Let’s Not Go Empty-handed!

By Travis Hunsaker 

This past November we spent some time visiting family in Iowa. The reason for our visit was not the same reason many of you gathered with family, for Thanksgiving. We returned to Iowa due to the passing of my grandfather, Clyde “Neil” Hunsaker, on November 18, 2021. I was reminded once again that this life is temporary. As James 4:14 says, we are a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” These past few weeks I’ve been contemplating life and death. The truth is, Grandpa was 85 years old. The fact that he was at the end of his life doesn’t diminish the pain of losing him. But as the hours and days passed from the time of his passing, I found a glimmer of hope and joy amidst the pain and sadness as I thought about the undeniable fact that we will once again meet in heaven.  

Neil and Linda Hunsaker

As I allowed my mind to dream and wonder about that day, I tried to imagine what Grandpa will look like in his heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15). I pictured him once again young and strong, able to move mountains. I pictured him with broad shoulders, rough hands, charcoal black hair and beard, and a half grin on his face, much the way he looked when I was only a little boy standing waist high to him. I have imagined how he met Jesus face to face for the first time at the pearly gates of heaven. And even in the grief, I felt joy in my heart because I knew that Grandpa Neil knew his Savior (Philippians 3:20-21).  

The idea that heaven really is not that far away was cultivated and began to grow in my spirit. Heaven is not a faraway land or a mystical place; it is a place that is much closer than we care to admit. As I began to meditate on this, I believe God started to reveal some truths to me. 

Thinking of going to heaven is much like my family returning to Iowa. My wife, Heather, and I are missionaries to Mexico and live in Tijuana. Each year our home church, First Church of the Open Bible in Clear Lake, Iowa, brings our family back during the Christmas season for a time of rejuvenation and reconnection with our family and friends. Every year I start a list of things I want to bring back with me to Iowa. I start formulating this list weeks, if not months, before we leave because I do not want to forget anything.

Iowa is just a 30-hour road trip from our home in Tijuana. You can see it on the map. It is a real place, a place with which we are familiar. Iowa is the place where we plan to visit family and friends during the holidays; a place to which we prepare ourselves to go. 

Heaven is also a real place, a place that we can know about and should be familiar with. A place that we are to be preparing to visit for eternity. A place where we are excited to travel and meet with our loved ones who have gone before us. When my Grandpa Neil crossed over from death to eternal life, he was met first and foremost by his Savior, Jesus Christ, my sister Nel, who passed in 2006, and numerous other family members who have gone before him. Now on the other side of eternity, Grandpa Neil waits for us so we can be reunited as a family in our perfect, heavenly bodies that the Lord will bestow on us.  

Clyde “Neil” Hunsaker in earlier years

Just as I create a list of things to take when I am preparing to go to Iowa, we should have a list for heaven as well. Who do we want to take with us to heaven? Which of our family members do not have Christ as their Savior and need to accept Jesus? Which of our friends need to hear the gospel one more time? I want to have a list of those I love, whom God has purposely placed in my life. It is often most difficult to witness to those loved ones in our lives who have not yet accepted Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Sometimes it can be most difficult to witness to our longtime, dear friends. And yet if strangers coming to Christ are worthy of all of heaven rejoicing, how much more so our unsaved loved ones?  

In these times we are living in, I would encourage you to focus on the trip that really matters, our eternity in heaven – not just for ourselves, but for our unsaved family members and friends as well. Make a list with me of the people you love that are not yet in the family of Christ. Pray for their hearts and souls to be won for Christ. Don’t give up! Tell them of Christ again from a position of LOVE. Who cares if they use some coarse language or belittle you while you are sharing with them? Their eternal souls are worth it! I rejoice with every stranger that I see come to Christ, but how much more so when it is a lost family member or friend. I want those people with me in heaven, an eternity with the Lord where our tears are wiped from our faces and our disgrace has been removed (Isaiah 25:8).

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About the Author

Travis and Heather Hunsaker have been married for 17 years. They, along with their children, Wesley (10) and Mya (8), live in Tijuana, Mexico. They have served at Puente de Amistad as missionaries since 2016 and have been the directors since 2019. Travis and Heather say they are just “low-key people who want to serve the Lord and help others along in their journey to serve.”  

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