How do you explain it when someone you’ve only met once steals a tiny piece of your heart? When we were on our mission trip to Greece and Cyprus a few weeks ago, we spent one afternoon doing an educational program for kids in a refugee camp. The powers that be (those who had jurisdiction over the camp) asked that we keep our program focused on basic ABC/123 kinds of things, in English. Fortunately, we had a couple of teachers on our team who brilliantly came up with a plan. I was just along as an enthusiastic helper, encouraging the kids in their “work” which had sneakily been turned into fun.

A great majority of the kids in this camp were from Somalia or Syria. They were all adorable, but there was one little boy who stole a part of me. He was from Iraq. Truth be told, he and his mother still occupy a place in my heart. She had been a psychologist before she and her family fled their country and now, as she told me, her days consists of cleaning her very small home, cooking, and caring for her kids. Her “home” was half of a shipping container with one window and a bathroom shared with the family who occupied the other half of the container.

The thing is, despite our cultural differences, lifestyle, and religion; I think we could easily be friends. I would have loved to have sat down over a cup of tea and encouraged her to hang in there and remind her this season of life would pass, that it won’t always be this way. I would have cherished an opportunity to tell her about my Jesus and how He’s made a difference in my life.

And her son . . . besides being adorable, was one of the best-behaved kids in the group. When our time there was over and we were getting ready to leave, he came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “Are you coming back?” How do I explain to a four-year-old that my home on the other side of the world, isn’t exactly a trip down the street and it’s likely I’ll never be back? Knowing that there will be other teams who will visit this camp I could honestly say, “I don’t know if I’ll be back, but someone will.”

The greatest gift God gives me when I’m missing this beautiful little boy and his mom is the ability to pray for them. He is bigger, smarter and more resourceful than I am. Though I can’t directly make a difference in their lives, I can entrust them to the One who can. Perhaps that is the reason we met – so that every time I think of them I can pray. And one day, I pray I will stand beside that woman and her family in heaven, and we can rejoice over the day we met and all that Jesus has done!

After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!  Yes, you are our pride and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20