It’s been 12 years since I last physically stood with them, but somehow they’re still close to me in spirit. It only took one phone call for me to be welcomed in, and in some ways, I’ve never left. During my first week in Nice, I spent some time with a small group at L’Eglise Interanational, and all of a sudden the home sickness left, as I realised that wherever I went, there’d be family.
It was a colourful collection of people: a glamorous lady from South Africa (who gave me money to take Ryan out for dinner when he was over), a shy man from the Faroe Islands (who smiled more than spoke), a fervent father from Italy who asked every week that we pray for his daughters, an swervingly happy Korean, a very proper English lady, a roller-skating African American, and a dozen more.
Somehow, the huge cultural and racial differences did not matter when we were together. Well, they were always acknowledged, and accepted. But there was a unifying thread between all of us that loved the differences, but also transcended them.
Twelve years on, I still have moments of missing these people, even though the once a week for nine months encounters could never bring me close to saying I officially knew them. But our shared faith went deep enough for me to feel I belonged with them, and that belonging sticks. One day, I’ll see them all again – I wonder will they remember me too?
Eternity will tell.