on tuesday night, we had our last hurrah in montreal — an informal get-together of friends who joined us over at fu lam, a chinese buffet where the seafood, the gratitude, and the hugs were flowing freely.
that wonderful group of people represented everything that we love about montreal — a wide range of nationalities, cultures, ages, and spiritual stories, and together with that, the overwhelming faithfulness of God. there were people from at least 14 countries, students from both ministries we've been overseeing, cmds and inter-varsity's international student ministry (including christian students who will be ministry leaders next year and not-yet-christian student friends), and church friends from a number of churches that we've been connected with (including a committed prayer partner of m's). there was one friend, still exploring her spiritual journey, whom b and i met at a computer store. there was a student friend we met while ministering over at dawson college after the shootings this past fall. a number of our ism volunteers came out, along with a couple of the inter-varsity staff and their spouses — all good friends and committed ministry partners. we've loved and prayed for them all, cried with some, tried to help them resolve conflicts, and done our best to point them to Jesus. leaving is hard.
but the mood of the evening was joyful; it was a little bit like a wedding reception. there was lots of chatter, people getting to know one another, tons of food, not a few tears. at one point, the international students presented us with a book of photos and personal notes — a kind of yearbook to commemorate our time together; that was a highlight. we were asked to pose for lots of photos, group hugged, prayed for, blessed, given gifts, and in many other ways, lavishly loved and appreciated.
we didn't leave until after the restaurant had closed. and as we stood outside the door, we lingered with our friends for a long time. they didn't seem to want to go, and i know we didn't. there is something beautiful about being together with people you love, and something awful about being separated from them, even if it's only temporary. instead of goodbye, the french say au revoir, which means "until we see each other again." we are still praying, still hoping, that we will see every one of those people again — most especially in eternity. oh what a sound we'll make!
even now upon the earth there's a glimpse of all to come
many people with one voice, harmony of many tongues
we will all confess your name, you will be our only praise
all the nations with one voice, all the people with one God
and what a song we'll sing upon that day
(from matt redman's "there is a louder shout to come")