I felt beneath my pillow for my iPod to check the time, which read 6.00 a.m., although it was actually 5.00 a.m.. It hadn't automatically adjusted to the correct time for Mish, but I thought that it being an hour ahead might serve as an advantage for the week, as long as I bore it in mind.
Surrounding me lay 8 air mattresses and their cargo--a sea of people in sleeping bags scattered over the floor of the large, empty classroom. I rolled over and got up as gracefully as a seal waddling from the sea.
In the dim morning light, I gripped my orange backpack filled with toiletries, and negotiated my way to the door of the classroom, trying not to disturb my friends. I left their soft breathing, and gentle stirrings behind as I gripped the handle of the classroom door and exited, as careful as a burglar.
I had found a small desk the night before, in a secluded corner of an adjoining classroom--the perfect place to have a quiet hour before each day began. Throughout the following week I clung to this time tenaciously, knowing that there was nothing more important that I could do, and that from this time would flow any strength, grace and wisdom I could hope for.
The first day being a Sunday, after breakfast, quick plans were made by some of us to go to Pickle Lake, for church. After a 30 minute drive, our vehicles pulled into the quiet parking lot of Pickle Lake Gospel Chapel,10 minutes late for the 10.00 a.m. service.
Several cars were neatly parked outside the unadorned, white building with its backdrop of dark green boreal forest. We tiptoed into the hush of a church that had gathered and settled in for the service, trying not to disturb, but there were too many of us not to be noticed. However all that greeted us were welcoming glances and smiles.
Paul and I made our way to a couple of vacant seats beside a snazzy looking lady of about my age, sporting dangling earrings that matched her turquoise suit. Still embarrassed at the disruption we'd caused, I whispered to the sea of faces in a hushed voice, "I'm sorry we're late," and Snazzy Lady, whom I later learned is named Kathy Koper, gently punched me in the arm as I sat down next to her, and said, "That doesn't matter! We're glad you're here."
Her welcoming words evoked deep emotion in me. I heard in them the heart of Jesus--and thought that at some far-away time in the future, we may be surprised in heaven by the late arrival of one long prayed for and dear to our hearts. I could imagine saying to them through tears those very words: "It doesn't matter that you're late--you're here."