As you travel this morning to Nairobi, Kenya to study there for more than 4 months, I want to share with you my heart.
You are our first born. You launched us into a job that we were highly unqualified for. We had little experience in the fields of child rearing, psychology, medicine, nutrition, and education. You challenged us beyond the average kid with your ever-questioning mind. We had to brush up on our theology early on, because even the questions you had as a toddler were intense. We didn't know what we were doing. We just had a desire to raise a child that would be not our own, but God's...and it was our desire, even back then, to launch you into jobs that you too would not be qualified for.
It was clear that from very little on, you were the one that would take on challenges way beyond the average kid. Although a somewhat fearful child by nature in many areas, you have shown your self to be able to take on challenges that paralyze most adults with fear. You spent lots of time worrying about that asteroid that was going to destroy the earth. No, you never developed these fears based on irrational thinking all on your own, you would research these possible phenomenons for hours. You had "fact" behind your fears...
And yet at the same time, you loved going to Camp Lebanon in Middle school with out knowing anyone. You took on challenges that others wouldn't even consider. It didn't surprise us when you decided to head to Africa to study at Daystar at the age of 18. It wasn't even surprising that you chose the program where there were no other students from Bethel going and none from the United States as far as you knew. At least there was one Canadian and whole bunch of students from Korea. Most of what you decide to do these days does not necessarily take us by surprise...but that has not meant that you have been predictable by any means. We know for certain, that your walk with the Lord will never be ordinary. It will not be mediocre. It is not for the weak....
There are certainly times when I wonder if we did too much for you along the way...somehow trying to compensate for some of the difficult things you have faced because you are the big brother to a uniquely diverse brood. You have been asked to take on a lot in life. As the oldest of 10 kids, you have experienced things that most adults have no concept of. You have 3 siblings with g-tubes, 3 with life threatening illnesses, 4 with fetal alcohol syndrome....and you grieved the loss of a little brother. For a long time, we worked very hard to give you a "normal" life...making sure that you had time away from the stresses of our pretty stressful existence....and making sure that you had every opportunity to pursue your unique interests. It was you who led us to Bethlehem Baptist as you longed to study the Bible intensely and learned Biblical Greek in 9th grade. It was God and the joy of knowing Him that kept us there.
After awhile, we learned that "normal" wasn't all that it was cracked up to be and that we were selling you short by trying to work so hard to shield you from our ministry. And even if we thought we were protecting you in some way, there wasn't much chance of that for such a smart kid as you. We reminded ourselves that our job was not to protect you from disappointment and struggle, but to help give you the tools to face those challenges head on. By doing so much for you to ensure that your future was open to all possible pursuits, we may have stolen some of your independence and confidence. I am sorry for that.
What I want you to know, is that you can do this. You are ready. I am not sure when things changed for you, but at some point you seemed to have lost your confidence and your direction. And that's okay. You will find it again. God does not want His path for your life to be obscure. But most of the time, His path is unfolded one step at a time. Keep walking in His direction and you will feel His nudging. As your Mom, I wish that God would just open up the heavens and display a big neon sign that would tell you exactly which direction to go with your future, but I am quite sure that is not how it is going to be for you. My hunch is that God is going to build your trust in Him one step at a time. He needs you to realize that on your own, you can do nothing. Nothing. With Him, His presence will shine brightly again through you.
Tyler, my prayer for you as you live in Africa is that you not waste a minute of this experience. This is your chance to be a part of the minority culture in a society very different from ours. You have never been a fan of traditional methods of learning. This is yet another way to learn from doing, living...the way you want to. It is your chance to start fresh with an open your heart. You have fallen in love with Indonesia and the people there. It is my prayer that when you leave Kenya, that you leave a piece of yourself there as well. You have allowed God to use you in amazing ways. You never cease to amaze me. You are a gift to this family. Your sense of humor has kept us laughing. Your unexpectedness keeps things fresh and fun. Your desire to follow Christ fully inspires us. The other kids look up to you so much despite the way you have antagonized them over the past few years. They see through you. We all do.
So, Tyler I am not going to worry. I am going to pray. I am going to pray that this experience for you in Kenya is life changing in so many ways. I will pray that you live each moment of your life there...and that when you return, you will leave with lifelong friends. Tyler, I love you. I am going to miss having you here at home. I will miss our conversations about movies, directors, and politics. But, I am so thankful that you have taken on this challenge. You are so unprepared for this adventure...so unqualified. That is the best place to be. Without God, you can not do this--so grab on to Him and don't let go...you are on an adventure of a lifetime.