I don’t think I’ve written about this before
In the 1970′s, both my maternal and paternal grandparents moved to this area of Florida to work at Teen Missions Intl., which led to my parents meeting, which led to (obviously) my being born.
So far, all members of my immediate family over age 15, as well as many of my extended family, have had their summers overtaken by the compelling summer missions ministry of T.M.I., and this summer proves no exception…my sister Ruth Ann is at this moment getting on a bus taking her to Miami and then a plane to spend the next 5 weeks in Israel. A bus driven by my brother Kyle, who…like his father, several of his uncles, and both of his grandfathers before him, have made the same 10pm starting of the bus ritual and trek to some far off (or not so far?) airport or destination, loaded to the gills with gross smelling euphoric teenagers and luggage almighty.
I spent my first birthday in Mexico, as my parents led a team that summer of ’83…and I spent plenty of weeks at bootcamp in the 80′s with my grandmother, Lois, as they were still on staff or were leading teams. I recall vaguely playing with the Bland’s grandchildren, of playing with Mahars and a few other staff kids…I have memories of strange things like sitting on three and fourwheelers under an awning waiting to get yelled at to get off them, of helping my grandmother run the store during bootcamp and various folk being amused at my no-nonsense “yep” and “nope” answers to their inane questions. I remember sitting under the desk in the main office, and playing with all the different colored labels used in mailing, the florescent green, orange, pink, yellow, denoting whatever. I have no idea what. I actually have a memory of some special staff weekend where there was a party, and everyone gathered at one of the lake areas and rode around on the most primitive jet skies you can imagine.
I remember spending nights in a tent next to my snoring grandmother, listening to the croaking of the gators and the hum of mosquitoes.
For some reason, going on a summer team was never on my agenda. Perhaps my youthful experience was a caution to me. I’d like to think God had other things for me and my learning could be obtained outside that environment. Whatever the case, I haven’t been on a Teen Missions team of my own volition. But four of my siblings. TJ, Kyle, Kelly, and now Ruth have. And I really respect them for that tenacious on-taking.
I think Ruth is going to come back in 6 weeks with a more polished perspective on her life, and on life in general. God has an incredible way of using short term missions to transform the missionary far more than the recipients of the mission. And as much as Ruth has grown (metaphorically and literally) in recent years, her character is going to have a different sheen when this is all over. I look forward to seeing that. And I look forward to seeing similar journeys in the remaining 5 siblings who don’t have bootcamp and world travel under their belt yet. (I have those things, I just gained them unconventionally.)
And perhaps, though I expect Bob and Bernie will be dead and gone, probably the Lanes, Yosts, Kramers, Widder, and whoever else as well by that time…perhaps my own children will be interested in the idea of a teen missions summer team. I’ll go with them to buy boots, and batteries, and they can use the hand-me-down dish bag…and their uncle Peter or Graham will be waiting on a Saturday night in the driver’s seat of an old red, white, and blue bus to take them to Miami or Orlando, or perhaps even JFK.
Perhaps. One day.
Legacies can be hard to shake.