Friday afternoon, bus up. Saturday evening, bus home. Barely 24 hours in Michigan, yet it’s Thursday night now, late, and I’m still fighting to tell you about it. School hardly over, my room just emptied, I got on a bus with The Jen and her sister, Katie, and we went to Michigan.
I want to tell you all about it. I do. I want to tell you so much and tell you so well that I’ve thought myself, planned myself, into a corner. I wrote a post, just now. Part of one, anyway. About my time in Michigan. But there’s too much to tell and I wasn’t telling well, so I stopped. Began again. And here I am.
I told you, in March, about Jen’s sister visiting school. Remember? I told you about our shared love of Spanish and school and children and the way I stored our conversation away in my heart; a woman who loves the Lord, and His Word. This same sister, Kristen her name, graduated from New Tribes Bible Institute last weekend.
The Jen, sweet girl two dorm doors down, stopped one day last month, outside my door. I was on my computer, typing. Looking up, looking across my bed, across the room, I smiled at her. She dimpled back. This is routine: I like my desk there, the door open, so that I can see the hallway, see those who pass by. Jen passes frequently. She stopped this time, and in our brief conversation, she said graduation, Michigan, Kristen. Half serious, mostly joking, I said I’d go along.
Joke turned serious and later, sitting on Jen’s bright yellow sheets, I clicked to Megabus, bought a ticket to Michigan.
Katie, Jen, me. Four hours, more even, on a bus to Michigan. They sat behind me, the two sisters; one older, Jen the younger. I sat one row up. Backpack next to me, feet against the window, I watched Michigan fly past the window. Trees and grass line the highway; long, tall, strong grass that seems to glow in the sun. The trees are green, too. Wide and thick and many. It’s just trees, bushes, grass, but I breathed tight in, held my breath at the clean, brilliant, freshness of it all. This I love about Michigan.
New Tribes Bible Institute- students call it NTBI, roll it around their tongues, quick- is one building. Used to be an elementary school, maybe a middle school. Now it’s classroom building, dorms, dining hall, offices, all in one and walking the hallways feels like a little bit of everything. The voices down the hall, in the dorms, are adult, mature. They talk about missions training and the Bible and where God is taking them, and this is a place of leading and prayer and faith and I soak up every word while I’m there.
There’s a world map in the downstairs hallway. It’s big, tall: I’m eye-level with Brasil. Kristen gives a tour when we arrive; her dorm room is on the third floor. We climb up and down those stairs, together, in groups, pairs, alone, all the day long, and my heart, mind catches every time I pass that map. Think of the lives who are here, now. Think of the hearts that are growing, the minds that are learning. The Lord they serve, He has plans, big, for them. The Word they love, it will bring hope, much, to people all over that huge wall map.
The school, these students, have so very much.
The ceremony is the next day, then a reception in the dining hall at the school. I line up with Jen, and a brother, tall, and we stack miniature plates with cheese, crackers, thick little cubes of meat. Students, graduates, families, overflow the dining hall. They are in the halls. In the foyer. In the yard. Children, little boys in collared shirts, little girls in sundresses, run in and out of the adults, play on the park. There are more siblings now, and cousins- first? Once removed?- and friends and friends of friends, and introductions are short, conversations long.
It feels like family. Family when we’re upstairs, getting ready. Jen and sisters and friends and we’re all putting on dresses, earrings, makeup. Feels like family afterwards, when we sit around in the sun and drink fruit punch and talk. Feels like family when there are hugs, congratulations, thank you for coming, see you later.
There’s more to tell, no doubt. More about New Tribes and the graduation ceremony, and Jen’s brother driving to the church with the windows down, my hair and Jen’s whipping in the wind. More about the 5k the graduates ran on the morning of graduation, or the night before, driving slow at 10pm, stopping at corners to mark the 5k route with chalk. More about The Jen and Katie and Kristen and sisters I don’t have, who made me feel another sister, at home. More about God’s will and God’s plan and how great He really is.
There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave it there for now.