Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Traveling sons, trusting God

"I have been a mental traveler..."
Karen to Denys Finch Hatton in "Out of Africa"

For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Psalm 33:21

That's what I will be this summer - a mental traveler - journeying vicariously to far places, glad in God, trusting in his holy name. Why? Because three sons set off at the end of June for travels in the UK and Burkina Faso. Here are a few details...

A "walk" in the UK

On June 24, Matthew will fly to DC where he will meet up with Coty's dad (who just turned 77), one cousin, and two "honorary" cousins. They will fly to London a couple of days later and then make their way to near Manchester where they will begin walking along the Pennine Way. When they reach the end of the Pennine Way, they will connect with St. Cuthbert's Way, and then the Southern Upland Way. 32 or 33 days later and 325 miles northwest, they will complete their walk in the small town of Beattock, Scotland. At that point, they will rent a car and travel first to Bishop Aukland, the small town in Durham County in northeast England where the first Thomas Pinckney, who made his way to the coast of the Carolinas in 1692, grew up. They'll spend a couple more weeks touring around England and return home in mid-August.

GET Global in Burkina Faso

Do you know where Burkina Faso is? If you don't, you are not alone. I did know about this West African country before this summer only because on one of our trips back to the US from Kenya in the early '80's, Coty and I made a stop there to visit a graduate school friend. At that time the name of the country was Upper Volta. Our visit to the capital city, Ouagadougou (wa-ga-do-goo), and to Orsi, in the north was BC - Before Children. Little did we imagine that one day we'd be sending two young adult sons off to serve God there.

The same day that Matthew leaves, Thomas and Andrew will head to Orlando to the Wycliffe headquarters where they will participate in orientation for their trip to Burkina Faso. They are traveling to Burkina Faso on a GET Global trip with Wycliffe Bible Translators. The trip will give the boys the opportunity to assist translators who are working with some of the countries' 66 indigenous languages. They will spend two weeks in the country, mostly in rural villages. I expect that they will see sights very similar to ones we saw in 1982. This is one of the poorest and least developed of all African countries so change is slow.

To read more about Burkina Faso, go here and here.

Those of you who know us, know that we have had traveling sons before (Spain, China, Egypt and the Middle East). It is never easy for this mother to send them off to such faraway places. I feel so helpless to do anything if they have a problem. I wait for news when they are in remote places for extended periods. I wonder about all kinds of things - what are they eating? What are they seeing? Where are they staying? Who are they meeting? Are they healthy and safe? And I wonder and pray - God how are you shaping these young men through the experiences that are being indelibly ingrained in their memories?

Our sons' travels have risks involved. On the Spain hike, Thomas and Andrew faced a very dangerous, potentially life threatening situation. After the China trip, Andrew was ill for several months. While in the Middle East, Jonathan witnessed protest demonstrations in Jerusalem and observed heavily armed snipers on rooftops. Why do we let our sons do these things? Are we crazy?

Well, maybe, but I don't think so. Coty and I have lived in dangerous places, too. We experienced the fear of a coup attempt in Kenya in 1982, barring our door with everything we could in our apartment as we listened to constant gunfire from less than a mile away. We had a car wreck in a remote place in Cameroon and had to drive many hours to get medical care for Joel. We have learned, and continue to learn that life is not safe or neat or easy. We want our sons to have to trust God, to be in situations in which they know that God is their rock, their fortress, their deliverer. We want sons who believe deeply in God's sovereignty and so believing, step out, trusting.

There's a big world out there...and it's God's world. As the children's song says, "He's got the whole world in His hands." We want our sons to see this, to have a sense of God's passion for the nations. We want them to stretch beyond an Ameri-centric view of life, to understand deeply that following Christ is not "western." I can't think of any better way to foster this than to travel to the nations. We want our sons to be world Christians.

Traveling, especially to developing countries provides the opportunity to see and experience the kinds of difficulties that the majority of the world's people face daily. It fosters compassion and sensitivity to the hurts of the world. We want our sons to be tender hearted, to be men that weep for the pain of the hungry and poor and downtrodden.

We also want our sons to be strong young men, whose tender hearts beat alongside backbones of steel. We want them to be ready to meet unexpected situations, unafraid to step out and explore; to be self reliant, not addled or bewildered by difficulties, not whiners. Backpacking definitely helps to shape young men who possess such qualities. You certainly have no opportunity to whine when you backpack with a retired Air Force general! And to have to carry all of your belongings, to walk with blisters and aching shoulders, to keep going when you are tired or hungry, to press on in inclement weather, to encourage your fellow walkers when you'd rather stop and rest - these all do their part to foster strength and perseverance.

So, as we send our sons off this summer, we will be on our knees, seeking to trust God for their safety and health. Even more, we will be praying for Him to accomplish His good purposes in their lives and ours, whatever the summer brings. And whatever it brings, we will be glad in God.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

this is such an encouragement to me, beth. thanks for posting this! i really hope to have some of these qualities as a mom as more of my children come and as they grow.