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This Is Not Heaven to Me!

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My sister and her husband invested many years in medical missions on the island of New Guinea, and it was my privilege to visit there several times. Much has happened over the years to propel most of the island into modernity, but back then I was awed by the simplicity and the primitive lifestyle of most of the people. Transportation was a tremendous adventure, and sometimes the communications system was a man with a good set of lungs sort of yodeling across a deep valley.

The most outstanding quality of their culture, in my opinion, is their ability to experience and enjoy the moment. Listening, thinking and developing a response is time consuming, and that is fine. Weddings were not intrusions, they were reasons to take a week off and celebrate. Sitting silently beside a dying friend or loved one was an act of honor.

One man who had spent his life in the island’s mountains had the opportunity to visit southern California for several weeks. We were all wondering what his reaction would be to the various facets of life there. It is difficult to imagine how a person who lives in a humble woven-wood, dirt-floor home with no electricity might react to a skyscraper. It is hard to fathom what a person who is used to walking barefoot a mile or two to the only market might think about crowded freeways and sprawling shopping malls.

When he returned to New Guinea after nearly a month in the United States, his family and missionary friends were curious about what he had seen and experienced. The key question, however, was, “Do you think you would like to move to America?” He took his usual time answering. After a good moment, he responded, “No. I like it here in New Guinea—where we still have a heaven!”

Do you still have a heaven? Years ago, an old gospel song contained the words, “This is like heaven to me. I’ve crossed over Jordan to Canaan’s fair land and this is like heaven to me.” The writer was talking about a deeper relationship with God, but what about us? Have we allowed the stuff of life to crowd out the wonder of heaven? A good exercise is to occasionally take the very best, the most valuable thing in our life and simply say to it, “You do not compare. ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind as conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Cor. 2:9).

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