Contact Info Subscribe Links


June-July 2017

The Power of


Online Edition

Download PDF

iPad and E-Reader




History Resources



Facebook Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Whatever "It" Is

By Neil Gilliland


I wish I could explain it. Words don’t seem to be enough, yet words are all I have. Maybe the problem is I am not even sure I know what “it” is.

Sitting in my office in Nashville seems so very distant from “it.”

Maybe my friend said it best after returning from a trip to Vietnam, his childhood home. “My sister and I were having our picture taken with the pastor of the church. He was Jarai, the tribal people my parents worked with in the highlands of Central Vietnam. All of a sudden, I just lost it. I think it was the smell. I smelled burning bamboo, and the memories overwhelmed me.”

Maybe it is the memories that flood my senses. The smells of the African city. The dust of the villages. The fires. Even the smells of the people. Maybe it is the feel of the African sun or the leathered hands I shook each day. Perhaps it is the taste of the food or a cold African Coke. It could be the sounds of roads congested with traffic or the sweet “Bonjour, ça va(s)” that greet the morning. Maybe it was the sight of baobab trees dotting the Sahel landscape or the cacophony of rich colors everywhere I turned. It very well might be the demonstration I watched as people lived in true Christian community.

I am a bit guilty of chiding myself, because my sojourn on African soil was brief. How could a simple seven years sink so deeply into my soul? I often look askance at students who spend a week in a place and say, “I left my heart there.” Yet, I am just as guilty. My time in Africa was short, but something happened and I can’t explain it. But when I get off the plane it hits me.

Woven into “it” is friendships—friends whose lives are woven into the fabric of my memories with threads that stand the test of time. After years and miles of separation, I still sense their love. I wonder if that is it, the love that embraces me when we are together. We shared laughter and tears.

I don’t doubt for a moment that seeing the young men—whose lives flashed through ours for a brief moment—serving the King and Kingdom is a big part of it.

Suffice it to say that whatever “it” is, “it” is intoxicating. And while I cannot wrap enough words around it, I will allow my soul to envelope it. I will give thanks to the Holy One, who not only wonderfully and fearfully knit me together in my mother’s womb, but also knit me together with a place and people.

As much as I don’t have words to explain “it,” I equally lack enough words to thank the Father for bringing “it” into my life.

About the Writer: Neil Gilliland is director of care for Free Will Baptist International Missions. Learn more:







©2017 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists