Some months ago the kids begged us for a “special night” together. So we pushed back the couch and laid their sleeping bags on the living room floor. Then we all crammed close to one-another watching a movie and eating snacks. For our kids, any time dedicated to “be a family” is special to them, even more so if we are on the floor. (?) They were both up late that night and we left them on the floor when we went to bed. When I woke up the next morning all was quiet. The kids slept through a brilliant sunrise as it poured in the apartment windows and I quietly took a seat on the couch. I absorbed the sun and the silence and watched the kids as they slept; Zach curled up in a kid-size green adventure sleeping bag, Amelia in a pink one. I reveled at how perfect the moment was. Our two beautiful children. Safe and healthy and loved by their mom and dad. Our apartment was cozy. Our lives, despite the heartache of losing dad not long before, were comfortable. And I wanted it to stay that way.
I prayed over the kids that morning, knowing full well that time would march on, even as the morning sun was tracing a path across the living room floor. And I knew they would inevitably grow older and wiser to a hurting and hurtful world. I briefly wished I could shelter them from it, as they lay sheltered beneath my careful watch that morning. But I prayed instead that God would give me courage beyond the day. I prayed for courage to help guide my children beyond the moment. When the sun would eventually wake them up and present us with another day. And then into another night.
I remember thinking that morning that it was time for us to head back to Africa again. As much as our hearts were back there in ministry, I realized it would be easy to stay right here in NY. Easier to keep our ordered life in order. Easier to be safe.
When we lived in Virginia many years ago, Renee and I had a pastor who would sign his letters with the salutation: “brave journey.” I always loved those words. It reminded me that on this road where we follow Jesus, in our Christian life or into some special calling, it will at times require courage. And as I’ve grown in faith and experienced the front lines of missionary work over the years, I’ve whispered those words to myself on many an occasion.
So when I got up from the couch that sunny morning months ago, I said those words again. Because I knew we would be here again, where we are today. In the terminal at Newark International Airport. Our ordered life once again reduced to twelve suitcases and sent down the conveyor belt, a 24-hour trans-Atlantic trip ahead of us. Leaving home and friends and family to engage in another journey. Our beautiful kids in tow.
I wonder sometimes how we walked away. From that feeling of security, and the “promise” of a good life. But those thoughts don’t last long. Because right now I can’t think of a better place to be, glancing over my shoulder to see if we’re ready to board the plane, following the Lord and finding courage for the day.
It’s easy actually. Easier than basking in the sun and safety of sitting still. And I think that has something to do with the many people who have encouraged us – who have literally “spoke courage” to us. And something to do with the prayers they pray each and every day.
To those of you who pray for us – Thank You.
We land in Nairobi on Thursday.