In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:1-4 NIV)

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God (Luke 23:50-53 NIV).

This last week or so, I've been writing about my yearly visit to The Community of children north of Lima, Peru. But today, I want to make a major jump in how we begin to think about our Friday at The Community they call Sagra Familia —

Have you ever wondered about the emotions at Jesus' ascension back to God at the end of his ministry? I know that's a strange question, but some of our best insights and discoveries come from asking strange questions about something with which we think we are familiar.

So jump into this moment and start asking some questions that naturally come to your mind. Here's a few that jump off the page at me.

  • What did the angels say when Jesus returned?"Nice job: you lived a great life, entered death and defeated its power, and have returned in power. You are Lord indeed and one day every knee will bow!""Whoa, we are truly sorry about the scars and pain. We had no idea how costly this was going to be for you. We are amazed at your love for these fickle people.""What are you thinking? Who is going to carry on what you have started? Look at that bumbling bunch you left behind to keep this Kingdom move of the Father going."
  • From the disciples after Jesus left and they walked down the hill back to their places to go?"Wow! Did you see that? It was incredible, but what do we do after we go pray in Jerusalem and what does he mean by power from on high?""Guys, this is ripping my guts out. I thought we lost him when he was crucified, then we get him back for a little over six weeks and then he leaves again ... for good. My emotions are all over the place and I am not sure how to keep on keeping on. I will barely be able to walk down this hill, much less walk back into the Holy City.""And what is this deal about him coming back again — does that mean soon or much later? How do we make it from here till then?"

These crazy speculations that I have about Jesus' ascension are the closest thing I can imagine that compares to our last day at The Community. I know that sounds way over the top, but if you are in the middle of this emotionally, there is not much other way to look at it.

This Friday morning ran like any other day this previous week — same general flow of class time, say time for story and centers. But today, having been here, Donna and I led our team to spend more personal time with the children. They knew us, called our names, loved all over us, and because they knew it was the last day, they were much more clingy. That had started the day before when they began asking, "Are you coming back next year?"

The reason to return has just grown by two more precious girls.
We had a great week. Your heart can't help but fall in love with these little girls. Yes, they are like trying to herd cats sometimes, other times like trying to juggle jello. Yes, all plans have to be flexible with the circumstances under which we work. Yes, we are absolutely physically and emotionally exhausted. But, we stepped into a place with children Jesus loves, talking about Jesus to them all week. And they not only know the stories about Jesus' loves, they have faces to associate with the truth that Jesus loves them through us.

After lunch, we began to assemble on the new paved soccer field for the farewell party and dance. The local band played a few tunes and then played others from CD's and for over two hours we danced and hugged and kissed and then cried. It was an explosion of joy, a mad rush to cram in every ounce of energy and love because we knew it was about to end for this year and we got into the buses after many goodbyes, hugs, smiles, kisses, and tears.

As the buses drove out of the community, children lined both sides of the road from the back of the place to the exit. This was the first time that we all got the sense of the enormity of the task — 900 children on both sides of the buses waving, crying, clapping, calling out the names of those they knew and loved. And then we were gone — out the gate, down the long hill, through the awful and dangerous neighborhood, and on our way back to Lima and home.

Great joy. Deep sadness. Lots of questions. Promises of return. Down the hill. Headed home.

See what I mean, sounds a lot like Jesus' ascension with all of its joy, deep sadness, many questions, trip down the hill, and the promised returned. Words, pictures, songs, can't capture the feelings that stick like Velcro to your soul.

So now we wait for Pentecost to happen to us again, and for Jesus to call us, to empower us, to equip us, and to send us out to a place called Sagrada Familia!

Late news from a meeting Friday night with Miguel, the leader of The Community. Miguel was a little late to our dinner and question and answer session because two new little girls have been added to "our casa" with Tia Susanna. Looks like the reason to return has just grown by two more precious girls.