After 18 years on the mission field (Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt) I often wondered about my former classmates and other students from MTC (now Cornerstone), What kind of experiences would they have had? What would their highlights have been and what their low points? Would they also have experienced disappointments and victories? And how would they have handled certain situations? How would God have changed their lives and the lives of the people they served?  From time to time I thought: Just imagine if we would be all together again and share our stories….

So when I was asked if I was interested in a MTC/Cornerstone reunion, my answer was YES!

I was the first one to arrive, warmly welcomed by Ingeborg, my former classmate. She showed me my room for the weekend. What?? A room  for myself?? Somehow I had expected to have to share a room like in the old days.

Slowly other people started to arrive. Some easy to recognise, with other you had to look twice. We laughed about it while hugging each other. After 23 years a change is quite normal. For sure I have changed: extra kilos and white hair. Some brought their kids to show them where they have met, where the romance had started. It was great to have them in our midst. We had a good laugh when they marched in the dining room on Sunday morning, reminding us of former times.

Friday night we were catching up with one another in the coffee corner. We laughed about silly pictures or memories, but we also got into deeper conversations about the things that happened in our lives.  It was a great start of the weekend. It was so good to see everyone.

On Saturday morning Ingeborg gave us a tour  around the college. It was great to see how every corner get used and how the building had expended over the years. We even had a look into “the swimming pool” (now a storage depot). Some places got a change over. Our classroom was not there anymore, the dining room is bigger and the attic has turned into a beautiful apartment. In my time (I am from the very first lot) the attic was full of cupboards, junk and clothes. However, I remember finding an old leather suitcase. I really loved it and I was allowed to have it.

Something was special about that little old thing: it must have belonged to a missionary. Inside is written: Kathleen Brown, Kilcreggan House, Kilcreggan. Isn’t that the place of the first Missionary Training College in Scotland?  I have always wondered where in the world that suitcase has been and how it traved: by boat? plane? car or train? When I got the suitcase I used to keep my Yemeni things in there. Some Yemeni clothes, souvenirs, coffe cups and coffee pot, scarfs etc. No, I didn’t take it with me on the mission field but when I returned it was removed from its store place again. I moved house a few times and every time that little old suitcase moved with me. With my last move in 2013 I decided to put that suitcase in my living room. I thought: by now it deserves a good place. In a sense it is a picture of my life: ‘On the move……to a better place’.

But what does this suitcase story have to do with this reunion? Keep reading!

The weekend progressed, more people arrived on Saturday morning, we took pictures (thank you Paul). We drank more coffee and tea and had more conversations, laughs and tears. It was all quite relaxed. In the evening we met in the chapel. Everyone got a turn to share something. It was such a special evening. There was such openness and trust, acceptance and understanding. So many stories!

I could not sleep till 2:30am and was awake long before 7 am. I was thinking about all those stories again and then I had the picture of that suitcase in my mind. I thought: it is as if I came with one story (my story), but I leave with a suitcase full of stories. In fact, everyone came with one ‘story suitcase’. Some people’s suitcases were bigger and heavier than others, but everyone has a story.

Thinking of all the conversations and all the stories I had heard all of a sudden I felt a heaviness. I said: ”Lord, this suitcase is far too heavy to carry”. Then the gentle voice of the Lord spoke: “I don’t want you to go home with a heavy burdensome suitcase. Leave the burdens at my cross.”

Sunday morning we came together in the chapel again. After a wonderful time of worship Lindsay spoke about God’s faithfulness. What a reminder of God’s goodness and love.  We shared communion, remembering what Jesus has done for us. I laid the burdens at the cross. I could not help thinking: from now on I will look differently at that little old suitcase standing in my living room. It will remind me of God’s faithfulness in all those stories that were shared. Yes, there were some painful stories, but God has always been there and that was testified too. It will also remind me to pray for my brothers and sisters who are still facing challenges in their lives.

The suitcase will remind me of a wonderful, unique reunion at Cornerstone, April 2015.