This Side of Heaven

About a year ago during my final year of high school before I came to be a missionary with NET, I was a part of a youth group put on by a ministry called Pure Witness. This youth group included talks and formation, fellowship and games, and a time at the end for a few Praise & Worship songs. During one of those nights in particular, one of the songs we were singing really struck me. To dive deeper into the prayer, I decided to close my eyes, and when I did that, I experienced this profound feeling of being surrounded by a presence of all the saints in Heaven praising God, meanwhile I myself not being able to see anything. When this was happening, I desperately wanted to see God’s glory, so in my head I said to God, “Lord, I want to see!” But He gently replied, “Not yet.”

And with that, the feeling slowly faded away. I went home that night from youth group pondering what that experience could have meant. Yet after a while, I forgot about it.

Now fast forward to me as a current NET missionary. At the beginning of January, all of us missionaries came back from our Christmas breaks and gathered again for a week of what we call “January Training”, a time to regain our focus as missionaries and to prepare us for the months of ministry ahead. At this training week, we had a night for musical adoration in the church. As we were nearing the end of adoration, the band started playing the same Praise & Worship song that had touched me so profoundly exactly the year before.

At the time, I failed to recall that experience, but again the song deeply struck me to the point that I wanted to close my eyes again. However, the moment I closed my eyes, that feeling of the presence of the saints glorifying God came back and I immediately remembered that moment from the year before, but this time I felt like God was telling me that I was now able to open my eyes. 

So I opened my eyes and looked around me. There at the centre of the church was the Blessed Sacrament and around me were my fellow missionaries and teammates praising and glorifying God. At that moment it clicked. I realized that the beauty and warmth of that heavenly experience from the year before came true. I was genuinely surrounded by the presence of God in the Eucharist as well as the presence of the saints, or “saints-in-the-making” around me. I was in awe!

When I first experienced that profound feeling, I assumed that “Not yet.” meant that I had to wait until I died and went to Heaven to see it. But then I slowly realized that if Heaven is Heaven because Jesus is there, then where Jesus is must mean that that is where Heaven is. Therefore I feel like since I felt touched by Jesus and because we always pray the part of the Our Father, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”, I could say that I perhaps experienced this side of Heaven, where Christ has taken on flesh to bring Heaven to us and where God’s glory is still being revealed.

-Paul Bentler, Team 8