Friends for Life
By Pam Kumpe –
Manuela sat across the lobby from me at work. She was a temperamental argumentative type of person (not with me) so many folks didn’t even try to get to know her. Most just stayed out of her way.
Our friendship took place in California (when I was in my 20s) at a fast-paced bank near the airport, close to the beach. With all the people and traffic it was easy to get lost in a crowd, but for whatever reason I liked Manuela.
I was drawn to her, and yes, she was quirky and different—didn’t fit the mold, kind of like me. We took our 15-minute breaks and lunches on a set schedule, and with short spurts together for snacks and meals, she and I became friends during our time in the kitchen.
Eventually, we started to eat lunch outside the office, strolling through beach city boutiques followed by our grabbing sandwiches. We laughed, talked and bonded, becoming closer each day.
At first we lived near each other, I lived in a condo, and she lived around the corner in a brand new house, thus her desire to look inside shops, especially those which had rugs and house décor.
Toward the end of our first year as friends, I moved inland buying a home about an hour from work. Putting in for a transfer, I drove back and forth to the office, waiting to hear about my re-assignment.
Finally it came through, and I said goodbye to everyone at the bank, while making preparations to start at another branch office.
I realized I had not given Manuela my new phone number, so I jotted it down for her. I only had a land line, but I knew that I wanted to keep our friendship alive; I didn’t want the distance to keep us apart.
On the very day I wrote down the digits on a piece of paper, I had no idea that a sequence of numbers would lead to another sequence filled with pain, horror, death and murder.
For on that day—after the phone number exchange—tragedy rolled in like a tsunami hitting the beach. It changed everything, especially in regard to my faith and how I lived it out.
On Saturday morning, my phone rang; the sound on the ringer beeping, so I answered it. The voice on the phone said words which tore at my heart, as a horrible piece of news shocked my world.
Why couldn’t it be a dream? Why her? Who would do such a thing? Murder? Not to my friend? This couldn’t be happening.
The nightmare turned into a wave of suffocation, much like a rip tide of despair and it pulled me under. I had so many questions, and I was overwhelmed with sadness, doubt and tears, trying to sort through the details.
For you see, someone had gone into Manuela’s house at her back door. A serial killer left her for dead. But at one point, she must have been struggling to live, holding on, because she grabbed the piece of paper with my phone number on it.
She had held the number in her palm. Had she tried to call me? Would she have lived if I’d gotten the call? Did she even get to dial one digit?
Manuela’s death became one of the saddest days in my life, because I never once shared my faith with her. I never once talked about God’s love for her. I didn’t even know what she believed about God.
This weighed on my heart, because we could have been friends for life, ready for an eternal shopping spree in heaven.
Life rushes in, and it can be taken away in the blink of an eye, before the night gives way to the next sunrise.
So for all the Manuelas who are lost in a crowd—for anyone wandering around in the boutique of life—God is looking for you. He’s the hope for your life. You matter. You are important. He holds you in His palm even if you think He’s forgotten your phone number.
That’s good news because the Lord says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
So dial His number. Check in. And stay awhile. God wants to be friends for life.