“You will only be happy when you are giving,” my best friend Kayla said to me. Her long distance call from Africa woke me that day in my dorm room at 7:54 a.m.
I snuck into the hall to hear her tales. The seven-hour time difference between Virginia and Ethiopia found her on her lunch break. A line of 50 slim Ethiopians waited for her outside her medical clinic while she took a minute to eat banana cake and drink Coke from a glass bottle. Her missionary life rivaled even my collegiate one for exhaustion. Her daylong treatment of leprosy, meningitis, broken bones, and malnutrition gave her great joy. It also wore her out.
“I miss you so much,” she said.
Missionary work happens wherever Christians are, of course, and my mission at school had worn me to a spindle, too. My revolving dorm-room door admitted people needing counsel and prayers. I just hoped they could see me where I was buried at my desk beneath books on Greek marriage and books on the operas of Purcell. “College will not kill me,” I said to myself. “I will come out alive. I will come out alive.” And then I prayed with whoever was waiting.
The long phone calls Kayla and I have exchanged over the years always inject us with a little more life to go on. God has taken our almost 20-year friendship on adventures we could never have fathomed. That’s because as Christians we each pursued joy for a living. That led us to people. Lots and lots of people to celebrate, touch, tell the truth to, and be changed by. But now Kayla and I are on simultaneous sabbatical. She’s home from Africa, I’m home from college, and we have five months to do missionary work together. We’re racing the wedding bells.
But I’m also trying to beat my own loneliness through giving, by thinking of others more than myself. My college recoup left me frequently home alone, which made me desperate enough for people to consider joining a volleyball team. And I hate volleyball. Instead, Kayla and I are starting a Bible study for teenage girls in our area, which we’ll begin next week. Dreaming out our ideas and purposes for it, considering how to convey our own lessons, was one of the sweetest times we have ever had together.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Soon we will both be married, which will usher us into completely new and exciting regions of good works to do.
But we have to redeem the now through giving. Our happiness depends on it.