Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I just got off the phone with Tyler. At 19 years old, he is spending his summer in Kenya on the Island of Mfangano in Lake Victoria. He is teaching English and Math at an orphanage there. The island is very traditional in African culture and has little in the way of electricity or running water. There is such irony in this. There is such joy in this.
Tyler ended up in Africa by default. He was not happy at Bethel...too much "sameness." He had experienced reverse culture shock that we had not anticipated. As an evangelical Christian University, the majority of attendees are white and middle class. Tyler comes from a family that is not white or middle class. He has been through a lot in his 19 years and has learned to appreciate...or even expect diversity...in color, disability, in socio economic class. He struggled to fit in because he fit in too much...he wanted to challenge the simple thinking that occurs when people don't step into another viewpoint that may be radically different than their own. He wanted to be somewhere in the midst of those who were wrestling with the way they see the world and their faith...and he wanted to see that the other student's faith was truly their own and not just handed down like a family heirloom to the next generation.
He looked into overseas opportunities. Wanting to return to Indonesia, he started there. But the programs offered did not fit his interests. Next he looked at Egypt but he had missed the deadline. There was still one more program that had just reopened up at Bethel--Daystar in Kenya. The program had been closed because of the political climate and potential dangerous situations in Kenya. It had just reopened. I don't think it was that Africa was not appealing to him--but it was because it was so appealing to me. He knew that going to Africa and doing the kinds of things that he is doing right now was my dream. And he was trying to make his own way in this world. The fact that I liked it so much may have caused him to look elsewhere. We stayed out of the decisions he was making knowing that he would do so much better if the decisions were his own and not something that we wanted him to do. And so we learned our lessons in giving no advice..no opinions..just stepping aside as Tyler made the decisions for his future.
So, by default, Tyler decided to apply. It was just a semester and I think he figured he could do anything for one semester. So, at 18 years old, our first born son, headed to Nairobi. He was the only American student on campus...there was one Canadian and a few Korean students--but that was it. He has been nearly arrested multiple times because he stood out as a rich American--only to find out that the police were looking for a bribe--He has learned to carry a small amount of cash so that he always had a way of staying out of jail for frivolous charges. The first time we spoke with him we knew that he was just where he was meant to be. His voice sounded so good.. so strong...so excited again. He had lost his focus for awhile while studying here..seeming lost. It took a move to another Continent to find that spark again..and it was back.
The semester was over and there was hesitation in his voice. He didn't want to leave. Could he stay for the summer and work in a few different orphanages? What were we to say to that? How much more excited could we have been to see Tyler serving in this way...knowing that we were watching our son take over his own life and make decisions all on his own...he had to--we weren't there to make any arrangements or to even give our opinion.
He was ready for this challenge and we were ready to watch him do this. I talked to him this morning and he has decided to complete his degree at Daystar in Kenya. He has a return flight here on August 31st. He will come home and get things in order and then return in January. He would have been a Senior at Bethel this fall. Instead he has changed his major from history to community development and will complete his degree in Athi River, Kenya at Daystar University.
I love this kid. I am getting used to the fact that he is no longer a kid but an incredible young man...he is amazing and often fearless. People often ask how we can stand having him so far away at such a young age. And we miss him, no doubt. But, it hasn't been hard. Just listening to his voice each time we talk to him on the phone, and it is clear as could be that he is right where God wants him to be. I can't help but smile thinking of him surrounded by beautiful African children some who are afraid to get too close because they have not seen Americans before. If I had shared this image with him, he would have said it was so cliche--and he probably would have run a different direction just to make his life his own.
The irony in all of this, is that Tyler, in an effort to make his own way in the world, Tyler is right where I envisioned him to be from the time he was very little. It was never spoken--but I knew that God was going to use him in a powerful way...and I always envisioned him in Africa. We let him make his own way...we tried very hard to not give our opinion or share our dreams for him. Knowing that Tyler has always been very independent and needed to find his own dream...his own direction--we stepped back. And I am so thankful that we did. Because he is making his own way...shaping his own future...and he is doing it well.
at 5:54 PM
We have such great friends that are willing to help with just about any crisis we are having!
Life and it's everyday problems just don't let up when our family is in crisis. The kids cause so much damage to our house and vehicles. The toilets still get plugged (courtesy of Elijah), the windows still get broken and the window screens get holes in them, the electrical outlets stop working on portions of the house, decks needs staining and fixing, cars need repairs, walls need painting and patching and a whole load of hi tech devices need fixing (itouch, dynavox, etc...).
And then there is the laundry, dishes, pharmacy ordering, doctor's followups to be made and general overall digging out of the mess around here. I don't have to tell any of you about this stuff because no matter how many kids we have or needs we meet everyday, this part of life is always there. And it can be waring on all of us.
So for today, I am going to try and attempt to stop looking so hard at the all that is not working right in our home right now and think of what is working. Time to start seeing my world through thankful eyes and not "poor me" eyes.
Yes, we usually only have one toilet working in this household of 13+ people. Nearly 100% of homes in Ethiopia have no running water. On average, women walk 4 miles a day and carry 44 gallons of water back to their homes every day.
We have windows and doors that are broken. But, we do not have to worry about malaria carrying mosquitoes as we sleep. We are dealing with nuisances not emergencies.
We have electrical issues...but we have electricity and heat when we need it and air conditioning when we need it. We have vehicles and money for gas. We can access health care when one of us is sick.
We are truly blessed and to come to the Lord with such an ungrateful heart and to complain to the giver of all of this when there are so many who live without the basics of life every day...while they still must manage the life threatening crises that they face.
I will lay all my struggles and difficulties before the Lord. He wants to hear our cries..but I will not forget that their are millions of others who struggle each day to find clean water and enough food.
at 8:59 AM