Twenty years ago, only a few hundred meters from where I am sitting right now, Caleb came into the world after an anxious pregnancy marked by preterm labor in a very dangerous place for babies. One of the first flights out of our grass (mud then) airstrip hacked out of the jungly Ugandan bush was me with Caleb heading to Kijabe early. His gestation was a faith-stretching time and the primary story we came back to, over and over, was Abraham putting Isaac on the altar, believing God was powerful enough to give him his son even from the dead. It was during this time God stripped away some assumptions that being a missionary meant we would pray and everything would be alright, that we somehow deserved special treatment. I would never have claimed those attitudes theologically, but emotionally they were there. We faced the possibility that having a baby living where we were would end in loss and disaster, but we believed God was calling us to stay. The Abraham story is one of the hardest in the Bible, and not one I would choose to include. But that was our story in 1995, taking a risk without a sure outcome.
And our story for the last 20 years with Caleb. An early struggle with overwhelming illnesses that stopped his growth for a while. Two emergency surgeries, one in Bundibugyo and one in Kampala. Broken arms that didn't stop him playing soccer. The terrible day he destroyed his knee and we thought his Air Force career was over. He's one of those kids who everything seems to happen to. One of those kids that makes your heart seize. He's a risk-taker himself, serious, funny, brave, open to adventure and exploring new things, deeply thoughtful, extremely hard-working and perseverant. Which he's had to be, because he consistently chooses very hard paths, for very good reasons. Like the Air Force Academy.
And God is redeeming that story too. Because he's becoming not just a kid whom hard things happen to, but one who is looking out for others in that process. He's developing a passion for justice, a desire to see things set right for others. We've caught glimpses from afar of the young man who leads by serving. Who stays up half the night with the freshmen who are stunned by the death of one of their classmates. Who listens to friends struggling through life's difficulties. Who takes a path less traveled and follows the directives of his soul rather than the crowd.
So today we celebrate 20 years with this boy-turning-man. And we celebrate from something on the order of 10,000 miles and 10 time zones away, while he begins his powered flight course with a day of instruction. We're on the edge of our seat for the story the next 20 years will tell.