We took them to an unsafe country. It was just after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Hunter was 15, Hampton 13 and Madison was 11 (picture above). We took them to Yei Sudan (which is now South Sudan). No running water. No electricity. No comfort. No roof on the house. Not easy. But my kids loved it. We took our kids because we wanted them to see a global God – not just a wealthy, white suburban God – but a God who cares deeply for the whole world, especially the poor and marginalized. Our prayer? That they would “catch” God’s heart and make it their own.
Then teenage years came and went- I wasn’t sure any of that exposure matter. You know how that happens? You work so hard to instill certain things in your kids and as they grow older you wonder if any of it stuck?
Shortly after our trip in 2005 Steve founded Water is Basic (empowering locals in South Sudan in the fight for clean water.) For the next seven years -while my kids were in junior high, high school and college – their dad traveled to Africa serving the poor and marginalized. I wondered if they noticed.
Now Water is Basic is one of the most successful water companies in South Sudan – over 500 wells – thousands and thousands of kids, moms and dads kept alive because of clean water.
My kids never saw any of it.
It’s 2014 – all our kids are in their early twenties. Steve and I felt like it was time – time for them to go back – they needed to go back, to be
reminded, to be re-exposed. Every parents decides how they will spend their money – private school, college, cars, clothing, vacations – we all make decisions. For us, taking our kids would be a huge financial investment – but that’s just how we saw it – an investment. Not one that would produce monetary dividends but dividends none the less – in their heart, mind and soul. Our hope – the re-exposure would remind them of their responsibility to give their lives to those in need. We took Hunter and his girlfriend last November. (Yes, girlfriend. I’ve often thought geeh, once our kids get married we will have to bring their spouses – after all they will benefit from knowing where and how their partners heart developed for the marginalized.) It wasn’t his first time back since 2005 – he had gone again in 2006 to work on a documentary about women’s empowerment and again when he was 17 to build internet cafes in Rwanda and Uganda but it was time to go again. He came alive in Africa. He played cards with the locals, had water balloon fights with the orphans, fixed the sound system for the church, sat with his dad discussing business and saw the fruits to his dad’s labor.
This week my second son, Hampton, stood before a well. He graduated from college in May and what he wanted most for graduation was to “go back to Africa.” Now I don’t know about you I would have asked to go to Greece or Italy not Congo or South Sudan! Right? (I guess something stuck after all – whew.) Steve and Hampton are spending three weeks in Africa. Hampton will meet our friends in Uganda (African Children’s Choir) and hang with the strong in Yei South Sudan then travel to be with the Alarm staff in Congo. Re- exposed. They will end their trip in South Africa where they will swim with the sharks (yup, mama thinks that’s stupid!) But the most exciting part for me is Hampton will get to share in his dad’s work.
As I look at this picture of him standing at a well I see pride in my son’s face, pride in his fathers work, pride that his dad cares for those in need. It can overwhelm a mama’s heart. I know my kids haven’t decided to whom or what they will give their life but I do know – they have been exposed to what most others have not – and to those who’ve been given much – much is expected. Giving to those in need can express itself in so so so many ways. Fathering, Work, Children, Money, Time. I don’t really care how it shows up – I just pray it does. Somewhere. For Someone (s).
“Lord, remind him of his responsibility to those in need.”
And next to go – Madison.