After I graduated highschool (May `98), I went to work at our home-school organization’s headquarters in Chicago. It had been 7 months since that fateful week in Monterrey, Mexico! Nathan crossed my mind on occasion, but I honestly was pretty sure I’d never see him again. I had told my dad about him when I got home from that trip, and I remember Dad nodding calmly in response to my “he seems really great” comments. This was a typical response for my dad. He’s a pretty mellow guy, and he knows me so very well! We all moved on with life, having filed this acquaintance with Nathan under “fleeting crushes.”
Once I was working in Chicago, I met a lot of guys. What surprised me was the way I found myself comparing them to Nathan… whom I barely knew. More specifically, I was comparing them to his heart for missions. Talking to a guy in the lunch line one day (yep, I got in trouble later for striking up a conversation with him), I learned that he wanted to be a sound technician. Forever. No desire to travel, no craving to reach the unreached. Meh. Pass! Turns out, I wanted someone who wanted to change the world more than he wanted the standard white picket fence.
It was 2 1/2 yrs before I saw Nathan again. We’re now in June, 2000. I had just returned from 3 months of living and working in Moscow, Russia. Our organization used to have an annual convention in Knoxville, TN. One night during the conference, out of the blue, I ran into Nathan in the hall! The conversation went exactly like this…
Me: Oh! Hi!
Nathan: Do you remember me?
Me: Yeah… Nathan, right? From Mexico!
Nathan: Yeah. Good to see you!
Me: You too! Bye!
No, I’m not kidding. That was it!
The next time I saw Nathan was a bit of a shock. 3 months after the conference in Knoxville, I was asked to move (with that same organization) to Flint, MI for a few months. There was a new training facility, and they needed help getting the place organized and operational. So off I went! I arrived late at night, found my room, and went to sleep. The next morning, I hopped in the shower, emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a towel, and was more than a little alarmed to see a man hanging on the outside of my bedroom window!!
I’m sure I gave a little shriek as I jumped back around the corner. I pulled out my best spy moves and pulled my suitcase into the bathroom. Dressing quickly, I ventured back into my bedroom to investigate what was going on. Sure enough, there was a man outside my window on the 6th floor. That’s enough surprise to last a girl a few weeks, right?? Now imagine the surprise I felt when I realized I knew the guy. Yep, you guessed it. Nathan Terrell! His ALERT unit was sent to Flint to repair the windows on the building. I knocked on the window and waved, but quickly figured out that it was one-way glass. He couldn’t see in. *phew*
A little while later, halfway through my bowl of Fruit Loops, Nathan and his buddies walked in. He saw me, waved, and got his breakfast. As I threw my bowl in the trash, I met my boss. The conversation went something like this: “I know who you are. Your reputation has preceded you. I see you’ve already made friends with one of the ALERT men! You should be careful, and aware that I will be watching you very closely.” Well I wasn’t sure what my reputation was, or how I earned it, but I knew I didn’t want to have that talk again!
That set the tone for the next few months of my life in Michigan. There were several more “talks” like the one I received on my first day. Nathan was there for another week or so, but I avoided him (and every other guy) like the plague. The night before he left, he asked if he could have his picture taken with me. I quickly said “no that’s not a good idea” and walked away before anyone saw me. Suffice it to say, I was ready to go home as soon as my commitment there was up! Once home, I mentioned to my dad that I met this guy again.
I did not hear from Nathan, but saw him again the following year at the annual conference in TN.
I was sitting in the huge auditorium, watching the opening ceremonies with thousands upon thousands of other people. This was everyone’s favorite part. The part where the music builds to an incredible crescendo, and ALERT guys come rappelling down from the rafters to land in the audience. All eyes were focused on the figures sliding effortlessly down the 100 feet of rope, when I realized that there was an ALERT man directly above us. He was about to land in the aisle 2 seats away from me! Right next to my sister! Cool. That will be my claim to fame for the week. A few seconds later, the uniformed man landed gracefully and stood at attention as the giant American flag was presented on stage.
Normally, this would be the part where I get teary-eyed and patriotic feeling. But this time, I was busy standing with my chin to the floor. Riveted. The ALERT man who just landed next to us had a familiar name emblazoned on his chest: TERRELL
I tried to be cool… while at the same time gesturing wildly to get my dad’s attention. I’m sure he thought I was just freaking out that one of the guys just landed right by us. But by the time I could get the message down the row (there were several brothers and sisters sitting between me and Dad), it was too late. Nathan had taken his place on stage. So close, and yet so far!
There was a program for young boys at the conference called ALERT cadets, and Billy and Timothy were cadets that year! Because we had bumped into each other last year in the hall, Nathan went in search of my brothers. He was working in the medic tent, but when he wasn’t busy he would go hang out with my brother’s team. Early on in the week, Billy told me “One of my leaders knows you from Mexico!” He went on and on about how cool Nathan was, and how he hung out with his team a bunch. I told my dad, “That’s him!!” To which my dad replied “who?” Surely he’s kidding. “What do you mean, who? That was Nathan! The guy I told you about that I met in Mexico! The missionary kid! The one I saw again in Flint.” My dad said “oh yeah… I think you told me about him.” Now I know how cool my dad was playing this whole thing. Of course he knew!
I pestered my brothers with some questions about “Specialist Terrell”, but I did not see him all week.
The conference ended and we went home. I was a little disappointed, thinking that once again, I didn’t really know anything about this guy.
But this was only the beginning of Nathan’s stalking career! 🙂