I would wish today upon any young man entering the armed forces. Caleb was truly embraced by the RVA community, in a beautiful and meaningful way. We arrived at chapel early, to stake out our front row seats, and there was a buzz of greeting and activity as the kids and teachers drifted in. Caleb showed up putting on the cap and gown neatly pressed from laundry, greeting friends and giving hugs and posing for photos. It was all cheery and surreal until two of my fellow class-sponsor friends said "how are YOU doing?". . .Sigh. The choir opened with the beautiful, haunting Kenyan national anthem, 70-some kids in their normal school clothes and Caleb in his graduation garb. Then they sang "God bless the rains down in Africa . . ", a striking arrangement, but the words are deeply emotional for kids who have grown up here and have to leave. Julia and a couple of Caleb's friends were crying by this point while trying to sing, and that pretty much crumpled the rest of our reserve. After the choir, the principal spoke about living for something greater than yourself and Caleb's example of this, and then called him up and prayed for him. He handed Caleb his diploma, and the entire school clapped. And clapped. And soon the whole student body was giving him a standing ovation. Caleb broke down in tears at that point, then pulled it together and stood there and saluted. It was a wonderful moment. After the short ceremony there were more tears and hugs. It felt more like a funeral than a celebration. I think Caleb provided the flash point for all the senior angst, all the building emotions, the first rain in the storm of goodbye that is gathering.
The night before friends had arranged a prayer time during the Koinonia fellowship; there was a party in English with more stories and cupcakes and prayer; the entire choir pulled in to lay hands on Caleb and pray at the beginning of choir class. Throughout the day Caleb was singled out, blessed, thanked, exhorted, prayed over. It was, in short, Caleb Day. His quiet strength, his determination, his courage, something about him struck a chord at last. We could only marvel at where God had brought him, through years of being on the outside, being the foreign kid, the new kid, to the point of being at the very center of a very caring community.
The next two months will push Caleb to his limits. When that happens, the strength of the love that embraced him today will propel him on towards perseverance and service.
We end by appending the letter we sent out to supporters last month, which summarizes our gratefulness to all of you who read and pray, in making it to this day:
Seventeen years ago we wrote an article for WHM’s newsletter about some of the difficult decisions around Caleb’s birth entitled “Why Risk My Son’s Life?” The cover photo shows a much-younger mom supporting a plump and floppy little guy with sparse hair. After losing three children in pregnancy and then having Luke prematurely, we were soberly aware that being faithful missionaries in Uganda and responsible parents to our unborn son Caleb required a hard look at faith. We wrote, “The risk we incur with our children is not theoretical. Living in isolated conditions in rural Africa, it is disturbingly, palpably real . . .And faith does not erase it.” A close look at Hebrews 11 made it clear that faith would not guarantee an optimistic outcome to Caleb’s gestation. Though we were tempted to demand health and life somehow earned by missionary service, God led us to the story of Abraham and we followed, laying Caleb on that altar.
And like Abraham, we suspect, that excruciating choice had to be repeated day after day, year after year. Through repeated illnesses that sapped his little body of strength until he was hospitalized at Hopkins, through the dangers of two emergency surgeries in marginal conditions in Uganda. Through escapes from rebels, through days and years of watching him fend for himself amongst older and sometimes hostile peers. Through sending him off to boarding school at age 14. Through hesitant permission to let him scale a glacier, bungee jump a hundred meter fall, raft the Nile, fly a Cessna, drive a motorcycle, play rugby, or embark unaccompanied to foreign countries. Through the molding of a boy into a man of inner strength, a musical ear, a ready kindness and thoughtful spirituality.
So it should not have surprised us when this child who taught us about faith decided to pursue pilot training via the United States Air Force Academy. The application process itself was a daunting accomplishment to complete, and against very stiff odds Caleb was nominated by Senator Mark Warner and subsequently offered an appointment in the class of 2016. On Easter, after two weeks of prayer and pondering several great options, he announced that he had decided to enter this service. He embraces the physical as well as the mental challenge, and the opportunity to serve a higher purpose than his own comfort.
Today we write to thank you for being an integral part of this story from before birth to high school graduation. You have prayed Caleb through many dangers, toils and snares, and we would ask that you continue to pray for the grace he needs to survive this next phase of God’s calling. And the grace we need to let go, and lay him on that altar once again.
Caleb will leave RVA a month early, in mid-June, to get through jet lag and be ready to enter Basic Cadet Training (boot camp) on June 28 in Colorado Springs. So you can’t really come to his graduation (he won’t be there), nor can you give him gifts (personal possessions will be nearly non-existent, though we hope he can have his beloved guitar with him eventually). But you can pray. And you can write him letters to lift his spirits in the grueling weeks of boot camp, or the demanding years of a tough school far from home that will follow.
With deeply grateful and trembling hearts . . .
Jennifer and Scott, for Luke, Caleb, Julia, and Jack too.
Mail: Basic Cadet Caleb S. Myhre/PO Box 2694/USAF CO 80841