In mid-2003, David and I were rostered to go to a stranger’s house for dinner as part of our church’s “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” program of introducing people. We were given an address on the far side of town and a time at which to arrive.

I remember driving through the dark winter evening in our purple Lada Niva. It was cold, and the car broke down at a set of traffic lights. We didn’t have the phone number of the home we were going to (to warn them that we couldn’t make it), and I imagined that this night would end in disaster, with our host couple simply thinking we were rude for not showing up.

Somehow — miraculously for a Niva — the car started again, and we made our way through strange suburbs and over the train lines until we reached the right street. Everything was so dark, and we slowed the car down to a walking pace and crawled along, trying to read the house numbers in the gloom.

At one house, a man walked off the lighted porch and came to the road to ask if we were looking for their house. We had to admit that we possibly were, although we didn’t actually know whose house we were looking for! This address turned out to be the right house, and we carefully parked our Niva on a slope so we could jump-start it when it was time to go.

At that time, Jeff and Anya had two small sons, and we were still enjoying the blissful ignorance of being childless. I believe one child put in a brief appearance before being whisked off to bed — the other was already fast asleep — and we were suitably impressed by their routine and obvious parental superiority which rendered children almost-not-even-seen-or-heard in favour of adult conversation.

The Ms’ house was a beautifully restored old Queenslander, which featured lovely timber architraves. The Ms had recently completed a new deck and a little extension which provided an extra guest bedroom and ensuite bathroom. We sat outside for our meal with a second couple and the conversation ranged from personal histories to present preferences.

I remember two distinct things about the conversations we shared that evening. One was that the other couple were Sue & John Burch, and Sue recognised the little Africa that was my keyring and asked about it. It turned out that the Burches knew the Vaughans from California — the Vaughans were a family who lived and worked at ICA in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, and two of their three children were classmates with Renée and me.

The other item that I remember from that night was from a talk that ensued after we moved inside after the meal. The conversation must have moved to recent church services, and Anya shared that she was particularly enamoured with a new song in contemporary Christian worship and recently introduced to our congregation: In Christ Alone by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty. Since that night, whenever I have heard that song, I have been reminded of Anya and the passion for God that she expressed so eloquently.

Since that meal in 2003, we haven’t formally caught up with the Ms. We crossed paths at church, vicariously met again in Canberra when we discovered that we shared common friends in the Aldrics, and traded exchanges via our blogs, Facebook and email.

Until tonight.

The Ms are about to embark on a grand adventure of reckless abandonment to God’s love and care. Having experienced God’s faithfulness in their lives and work situations here in the relative safety of Australia, Jeff and Anya are moving with their four children to Turkey to establish their home, build relationships and share the love of Jesus with whomever God brings across their paths.

They’re not doing it under the formal umbrella of “missions”, they’re not waiting for financial support to be secured before they go. They’re just heading off — in obedience to God and in faith that He will go before them to show them the way.

We are so blessed that we got to spend this evening with them and their lovely family before they head off. My friend Kerrie and her two boys were also in the neighbourhood, so they stayed for dinner to boost our numbers to ten children and five adults.

Playing with toys, May 2010
The ten children mostly entertained themselves. We did initiate a game of croquet outside before it got dark, but after that they just scattered around the house and yard, finding toys and making up games to play together or by themselves.

This evening was exceptional for us in the way that Jeff and David were able to connect through the Spirit of God. As soon as they arrived, the men were engaged in spiritual conversation, sharing what they’ve been learning as they seek the Lord and experiencing a unity of minds and spirit.

Anya has wonderful stories of how their family has been blessed in recent days by the greater body of Christ. People have given freely of their time and resources to help the Ms complete the tasks they need to do before they leave the country.

I can relate to so much of what Anya testifies to. We’ve been learning fantastic things about the love God has for us and His purpose for our lives. In embracing His Spirit, we reach a special unity with God and also with believers who are living in His love and demonstrating the righteousness that comes by the faith of Jesus Christ within us.

As is our custom, we shared communion with our guests, breaking a bit of bread and sharing some juice to remember Jesus’ death until He comes. (In particular, we acknowledged our own culpability in Jesus’ crucifixion. We eat and drink to remind ourselves that it is our personal sin that made His death necessary.)

We also were able to share some songs and pray together before it was time to round up the children and send them all home. Surely this is what the ekklesia is supposed to be!

As the Ms leave the relative safety of their suburban lives and move into this new chapter of life, our prayer for them is that they will know the width, depth and breadth of the Father’s love.

***

And tonight I was also extremely blessed by Kerrie. After dinner, she came up to me and said, “Why don’t you go and catch up properly with your friend before she leaves the country, and I’ll do the kitchen for you.”

With just a mild protest, I left her to the huge mess of pots, pans, dishes and cutlery. Later on I realised that it was all clean and packed away nicely! Thank you so much, Kerrie!