the 4th floor and heard clapping and cheering. They lowered us until we had enough room to jump out of the elevator into safety. I have never been so relieved in my life. It was like waking up from a really terrible nightmare.
Everyone was laughing and hugging each other. They greeted us with bottles of water. I raced to the bathroom before I could do anything else and kept thanking Jesus for getting me out of that trap! Once my bladder was relieved, I could truly join the celebration. I took deep breaths- appreciating the endless supply of fresh air around me.
They treated us to smoothies and gave us a full refund. They also said we could go up for free the next time we came back. I smiled and thanked them, but was really thinking, “Now way, Jose! I have no desire to ever go up that tube of death again!” The view from the bottom will be just fine for me. I think I’ll stay on the ground where there is plenty of life’s 3 essentials: Water, Oxygen, and toilets.