This morning, in anticipation of our daughter coming home after being gone for nearly a year, I was browsing through photographs taken along this journey. Photos of her trip’s beginning, mixed with other family snapshots of what we were doing while she was gone. They sort of ping-ponged their way across my memory as I very clearly am reminded of the many emotions and thoughts I’ve had, taking this trip “with” her around the world, via internet.
I’m re-impressed with the feelings of that day. It’s kind of hard to admit it, but I’d made her go outside for an official “photo shoot” taking pictures of her at every angle..her profile, right side, left side, straight on..smiling, not smiling. Literally, I was thinking of the most potentially tragic end…just to make sure I’d thought of everything before she left us, and are separated by oceans and continents. Oh “ye of little faith.”
I just posted a picture of our last hug. I completely swallow her in the photo, with her back turned to the camera, my Mother-Bear arms wrap around her tightly in a grip I wasn’t too ready to release. She is a grown young lady by this time, glowing with Purpose and Divine Adventure, heading towards her 23rd birthday. My teary eyes are closed tight while my mouth is praying words like…”God protect you and keep you, His Angels walk before you and behind you, let evil have a blind eye to your presence and pray God’s Perfect Will and Plan lead, guide and direct you every step of the way…..” and in my mind my real level of faith is screaming…”Oh My God…please keep her safe, please protect her from all harm…please don’t let her suffer or be killed or tortured or imprisoned…..please bring her home safe!!!” (My Husband’s Fatherly look in the background kind of says it all.)
We’d made copies of ID’s, passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, vaccination records…gotten all the medications and vaccines A-Listed for the unknown-to-us countries she was leaving us behind for…
She was “Called” to go on this trip in November of 2010. At our church’s New Year’s prayer service, God confirmed to her and us, that she should “GO!” We started gearing up, ever so feebly in January. God continued to prompt and lead forward. I kept thinking, “there’s just NO way this is possible…where is the money going to come from?” She kept saying, “MOM, if God has called me to this, it’s going to happen.”
I love how our kids teach us..the pure, unadulterated Faith of a Child.
In the midst, we watched her life go through a total stripping down of everything secure and meaningful to her.
Five months before departure, she had to leave her job due to the company’s instability. Her salary was supposed to pay for a huge chunk of her trip. She lost a house she’d been planning to purchase prior to “The Call” and her monies invested in it. In 2010, God had reached out and scooped her life up in His Hands, and Called her to a time, specifically for one full year, of cutting her life off from everything familiar. No dating, no socializing, no old-friend groups. He gave her a list. He was bringing her life to a place of total consecration and devotion to Himself. A.MAZ.ING. (Many hard-fought prayers answered here!! Sorry to admit it was shocking to us when God pulled through! =/)
By the end of this first full year, she was leaving to embark on a journey of a lifetime! I’ve joked with her about how cool God is, to ask her for one year of devotion, that she did such a great job, He ended up taking two!
She came home to live with us and save money. Those months back together as a family was a precious time of Sweet Redemption.
We started out with ideas for fundraising her trip with The World Race, which outlined multiple required “cut-off” dates for the missionaries to get their funds in. Together, our family did car washes, held a dinner/silent auction by raising donations and gift cards from local businesses and many home-crafted items, got the word out to friends and family members, and a myriad of other things including selling gold.
I wish things would come easier financially. That we could’ve just said, “Oh, we can give you that $16,000 for your trip. Done.” (All in all more like $22,000.) But it was the very struggle of learning to trust God, even in the funding arena that grew both our, and our daughter’s Faith necessary for her journey, that God WAS going to provide, and we watched His crazy ways of doing so!
Her very first $150 needed to secure her spot, was paid by a dear friend whom God prompted to give her exactly that amount. On another deadline, a friend’s teenage sister who lives out of state, was told to give her $110. This was all the money she had. Our daughter opened the envelope exactly when she needed it, in exactly the amount to meet the next deadline. A gift from her Great Uncle came in unexpectedly which gave her the first huge leap forward. Is this really going to happen?
Our Pastor, while Britni was away in Tennessee for her debrief/training camp, found out about the trip and was very interested in seeing what the church could do to help. I received a phone call from the church secretary that a check was waiting for her. Afraid to open it, I literally pulled over to the side of the road trying to see through the envelope, not knowing if I first should call her or not. When I pulled the check out, I burst into tears…a huge chunk donated that allowed her to cross the deadline for the greenlight to actually “GO!” I called her immediately and got to announce, “YOU’RE GOING!!”
From there, we owe eternal thanks to other ministries, other friends, lots of family, (and we know who you are!) who kept faithfully plugging away at her final deadline to be “Paid in Full” by midway through her trip.
It’s been amazing. Humbling. God is SO Good!! Consistent monthly givers funding her missionary account, allowed for us to be able to fund her personal expense account. The team lives on a bare-bones $100 each per month for food. The rest of the funds raised covers travel and lodging expenses. With her trip expenses being taken care of, God seemed to give us just enough extra, for her to have what she needed, when she needed it. For instance, leaving Mozambique at 115* and arriving during the iciest of European winters in Bulgaria wearing flip flops. Unexpected shopping necessities. Very cool to watch God Provide.
I have a new appreciation for Mothers who send off their children to fight for our nation. Going to war zones, unfamiliar cultures, unpredictable places and encountering third world perplexities.
I feel the cut-to-the-gut anxiousness of being totally and completely out of control, and yielding myself to jump off the cliff of the unknown, and simply free-fall, trusting that somewhere down there God’s Hands await to catch my lack of whole-hearted faith, trust and understanding.
We had our first taste of testing after the teams spread out for their first ministry month in the Philipines. She was stationed in the high mountains of Mindanao working in an orphanage..the facilities were primative, but relatively safe. Wanting to know more about the region after-the-fact, I came to know that in recent past, radicals have raged through the islands seizing farmlands and forcing children to be soldiers and slaughtering dissenters. There continues to be some radical anti-government groups that present some risk from time to time. And, my first time ever to only be in touch when sketchy internet allowed, on her day off when she could connect via skype. Just the beginning of stretching our spiritual muscle.
Our first real conversation happened before leaving Manila. “Mom, we’re heading to China. I’ll call you from Hong Kong.” I vividly remember our HK conversation. Behind her I could see the hillside and jets parked by the ramps, and parts of her team on their computers inside the terminal. This sums it up. “We’re having to go down with all communications. I don’t know where I’m going. The teams are all spreading out. It will just be the seven of us and I think we go on a 42 hour train ride, then a bus for like 6 or 8 hours, then I think we take a cab or something…sounds like a long trip and I don’t know what we’re doing there. I’ll talk to you in a month!”
No word. For 5 1/2 long weeks. Believe me, I checked and scoured the internet day and night. Nothing.
She was dead serious. NO communications. In the midnight hour of Faith. Where are they? Who are they with? Where are they staying? Who knows Chinese?? This is only month 2!! What are they thinking, taking our babies who know nothing into a place like this???
By God’s Grace Mom knew not! Britni’s team of seven was given a note only of the name of their hotel, and their city. That’s it. They went on their 50 plus hour journey alright. Ended up in the wrong town with no contact and no translator and no place to stay with no signs posted in English. The only white folks these locals had ever seen. After miming their way through to find where they were supposed to be, only to realize the contact had left the country, so again, no translator, no place to stay, no way to communicate not even to their team leaders, in the freezing winter at the base of the Tianshan Mountains, a primitive predominantly Muslim place, providing no place for outreach, and having no hot water or heat. The rest of that story is hers to tell. Once they got out, she said, “Mom, when you see all these pictures of me wearing the same clothes, it’s not just one day, it’s the entire month. We were freezing and went the whole time with no showers. I tried to wash my grease-stricken hair once, but it was the worst decision ever.”
And the highlights continue. God moved in her heart and life in so many vibrant ways. I treasure every step, ache or pain, or heartache in the missing of my precious daughter. What a rich adventure!! She’s spent many of her months in the most difficult hardships, living amongst the people, serving, giving, loving, holding, playing, laughing, feeding the hopeless, starving and dying. And experienced some personal suffering as well.
We knew they were in some dangerous places. When passing through South Africa, her team literally drove the entire coastline via sketchy transport from Cape Town up through Mozambique. About the time of their arrival, some of our friends living in Johannesburg had two friends who served Mozambique, get hijacked for their van, taken up a mountainside, doused with gasoline and told to turn around to be executed. They prayed. Guns fired, but no bullets. The gunmen took off stealing the van, but thank God their lives were spared.
We knew of her teammates traveling together leaving one northern European nation to serve another, unknowingly sitting on a weapons cache underneath their train car seat, caught in the middle of a political undercurrent and in the middle of the night rude-awakening to foreigners ripping them to their feet and having no idea what on earth to do about it but pray.
Another adventure had to be cancelled for her team while in Central America to go see the Ancient Mayan ruins, because some people staying at their hostel had taken the tour the day before, and the tour bus was hijacked, the busdriver shot in the face, and the bus emptied with all the tourist belongings stolen. Some of her team had been attacked and had bags, passports and money taken from them on drive by robberies.
Stories like these, stretch me. I have been a complete and utter wimp. Inside, I’ve fallen to pieces. Faithless. Would God call her to an adventure like this to be put in harm’s way? Maybe. What can I do about it??
I’ve wrestled and analyzed and re-thought this decision to “GO!” a thousand times over this past year.
Brought back to the old-familiar place of Letting Go. WHY is this so hard? At the end of the day, what really are any of us in control of?
God asked me some very simple questions along the way:
“Are you a Miracle Worker?”
“Are you a Perfect Heavenly Father?”
“Do you see what I see, the present, the past, the future?”
“Can you do anything at all to save or spare your Child from where you stand?”
“Do you possess the Power to Save, Heal, Deliver or Move Mountains?”
Only YOU Lord. Only through You.
Have you been around this Mountain? It seems I’ve been round and around it for a lifetime. When I finally get to the end of everything I can possibly do, in any or all human power, and relent to the fact, that ONLY through Trusting God, for everything and anything, am I able to rest in His Confidence, that HE Alone, is God, and I am not.
I’d make a terribly miserable, wimpy god. I can do nothing at times, except PRAY, and lean hard on Him, learning to give Him all my hopes, all my fears, all my anxious thoughts and mixed up Mothering-emotions.
And ALL My Children.
So today, I am a grateful Mother, and a grateful Child.
God pulled through! He has answered more prayers than I could even think of to Pray. He is Faithful.
I CAN’T WAIT to hug our daughter! And then, maybe I’ve learned to hold her a little more loosely……?
We shall see.
ps. I’d do this all over again, and would love nothing more than see each of my kids take this journey!