God's Gift - By Dee Henderson
“Go back to the States, rest, see the doctors, shake this bug and be back here at the end of August to take the Zaire project.” His boss’s words still rang in his ears. Medical furlough. The words dreaded by every missionary. Six years in the field in remote locations. He should feel lucky to have made it this long. He didn’t.
James Graham moved down the aisle of the plane, following the other passengers, a heavy jacket bought in New York folded over one arm. It had been eighty-two degrees when he left the capital of Zaire yesterday afternoon. The pilot had announced Chicago was forty-five degrees and raining, a cold April evening.
The pain was bad tonight. It made his movements stiff and his face gaunt. He moved like an old man and he was only thirty-five. He wanted to be elated at being home, to have the chance to see his friends, his family. It had been six years since he had been back in the States. Pain was robbing him of the joy.
He would give a lot to know what bug had bit him and done all this damage. He would give a lot to have God answer his question, Why?
He stepped through the door to the airport terminal, not sure what to expect. His former business partner Kevin Bennett had his flight information. James had asked him to keep it quiet, hoping to give himself some time to recover from the flight before he saw his family. His mom did not need to see him at his worst. For fifteen years, since his dad died, he had been doing his best to not give her reason to worry about him.
James could still feel the grief from the day his mom had called him at college to gently let him know his father had died of a heart attack. He’d been ready to abandon college and move back home, step into the family business, but she had been adamant that he not. She had compromised and let him return for a semester to help, then told him to get on with his life. She had sold the family bakery and begun a profitable business breeding Samoyeds, a passion she had shared with his dad for years.
When he’d felt called six years ago to leave the construction business he and Kevin had built, to use his skills on the mission field, his mom had been the first one to encourage him to go. She was a strong lady, a positive one, but she was going to take one look at him in pain and while she wouldn’t say so, she was going to worry.
He turned at the sound of his name and felt a smile pierce his fatigue. Six years was a long time to miss seeing a best friend. “Kevin.” He moved out of the stream of people toward the bay of windows that looked out over the runways.
They had been close friends for so long, the six years blinked away in a moment. His friend looked good. Relaxed. A little older. They had gone to high school together, played baseball as teammates, basketball as rivals, he on the blue squad, Kevin on the red. They had double-dated together and fought intensely over who would be number one and who would be number two in all the classes they shared in college.
“I won’t ask how you’re doing. You look like you did that time you fell off that roof we were replacing,” Kevin remarked. “I’m glad you’re back.”
James smiled. “I had to come back just to meet your wife.”
Kevin laughed. “I have no idea how I ended up married before you did. You’ll like Mandy.”
“I’m sure I will. She got you to settle down before you were fifty.”
“Without you around as my business partner, there was too much work to do without help. I hired Mandy’s brother—he’s good by the way—and before I knew it, I was thinking more about Mandy than I was about work. I know a good thing when I find it.”
“I’m glad, Kevin.”
“It’s your turn now.”
James smiled. “Later, Kevin. We need a few dozen more clinics built before I want to think about coming back to settle down.” He had come to the conclusion early, having watched his parents and other close friends, that marriage took time, energy and focus if you wanted it to grow and survive, and unless you were ready to make that kind of investment, it was simply better to