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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Forging New Paths

When I boarded a plane for Africa 13 years ago I was just 26 years young, untethered and free to explore the world as I saw fit.  I had a childhood dream that gnawed me into action because sitting still for any longer felt like it would eat a hole in me.  After all, what did I have to lose?  I wasn't married or in a relationship, I didn't have children, there was just adventure waiting for me and I was ready and willing to find it.

As I said good-bye to the family and friends who had made the trip to the airport for one last hug, my Dad took me by the shoulders, looked me square in the eyes and said, "I have NO idea where you get this from!".

I was the last born but the first in my family to travel like this, to go anywhere outside of North America.  After having six children, my parents couldn't do much more than camp, with all of us at their ankles. 

There were two people who had a huge impact on my love of travel.  I had a teacher in college who loved to travel and figured out how to create a course around it.  We studied the culture, animals and customs of Guatemala and Belize for several months, reading and listening to each other share what we had learned and then spent three weeks there.  I will never forget the feeling of stepping into the airport in Guatemala, how the soupy air felt like it was something tangible you could touch or the heart wrenching site of small children in torn clothing with large brown pleading eyes, grabbing your hands and saying the few english words they had learned 'Please I am hungry'.

Another influence was one of my best friends, Michele (that's her in the right hand picture above on the left, wiping tears).  We worked together in a call centre in Toronto and she went on a safari in East Africa.   I watched her plan and make the trip happen and it took Africa from something far off and untouchable to something I could feel in the palm of my hand.  I saw a fork in the road I had never seen before and I decided to take it.  I would make Africa happen.

Sometimes the way we live our lives creates a path that our children will also follow, and sometimes they see another path and decide to take that one.  But, if there isn't someone or more than one person to show them there are other paths, they may never know they have a choice.  Now if you are raised in a healthy environment and agree with the way your parents raised you and you choose that for your family, great!  But let's say you weren't, let's say your Dad wasn't in your life and your mother was addicted to alcohol, prone to fits of rage and she hit you whenever she got the chance.  Let's say she had a boyfriend who came and went and when he was around he beat your Mom and snuck into your room at night. What if that was the only path that was laid out for you?  What if that was the only kind of life you saw around you? 

Then along comes this family from a far away place, they look so different from anyone you've seen that you can't help but be drawn to them.  Your curious, where are they from and why have they come to your town?  They say wonderful things to you, things even your own mother has never said.  They offer to teach you music, soccer and celebrate your birthday-no one has ever done that before!  They LOVE you.  They also talk about what love looks like, and how a family can look when they all love and respect  each other.   They start to help you understand that life can be different, they offer a choice, a different kind of life than you have seen but it's a good life.  

Aside from the practical, offering a model for a different kind of life is what missionaries do, on many levels and over the coarse of many years, these kids do make the decision to forge a new path for their own lives and for future generations.   

In another town, 13 hours down the dusty Transamazonian "highway" is a town called Altamira. 17 years ago Rick and Deanna Bergen started meeting with young children and youth in a dark neighbourhood notorious for it's crime, in their small garage.  Over the years the entire neighbourhood has changed as they loved and invested in the people of that community.  Those youth are now adults in solid marriages with happy children who will hopefully never have to experience the lives their parents came from.  Cycles have been broken.

This work in Brazil is not the kind where you will see huge changes over night, it is slow arduous work-but the rewards are so very worth it.

We are humbled to have the opportunity to serve these people and we hope you will feel moved to join our team.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a team to send a missionary and we need more team members!  Right now we are about 25% of the way to where we need to be for the green light to book tickets and apply for visas.  We still have a long way to go before January, but I know there are some of you who have been considering this, and have maybe made the decision but haven't let us know-could I ask if that sounds like you, could you let us know?  And if you haven't consider it, can you? You can either e-mail, call or click the link above to get started now on your monthly support.

Thanks again for reading, commenting and encouraging us on this journey we are so blessed to be surrounded by the family and friends we have.

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