People return from Africa and proclaim they left their hearts there. I never used those words, but when I came home from a summer in Estonia back in '96, it felt as if my heart was stuck in that tiny Baltic country. I suppose we all leave our hearts in that place where we were first shaken with the reality that our sight has been severely limited for most of our lives. We return from these places and they become our new reference point. Be it an overseas trip or just a week at church camp, everything will, for a while, be a comparison between this place and that place.
Eventually, though, the inertia of normalcy begins to slowly reorient our hearts to the dirt we are standing on. But if we are lucky, and perhaps a little deliberate in how we live our lives, we will still be affected, and allow the experience of those places to add brighter colors and deeper dimensions to the worlds we now occupy. These places will slowly cease to overpower our conversation. Yet we come to find that not only were our hearts left in these places, these places were also left in our hearts. They bubble up from time to time and we realize who we are now is a result of our being thrown into an alternate reality where the food is different and the people "talk funny."
May our lives and communities be shaped by these places. May the joy of African Christians, unable to hold in their excitement over redemption, move our feet to the rhythmic pulse of the gospel. May the devotion of an Estonian widow, whose husband was murdered fifty years ago by secret police for speaking the name Jesus, pull our hearts closer to the message that demands our all. May the community that is necessary for survival in poor and rural churches all over the south, inspire us to be family for each other. May we take it all in, and may we let it all out.