Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
— Matthew 25:37-40
Today was my last Sunday at Hebron Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights, Illinois. It feels like I just started coming to this church, but suddenly it has been almost 4 years and I have to say goodbye.
In Aug 2014 I drove 2000 miles from California to Illinois for medical school, then I came to Hebron at the recommendation of a classmate who knew the people at Hebron. I remember being blown away by the praise band that was super skilled and filled the entire building with great music despite only having 4 people on stage. I remember Pastor John being super duper passionate and yelling into the microphone about the Grace of God despite his loud voice not needing a microphone to begin with.
All my life I had attended churches where the vast majority of the people were older adults and very few people near my age, so I was delighted to find that Hebron was full of men and women at my age (+/-1). The pastor as well as these church members welcomed me and made sure to talk to me after service. One by one they would introduce me to another person at church and my circle of friends grew.
As a medical student, I would study at a coffee shop near church on Sundays, and you guys wanted to “study” together for several hours although you didn’t have anything to study. You introduced me to Portillos and gave me tips on getting it soaked in the juice and to ask for hot peppers. You took me downtown to show me Chicago and your favorite places to eat such as Joy Yees and Great Seas. You took me guitar shopping and helped me find what I should buy.
When I went to a small group meeting, you all further welcomed me into your apartments and definitely made me feel like one of you although I had barely been going to Hebron for a month. For my birthday you brought a surprise birthday cake after the meeting. Despite it being my first birthday away from home, I never felt an ounce of loneliness because of you guys.
You paid for my meals because I was a poor and hungry medical student, and packed me leftover food whenever it was available. You made sure I was equipped to face the Chicago winter. You invited me into your homes. You invited me to your weddings. You invited me to your hangouts. I was a stranger but you took me in like I had always been among you all. I only wish I had been able to say yes to more of your invitations and to have blessed you in return.
Lastly, as my time in Chicago was nearing its end, you took the time to meet up with me, asked me to come back to Chicago after residency, and organized a goodbye party for me. I don’t know why I deserve any of this, but I am truly lucky to have you guys. They say the early churches were known for their love, and thanks to Hebron I know exactly what that must have been like.
So after I leave and someone else new comes to Hebron, treat him/her like you treated me, and he/she will know God’s love for you and your love for God. And wherever I go, I promise to take the love you have shown me and share that with others. I probably won’t miss Chicago the city of parking tickets or Chicago the winter, but I will miss Hebron, my home away from home.