It was another Sunday being dragged into another church by my parents. I was 11 years old, and the thought of entering another beautiful-from-the-outside but severely-freezing-inside church in Leeds was too much to bare. Most churches we had entered so far had lack of young people and a very bad heating, so what was this St George's church my friend's dad recommended had in advantage, I had once thought. Probably nothing much, so with half eyes barely opened and a huge sigh, I followed my parents to the car park.
From the outside, it was another beautifully carved church, with interiors you'd never see in Indonesian churches. I was wondering to myself why there were so many cars parked, perhaps just people parking their cars in the church while they took a walk to the nearby city hall. I took a deep breath and thought "OK, just suck it up and we'll be out in an hour!". So that was what I did.
A band was playing. The room was warm and filled with many people. It had a friendly-homey atmosphere. There were kids with their parents, some young adults and elderlies. And most of all, there were kids my age, not just one or two, but a lot of them. We took our seats and silently took part in the service.
Sunday school! What?! No! I didn't want to go, my English was still rough, I wasn't confident enough to communicate and I didn't want to participate in any Sunday school. My mum managed to convince me to go. Separated from my parents was a big deal, with stuttered English and feeling very shy, I followed the other kids outside. There I met five girls, same age as me, who greeted me with their friendly, warm smile that I couldn't help but smile back.
It was that simple, welcoming smile these girls gave me that bonded us for about three years. Sundays were one of my favourite days, I didn't want to skip church. I wanted to see my friends, sat at the top corner seat of our church for the first 30 minutes of the service before being called to go to our youth groups. Within those three years, we had done a lot of things. We made a band (every girl's dream!). We performed our song in front of the whole church (the crowd went wild obviously!). We went to the Lake District for rock-climbing, kayaking and all sorts. We had mad sleepovers. We did car-washing Sundays for charity which led to huge water fights. We had countless day outs to Pizza Hut. We exchanged thoughts and opinions. We learned a lot of things from each other. We had birthday parties. We also had leaving parties, sadly.
And as they say, all good things must come to an end. It broke my heart to part with them in 2002 when I had to go back to Indonesia. Saying goodbye to them was just as hard as saying hello to them for the first time. If I could, I would've stayed, but I couldn't.
10 years has passed now, we're all not as close as we used to, but these girls will always be special to me. I was lucky enough to reunite with one of them, Emily, in December. I couldn't believe how much she has changed but in some ways I could still see the teenager-Emily I knew then. I still love her big smile and her patience, especially having a friend as chatty as me. Rosi, the quietest of us all, e-mails me every now and then, we exchange stories of our jobs and experiences. I don't talk much with Eleanor and Rebecca, but both of them seem to be leading a great life (thank God for Facebook!), and I'm not surprised either. And recently Bethany got married, I am extremely happy for her and she deserves all the happiness in the world. I still have that one wish, to see each one of them again, someday.
I still smile when I look at pictures of us, if it weren't for that Sunday I wouldn't have known them. If it weren't for St George's I wouldn't be blessed having such amazing experiences with them. Having to know them is one of the biggest blessings of my life.