The heels of my boots clip-clopped against the asphalt as I rushed back to my car. High heels still sound so grown-up and mature in my ears. I was late to pick Julia up but wanted to squeeze out every possible last moment because soon the miles would change from tens to thousands. I blinked back grateful tears as I pulled out of my parking spot. My mind replayed the history of our friendship. Twenty-four years ago we met. We were both recent college graduates attending a Cru winter conference before heading south to Arrowhead Springs for staff training. We had mutual friends who introduced us. At the conference we decided to become roommates and from there we became fast forever friends.
I was drawn immediately to Donna’s tender heart for the Lord and her missionary zeal; perhaps in the same way Jonathan was drawn to David in the Old Testament. Though our temperaments were different, we were bonded in Kingdom vision. Our hearts were captured by our King. It was obvious loyalty to Him ran deep in Donna’s life. We spent hours talking, praying and worshipping in the little prayer chapel on the grounds of the Cru Headquarters (Campus Crusade for Christ back then). We dreamed of going together: Yak Back to Mongolia. We were willing to go where no one wanted. We were willing to go to the farthest corners of the world to share the message of God’s love and forgiveness.
Twice we returned too late from a pie eating study session down in San Bernardino. We waited in her car talking and singing songs like “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” by the front gate until the top of the hour, usually two a.m., when the guard would come by shaking his head to let us in. We shared secret crushes, we discussed discipleship, ministry philosophy and difficult passages in the Bible. We waited together in anticipation to find out our first campus assignments. She would be at the University of Washington. I would be at her alma mater, UC Berkeley.
I’m convinced part of the reason my monthly financial support came in so quickly was God allowing time for us to be in the same location to continue to deepen our friendship. When I arrived in Berkeley it was Donna who first took me to Fat Apples and introduced me to Peets Coffee. My first summer assignment was to staff the Lake Tahoe project. Donna remained in Berkeley to continue raising her support. Twice, on my days off, we met half way in Sacramento.
We roomed together at our first staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado. The training took place every other year. We sat together mesmerized as the vision for Manila 1990 was shared with the 5000 staff. Together we decided we would go. We walked the grounds of the CSU campus praying and sharing secret crushes. We watched the married staff and the mom’s pushing strollers and wondered about their lives–wondered how they maintained an eternal perspective in their daily lives in their different seasons.
The following summer I received special permission to join her Pacific Northwest staff team so we could minister together in Manila. We started off roommates but circumstances caused the bulk of the team to relocate to Bangkok, Thailand. I stayed back in Manila and over the course of the summer fell in love with my co-team leader, Darrin.
By Christmas time Darrin and I were engaged. The following summer Donna and I walked the grounds of CSU. This time as we talked she shared her secret crushes and I wore an engagement ring on my left hand. She was one of my bridesmaids at the wedding following the conference.
The next staff training found us again walking the grounds of CSU. She shared her secret crushes, I waddled next to her trying to keep up with short breaths, with swollen ankles, seven months pregnant. She looked over at me. Our paths were going in different directions. I was living out the life she always wanted. Donna went on to do everything I wanted: she attended seminary and got her Master’s Degree, she spent a year living overseas on Stint (short term international mission).
We joked about writing and giving a talk together called “Flies on the Window” about marriage and singleness. The flies on the outside want in, the ones on the inside want out. Though we loved much of the path God had us on, we were blessed with enough trust to share honestly about the harder parts.
Donna ended up living in the apartment across from me and Darrin and we served for a time together on the UCLA campus and finally, after years of failed attempts, spent an entire summer together overseas in East Asia. She was there the day Jonathan was born and the day he took his first steps. She was with me in the emergency room when Jonathan received his first and only stiches.
Eventually Donna met and married a godly, handsome, artistic Frenchman named Didier. I was honored to stand with her as a bridesmaid. The Lord led them to minister in France. Now Donna is the mother of three wonderful kids. Her oldest daughter is Julia’s age.
God has been good to us. Our paths, though very different, cross and recross despite the miles, despite the years. Today we met halfway for one final lunch. We had months of catching up, but conversation came effortlessly. We picked up where we left off and went deep quickly. On December 12th Donna and her family will return to France to minister in Paris. God has burdened their hearts to reach the lost through the medium of the arts. I’m grateful to Didier for sharing his gift of photography with me. The photo he took of the grapes from a vineyard in France now graces the header for my new website. How fitting my first post with my newly designed site would highlight my friendship with Donna. You can check out their website and other photos Didier has taken by clicking his name the photo credit at the bottom of the page.
I’m grateful for friendships that span the seasons of life. Grateful for the memories made with Donna over the years. We have both grown, matured, and lived through good times and hard times. But through it all our heart and vision for the world and the Lord remains the same. Donna continues to bless me by her courage, example, willingness and tender heart towards the Lord. Please join me in praying for her and her family as they pack, say goodbyes and transition to life in France.
My eyes are filled now with tears as I type and think about our goodbye and the miles, but my heart is full of gratitude to be blessed with a lifelong friend like Donna.
I love you, Donna, and miss you already. Look forward to the next time we are together!
What are some of the blessings you’ve received through friendship?