In a few days my 12-year-old son will be the only kid joining a team of adults from our church to go serve in Dakar, Senegal, for a week. As word gets out that he’s going, a lot of people have asked me about it. Am I worried at all? Will it be dangerous? What about the long flight and the immunizations, etc?
I suppose there are plenty of reasons that I should be nervous. But, I can honestly say that I’m just not that worried. I mean, I’ll admit that my stomach did a little flip-flop when his arm got hot & swollen after his Yellow Fever immunization. Especially when he played his football game anyway.
That’s right, I’m a mom. Through and through. Just like many of you. I’m not naïve about the risks involved. I realize that I’m exposing Caleb to some hardship and disease and unknown circumstances. I understand that it means he’ll miss some school and one of his football games. He might even lose his starting spot on the team. I know that a flight to the other side of the globe will be terribly boring for an active middle-school boy. I recognize that a lot of his friends won’t really “get it.”
But, here’s the thing - I’m thrilled for him to experience all of those things. Not because I love putting my son at risk but because I love what it will do in his relationship with God.
Here are just a few things we've already seen happen:
- Early in his Christian experience, Caleb is catching that following Jesus is about more than just being a nice, moral guy. Following Jesus might even mean a little bit of discomfort and sacrifice and risk – even when there are lots of good reasons to stay put. Following Jesus might mean becoming, well, a little bit like Jesus.
- He’s discovering that anybody can go. It’s not for the super-spiritual guy in the pew next to him. God’s mission is for him. Right now. In 6th grade. Young in the faith. It doesn’t matter. In fact, isn’t that God's thing? Using broken vessels to carry His glory?
- Caleb is learning to trust God to provide the impossible. He had to raise more than $3,000 for this trip. That’s a lot money. Especially when your allowance is just $6/week! He has been overwhelmed – not only at God’s provision for the trip but at how encouraging the people in his life have been.
Of course, I pray for his safety. But, more than that, I’m praying that he’ll get a taste of something that will keep him hungry for more. Not just for adventure. Anyone with enough money can have adventures and travel the world.
But, oh, that Caleb would hunger for being a part of God’s purposes. That God would use him in Africa. That his heart would break for the Talibe boys that wander the streets of Dakar begging for their daily bread. That in ministering to their physical needs, he’d learn to see past the external to the heart of the issue. That he’d long to help other people connect with the God who loves them. I’m praying that his eyes would be forever opened and that he’d see life differently.
I guess if that means that he’s not tucked-in safely in his own room in our suburban neighborhood after a hearty family meal, then so be it. In fact, I suspect that's exactly what it means.