My heart is smiling as I sit down to write this blog. It is amazing how being in the body of Christ can knit you together with people you have never even met; how you can sit down and speak face to face with a person for the first time and truly connect, be blessed and walk away encouraged when you are both children of God. That is what happened to us and for us on our trip to California last week.
Our partner Aimee Hedrick has an amazing group of believers who serve as her “sending team.” They, along with her mission team have filled a crucial role in helping her stay encouraged while in Papua New Guinea and aiding her in any way possible, practically and spiritually. Ever since moving to PNG with Aimee, we have heard so much about these amazing people, her friends and family, and witnessed first hand how much they have ministered to her throughout everything.
A little while before we left PNG for our maternity leave, Aimee’s mission pastor contacted her and asked if there was any way while we were in the U.S. if we could come visit their church. Tom and I were both completely surprised, humbled and excited at the idea. How often is a church SO committed to missions that they not only send a missionary then desire to embrace the people their missionary partners with? Awesome!We did not know for sure if it would work out but we were very interested in trying our best to MAKE it happen!
Thankfully coming out to Oregon put us a bit closer to Aimee’s church, located in California. After many e-mails, consulting the calendar and ticket hunting it all came together and we were able to head down to Vacaville, California for three days! Because of the price of plane tickets my wonderful sister-in-law offered to have her family take care of Jude so we could buy one less ticket! We had never been away from Jude for that long, so we were sad but knew it would be the best decision in the long run.
Upon arriving in California we were picked up at the airport by one of Aimee’s close friend (also a part of her “sending team”), Sheri. I had met her once before over skype but it was wonderful to see her in flesh! 🙂 Off we went and so beganthe wonderful few days!
We were blessed to stay with Aimee’s parents- we even stayed in Aimee’s room! I told Aimee that it was very strange being there with out her (kinda like she was dead or something!) because of course there were pictures of her everywhere and we were using her stuff. It was even still her voice on the answering machine! Kinda eery but way cool at the same time… if that makes any sense at all.
Aimee’s parents were so nice and basically spoiled us rotten with much encouraging conversation, many awesome restaurants, and an amazing “Aimee tour” of their town filled with the places that were significant to her. 😀 Aimee’s dad is retired and an experienced pilot, so he took us up for a little ride in his plane! It was very fun to be in such a small aircraft and at one point he even let us take turns flying it! Tom did great at it… me, not so much! All those instruments and dials are very intimidating when you don’t know what any of them mean! 🙂
The evening we shared at Aimee’s church, we had a good group of people show up for the special event and enjoyed sharing about how the Lord led us into missions (and to PNG), our partnership with Aimee and the Bealls and our vision for reaching the Tigak people! Everyone we met was so very loving and welcoming. It was wonderful to be so automatically embraced simply based on our connection to Aimee. It was really special to see how loved and supported Aimee is and to feel everyone’s concern for and interest in the Tigak people! We know that Aimee’s sending team and church have prayed for all of us a lot and we are very thankful for that!
As I touched on earlier we were blessed to have had such a wonderful time with people that we had never even met before. It really was amazing at how easy it was for us to be very vulnerable and honest with a large amount of people that really are basically strangers to us! That is the Lord. We are all brothers and sisters and that kind of bond, in Christ, counts for SO much! What a privilege to be knit together with people in this way. It was just such a blessing to feel that way, friends with people that we really don’t know, embraced by a group that we have not invested in and cared for by people based on our shared relationship with the Lord.
The last night we were there was a wonderful dinner and visit with several family members and a few friends of Aimee’s. We shared many stories with them about our experiences in PNG with Aimee and we laughed a lot! They also told us some stories about Aimee and we had a lively time indeed! As the evening got late and it was clear we should all part ways, we felt sad that the time had come so soon. Although we did miss Jude terribly, our time in Vacaville with Aimee’s family and friends went by very quickly! We are so very thankful for having had the opportunity to make this trip.
As we have left our only desire was that God was glorified by our time with our partners family and friends, we hope that what we had to say was able to encourage and deepen all of their commitments to involvement in missions and more specifically to Aimee and for the sake of taking the gospel to the Tigak people!