By Mommy Emily

I’m doing dishes at the kitchen sink, autumn leaves skipping like giggling children across the yard.

I’ve been home for five days now — having led a team of four (three board members and a social media director) to Sierra Leone, West Africa — and my three-year-old daughter’s making pretend alphabet soup on the floor with her plastic letters.

The air smells like the chicken I’ve put in the crockpot and soap bubbles swirl around my hand in the sink, the hand I burned badly the day I left for the airport – I’d poured scalding water across it in a hurried attempt to make coffee in a travel mug.

It’s healed now after dozens of grubby little hands grabbing it and a village nurse spreading ointments and me having received much prayer, and I’ve got patches of new skin there now, pink skin — and it’s formed on my heart too.

Those 10 days in Sierra Leone spent forging rivers and hiking through jungles to hidden villages, meeting congregations without pastors and pastors without church buildings, have burned off all preconceptions of “need;” a fresh understanding of what we’re called to do — like pink skin cells – has spread across the membrane of our ministry.

And even as I stand now, scrubbing dishes, Hillsong playing “Anastasia” through the radio speakers (the same song my family and I sang at Mum’s funeral just three months ago, a song about Jesus’ glorious return to bring all believers home to be with him) the Lord shows me a vision so clear and so beautiful, tears fall silent and fast.

I see the young boys we met from the villages.

I see them in their parents’ rice fields, running through the grass-like crops, flailing their skinny arms and yelling at the birds that try to steal the fast-growing food.

I see the boys who walk barefooted after school for an hour to a river called Little Scary, who ride across in canoes dug out from huge Cottonwood trees, then spend until nightfall chasing birds in the rice fields, only to return, calling to one another across the glassy waters – another youth paddling the canoe with a palm-type branch – then skipping home on the other side in their tattered clothing and bare feet, singing African songs and laughing in the starlit air.

I know, because I stepped behind them, in their tracks, until my team and I reached Pastor Sonnel’s Jeep – and the boys disappeared into the dusk.

They seemed not to care that people got bitten frequently by snakes in the bush. They seemed not to care that they hadn’t eaten since breakfast, tea and perhaps some millet, and they wouldn’t eat again until they returned home – a bowlful of rice – and that they still needed to do their homework by the glow of a candle with the stub of a pencil before they lay down to sleep on mats stuffed with straw on the dirt floor of their homes.

No, they just sang.

And it’s with my hands in dirty dishwater that God shows me Jesus’ return on the clouds – and that these boys, the ones in the rice fields, the ones in tattered clothes and calloused feet, the ones who are already looking up at the skies watching for the birds – these boys will be the first ones to see Jesus return.

It will be them, and their parents, who often farm alongside them, digging up weeds and begging God to bless the crops so they can afford school fees – their parents too will see the light falling on their children’s faces and they too will witness the King’s return.

It won’t be us in our mansions who see it; for our eyes won’t be fixed on the sky. No, they’ll be fixed on a screen of some sort.

Rather, as the news of Jesus’ birth came to shepherds – poor, worn, rejected men who lived to protect their sheep and were constantly watching for wolves and snakes that might harm their flock – in the same way as angels brought the news first to them, the light of heaven falling across their worn, lined faces, the news of Jesus’ return will be witnessed first by boys like these watchmen of the rice fields.

I can see them now: Jesus lifting them to Himself, tucking them in his heavenly cloak, washing their dirty feet with his tears. Kissing their cheeks, new skin spreading across their bodies.

And Him saying, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Let’s go home.”


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