My heart was heavy with all sorts of life living and life aching during my time in Australia. I spent each day growing and learning about my roommates, their countries, and living apart from most things that I had ever known. I caught glimpses of the Father's Heart for the world. I saw that it was lovely and weighty, and I did my best to embrace it as much as possible.
The only church I managed to haul my directionally challenged self to was called Hillsong, and it was a mega-church. Admittedly, I went because it was easy to get to. They sent a bus that stopped a few yards from my apartment and all I had to do was hop on it and wait. I had never experienced a mega-church before, and it was a phenomenon that was confusing and overwhelming to me.
I expressed this feeling, one bus ride, to a lady from Indonesia who had taken a seat next to me. She turned to me and told of her time in Indonesia. Of the violence towards Christians that happens there. Of how intensely difficult it was to even legally build a church in her country, and how once one was built, it was extremely likely that worshipers would be violently attacked during the service. Worshiping often came at the cost of their lives.
With tears in her eyes, she put her hand on my knee and said, "Do not ever take for granted the ability you have to worship without fear." She said that to see so many Christians worshiping together without being afraid in the least brought her immeasurable reassurance and joy.
I was forever altered by her words. Though that didn't change how lost I felt amid such a sea of people each Sunday. When the services were over and I wandered around by myself I would secretly wish that Eddie was there to wander with me.
Back at our school in the mountains, Eddie and I had occasionally attended meetings at "Campus Rock" - the biggest college ministry on campus. It wasn't long before we both began to feel similarly about Campus Rock as a whole. I told Eddie that I didn't think I was getting much out of it, that I craved something... deeper. He replied with, "Yeah, Campus Rock is kind of like a big puddle. It's fun to splash around in for a while, but if you try to really dive in, you'll just hit your head on the pavement." Exactly. So we took up going to the meetings, locating each other, and then sneaking out like hooligans.
I would come home from Hillsong and go knock on my neighbor's door. Her name was George, and she was British. Very British, in fact, and very comforting, precious, and kind. She'd answer the door, offer me some tea, and we would flop on the couch and talk about life and school and eventually boys. Our conversation nearly always got round to her thoughts of one Leo and my thoughts of one Eddie Kindle.
I thought of Eddie again as I befriended an angry emu that lived on campus. My friend Kirstine from Denmark and I made a point to go sing to him (Wake me up before I go go by Wham) and he would glare at us in a livid emu rage. I mulled a bit over how entertaining I thought Eddie might find this endeavor.
(Note: I didn't actually take this photo, but this is almost exactly what he looked like from behind his fence. The only exception is that our emu looked a bit more like he wanted blood. Our blood. )
(This was my impression of the emu and his rage. It's true that I didn't emulate it perfectly, but I still think I was somewhat convincing. That lovely redhead is my friend Kirstine, who assisted me in serenading said emu on a somewhat daily basis.)
I didn't have a phone when I was in Oz. If I couldn't afford one at home, I extra couldn't afford one on the other side of the planet. Also, I figured that I already missed everyone so incredibly much that if I heard their voices, I would just break. On top of that, the time zone issue would mean that they would all be asleep during my waking hours.
This did not stop Eddie from leaving me messages in various ways involving the internet, of course. We conversed as usual-ish. One day it would be a Myspace comment that said "You make the world a better place wherever you go.", and then I would wake up to an IM in the morning professing sadness that I was asleep in my time zone and how much joy he hoped for my upcoming day.
Once he wrote and asked me, "If you could start a church, what would it look like?". I replied first with a church that I could simply imagine into existence. The building would be one of those glorious old cathedrals with lovely architecture and elaborate artwork everywhere, but inside instead of pews there would just be a bunch of bean bag chairs and some Lazyboys for elderly people who aren't comfy with beanbag chairs.
There would be secret stairways and rooms all over the place to be found by anyone who ventured past the sanctuary. Everyone who walked into this church would feel it a second home and thus would not think twice about taking full advantage of the ability to get lost amongst the corridors and to escape into previously undiscovered corners, towers, and bay windows to spend quiet time with God where they couldn't be found or interrupted by anyone.
Of course right next to all this there would be a HUGE tree with the greatest tree-house (rope ladder and all) ever built for even more hanging out capabilities.
I then noted that the truth of it is what we all know so well to be true; that a church actually has little or nothing to do with the physical building it is located in. So I told him that if his question referred to the Church as a body of people, that services held on swing sets and monkey bars, or in mud huts with dirt floors would be glorious beyond all reason given sweet fellowship, teaching, and worship. That all that was important to me, in reality, was that it be people who understood that church was a healing place for sinners, not simply a safe-hold for angels and saints. That it would be a place free of pressure as humanly possible, where we would be doing our best to learn to love and to see the world and each other as God does.
I thought to myself, "That was fun! I hope he asks me more questions soon!".
It wasn't long after that question that I discovered his reason for asking it. The reason was that he had happened upon a new ministry on campus. It was called 24/7 Church, and it was a family of five who opened up their home to college kids so they could all seek the Lord together. I didn't know, when I first wrote to one of the pastors there, that she and that family would become one of the hugest blessings my life would ever see. But it's true. That is what they became. And it all started when I was in Oz, missing Eddie.
I did know, however, that the pastor (Genevieve) and I would be fast friends. I knew it for sure the day I came back from the beach on Thanksgiving 11 different shades of deep red and wrote to her about my severe underestimation of Australian sun, and she replied, "Looks like Poppa burned the turkey this year!"
Somewhere along the line I found brightly colored paper umbrellas that I wanted everyone to have. I thought I could cover them in decoupage and perhaps they would hold up in the rain? I snagged an extra one for Eddie. I knew it was a silly (and probably even girly) thing. But I permitted myself a little chuckle. This was Eddie I was thinking of.
Mr. Elmer's glue hair.
Mr. Wears a giant squishy purple candy machine ring that lights up like a disco ball.
He would see the silly splendor of it. I was sure of it.
As the semester drew to an end, I missed him. And I secretly hoped that maybe he was missing me too.
I went to Tasmania for 2 weeks with four of the dearest girls in the world (from all over the world) and all the bonding that we had accomplished over the last 4 1/2 months cemented further with every new inside joke, sand castle, possum break in, hostel, and hour spent in transit.
When it was all finally over, I stood at the bus stop with my suitcase in tow and tearfully hugged my friends goodbye.
Airplanes are emotional. They cover so much distance in such a short time it can make one feel the connection as well as the ripping away all at once. On that plane ride home, I poured over the sweet handwriting of my dear ones in the card they had placed in my hands amid farewells and bear hugs. I picked up the tiny construction paper hearts that spilled out of it and tucked them back inside.
I was longing for those I was leaving, and I was longing for (and taking comfort in) those who I was on my way home to be with again. My family and my friends. And Eddie. I couldn't wait to see him again.
I knew that he had adopted a wayward squirrel in my absence, along with a treasured new church family. I had also heard that he was living in a little cabin in the woods just off campus.
All of that sounded, to me, like new adventures waiting to happen.
And maybe, just maybe, when I got home he would have a better answer for me then "Huh."
At last, I fell asleep on the plane, exhausted with the conflict of grieving adieus and excited anticipation.