"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Wild, Wild, Wild West (Part 1)

Over the last several weeks as we’ve prepared for this last road trip out west before we head back to Burkina Faso, it’s not been uncommon for us to hear the comment: “Wow, you are so courageous to try that with two little boys” or “That’s certainly an adventure!” We got many of the same comments when we visited Europe on our way back to the US in November/December, as well as when we first set off for Burkina Faso three years ago. I think it’s somewhat safe to interpret many of those comments as “You must be crazy!” Maybe we are a little crazy. I can’t help but think of the stories Dale’s parents have told us about his great-grandfather and grandfather Johnson, both of whom had the “travel bug”. I don’t know so much about my own family background, but I think it’s safe to say that this “travel bug” did not come from my mother! I always chalked it up to my experiences growing up overseas as a child, but perhaps there’s more of the “pioneer” blood in me than I realize. Regardless, as we’ve traveled the US these last few weeks, I can’t help but get lost in contemplation over how it must’ve been for the people who first came here and found this a strange land. Especially as we’ve travelled west, an area I’ve never been before, I find myself remembering various stories I’ve read about the pioneers and I have to wonder about the character and the spirit of those people to have dared such a “crazy” adventure as the one we now take so easily in a car with a couple of suitcases, a cell phone, a map, a credit card, and many friends along the way to help feed us and give us a place to sleep! What drove them on?
Our final and longest trip began May 17th as we travelled to visit Dale’s Uncle Keith and Aunt Megan who live near Lynchburg, Va. Keith and Megan were married while we were overseas, so it was our first chance to meet our “new” Aunt Megan and to get to know her better. It was also a great chance to catch up with Uncle Keith, whom we’ve missed having around! Uncle Keith knew just how to entertain two little energetic toddlers, too…he had his Lionel train set up on the dining room table and Caleb, especially, spent hours watching the train go round the track. In the meantime, Dale and I enjoyed the delicious meals they cooked up for us (and insisted we eat ‘til we were about to pop…not that we protested that much!). Though we hadn’t seen this part of our family in a long time, we felt right at home and were so glad to have this chance for family bonding!
Our next stop was in Charlotte, NC, at SIM USA’s headquarters. We always enjoy visiting SIM in Charlotte because we always feel like we’re getting together with another part of our family…a newer family that has come to mean so much to us in the last several years. There are not many other places we can go to where everyone we talk to just “gets it”…knows where we’ve been experientially and can understand and relate on so many levels. We’re so grateful for this family! We were pleasantly surprised upon arriving in Charlotte to learn that an old college school friend whom we hadn’t seen in 10 years, Amanda (Martzluff) Fielder, and her husband Jon were also staying at the SIM guest house in Charlotte at the same time we were as they had just arrived back from Malawi. It was a joy to see them and to catch up a little again. We also enjoyed visiting with fellow SIM Burkina Faso missionaries Marcus and Jen Baeder and their quickly growing little boy, Silas. And we topped the overnight stay with a quick lunch visit with college friend Erin (Calpin) Bergen and her husband, Ben the next day before getting back in the car for a beautiful drive that would take us through the Smoky Mountains to our next stop in Tennessee.
I remember visiting my Uncle Ray and Aunt Sylvia’s ranch near Knoxville, TN when I was a teenager, but had forgotten how pretty the area was. I remembered “rundown” barns and log cabins that I now think of as “rustic.” Regardless of my perception, though, Ray and Sylvia’s home is far from “run-down”, though it may still have a bit of the “rustic” air to it with its log construction and its rural setting. We enjoyed a beautiful and peaceful overnight visit with Ray and Sylvia, catching up on a lot of stories from my aunt’s childhood that I hadn’t heard before and thoroughly enjoyed. It was fun to see a few of the family heirlooms I remember from my grandparents’ home as well, giving my visit with Ray and Sylvia a bit of a nostalgic feel to it. Although Ray and Sylvia have had to get rid of the animals they’d kept in the past, the ranch is still fun to explore, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed doing just that. They climbed around the barn, played on the rope ladder and tree swing, spotted deer and even got to see Aunt Sylvia’s worm farm!
After an overnight stop in Jackson, TN to break up the long drive, our next destination was to visit Luke and Vanessa (Stine) Bates and their 3 children near Branson, MO. Faithful supporters and dear friends since college, we spent 3 nights with the Bates family, which Caleb and Joel were happy for after the constant daily driving we’d had up to this point. Our trip to the Bates home took us through the parts of the Ozarks, which made for a pretty drive, and I got my first glimpse of the Mississippi River. We enjoyed visiting Luke and Vanessa’s church, a short walk at a nearby state park, a brief “behind-the-scenes” tour of the Sight & Sound theater in Branson where Luke works, and a chance to see this well-known town and try to get a feel for what it’s all about. Caleb and Joel thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Bates children, especially Josiah, their 2nd child, who at 7 was wonderfully patient with our younger children and played well with both boys.
Our next destination was to be in Colorado Springs to visit college friends Lawrence and Nicole (Welles) Martin, but once again the trip was too long to do in one day. Nicole’s parents, who live in Wichita, KS, graciously offered to put us up for a night to help break up the trip. In exchange, the wanted to hear all about how Lawrence and Nicole met at our home.:) We’d like to take more credit for it, of course, but we simply had an open home that both of them took advantage of…and one day they both just happened to be there on the same day. The rest, as they say, is history! Now, four years later, we finally had the chance to visit them in their home in Colorado Springs, and they showered us with wonderful hospitality. Nicole had to work twelve-hour shifts two of the days we were with them, but she was a great sport in the evenings despite being tired from a long day at work. Lawrence’s schedule was more flexible, and so he played tour guide, taking us to a nearby state park one day, and to the Garden of the gods on another, not to mention playing with the boys and finding different playgrounds for them to enjoy as well. Dale and Lawrence went on a bike ride down one of the mountains near Colorado Springs, as well, though Dale did manage to get a little too eager and wipe out, leaving him with some pretty deep brush burns on his elbow and knees. Guess he’s not 16 anymore! He says it was worth it, though! On Saturday, we spent the morning at the Memorial Day arts fair in Old Colorado Springs. We had been expecting Colorado to be a bit cooler than PA, but we were roasting in our jeans that day! The fair was packed, but the boys still enjoyed some of the fair activities like the petting zoo, a pony ride, and a toy train ride. After all that sun and walking, we were tired that evening, but not too tired for a competitive round of Hand & Foot…we miss our game playing days! After church Sunday morning, it was time to say our goodbyes and move on again…this time to the heart of the Rockies: Crested Butte!