Dear First Pres,
During the World Cup soccer matches in 2010, I was not in America. In fact, I was likely the only United States Citizen for at least 100 miles and was a 13-hour boat trip from the closest embassy.
But there I was, sitting in a makeshift movie theater in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa watching the World Cup matches in between teaching English twice a day. Wooden boards served as makeshift seats and scraps of fabric were used to block most of the sunlight. The projector, probably one of a small handful of video projectors, was displaying the World Cup in the whole town.
Although there was typically a cost to get into the theater, my American Passport was useful in getting me into the theater for free. After all, team USA was about to play next and I was given a front row seat.
As was customary, the team's national anthems were played before the game. I don't know who the USA was facing that day, but when I heard the standard band rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," I did as I had always done and stood, hand over my heart and mouthed the words of our country's national anthem.
Well, I didn't make it through the song. My eyes watered up at about the line "and the rockets' red glare." Streams of tears flowed quickly. I was far away, homesick, and alone.
When the song finished and I began wiping the tears from my face and doing my best to hide my sniffles from a room full of men, I realized I was not the only one who stood. Sonya, my friend, and fellow Christian had also stood with his hand over his heart. Guinean he was, but in solidarity with his American friend, he had stood.
On this 4th of July as you go to a Grizzlies game, cook up some hamburgers, tacos, tri-tip, or light some ground-based fireworks, will you look around our city, your neighborhood, our church and ask the Lord, "Who do I need to stand next to? Who do I need to lament with? Lord, in what ways are you calling me to show up in love with a friend?"
I pray you have a happy and safe 4th of July.