I've been sort of MIA from the blog the past few weeks... if being super busy is a good excuse, then I have a great one! :-)
This week I was up in South Sudan with Every Village from Monday to Saturday. You may remember that in March of last year I did another week-long flying trip for Every Village, and I did a few posts about it here on my blog. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here and here. Like last time, I really enjoyed spending time with these folks, getting to know them better and seeing what they do and the impact their ministry his having. I'm sure I'll share some photos and stories about that in a few weeks, once I've had a chance to catch up on stuff.
In the meantime, I thought I'd do some other 'catching up' and share about an adventurous trek I did with my second son, Hudson, this past summer when we were in the U.S. (I've had these pictures sitting here for many months, just waiting to be posted...)
Raising boys to become real men in todays world is no small task. But it's an honor and privilege that I've been given four times over. I'd be lying if I said that it's not overwhelming at times... ok much of the time. And it's at least as humbling as it is daunting. But what a joy it is to see my boys growing into fine young men. So how do you teach a boy to lead, serve, sacrifice, love, give of himself, develop courage, and use all of these appropriately? Most of all how do you develop a passion in him for a personal relationship with Christ, and a desire to serve and give and share that with others? In short, I don't know. I don't have a secret recipe, and I certainly don't know if I'm even on the right track.
Each of my boys are very different from their brothers, with unique personalities, gifts, skills, and interests. So I don't think that one simple approach would work for all of them. That said, there are certainly things that I think are important for me to do with each one as they grow up... and perhaps the most significant of these is for me to be here for them--for each one of them. I need to be a friend, a mentor, an example--though far from a perfect example. I need to be approachable, and vulnerable and honest--in other words, I need to be real with them, so they can see that I am just a broken vessel saved by grace, and that my example as a man and a father is but a poor reflection of that which is given by our heavenly Father.
This is a very humbling process!! I think that possibly one of the worst things a father could do to his son (aside from being absent) is to portray the image that he is perfect, or has it all together. Most sons will naturally look up to their father--possibly even idolize them a bit. But every father will at some point (or in my case many times) let his son(s) down. The flip side of this is that in some cases a boy can look to his father and think that his dad is perfect and that he'll never match up--especially if his skills or interests or personality is different than his dad's.
I think the best thing is to be vulnerable. Be real. Don't be a 'perfect example' for your son, but rather an honest one. By that, I mean, show your son what it means to take responsibility for your actions, to say you are 'sorry'--sometimes even when you are clearly not wrong. Show him that's it's ok to make mistakes. As he realizes that you're far from perfect, he'll realize that it's ok for him to also be far from perfect. You might think that this will lead him to respect you less--but I think it often has the opposite result. In the process you can point your son to Christ as the the perfect example, not yourself, and show him how you are both in this thing together.
Ok, enough of the deep stuff already. The point is, I don't have a magic recipe, but I think its important to be open and honest, and vulnerable, and humble with my boys as we talk and work through the 'things of life' and of becoming a man.
When my oldest son, Britt, was 12 years old, we did an epic father-son adventure together in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia. If you were following my blog way back then, you may remember I did some posts about it. If you missed those, you can check them out here: Trekking With My Son --The Pujungan Hulu Adventure Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Also here are some of the critters we saw on that trek: The Critters we Saw 1, The Critters We Saw 2.
That trek was an amazing time for Britt and me... aside from the sheer fun and challenge of the adventure, it was a great opportunity for us to bond in a much deeper way, to make life-long memories, and to talk through some meaningful and deeper subjects in a non-threatening context. Aside from that, the trek itself served as an analogy (of sorts) to the adventure and process of becoming a real man. It didn't just happen on it's own. We both had to put in a lot of time and effort both before and during the trek. We had to get into physical shape starting months in advance. We had to have the right equipment (which took a lot of planning in advance b/c of where we lived) and we had to pack it properly so we could carry it without injury. Britton carried his own pack (which was not light) and the trekking was NOT easy! Frankly, I couldn't believe how well he did--it was very challenging! But in the toughest times he learned that he was never alone. At times it was so muddy and steep that we had to work together to push and pull each other to the top of the ridges. Each guy had to be ready to put in a significant personal effort, to do his part and pull his weight, but also many times to rely on the other members of the team to get through challenging situations. Although we had a good plan on how the trek was supposed to go down, we encountered many obstacles along the way--for example the torrential rains that led to flooding that prevented us from crossing the river on time. The leaches, bugs, injuries, mis-fired shotgun, and many more things were all unplanned. Just like life, and the process of becoming a man, these obstacles and challenges were often unexpected and potentially frustrating, and left us with the option of getting angry, and/or throwing in the towel, OR adjusting our plans accordingly and pushing on with a good attitude.
In the end, we succeeded, and the rewards were SO worth it. Many times since (and I imagine for the rest of his life) Britton has referred back to that trip, and to the memories we made, as a turning point in his young life--where life lessons were hammered home in a way that he will never forget. And that doesn't even include all the things we talked about along the way--that was just the adventure itself. The time and effort and expense was well worth it for me to invest in him in this way.
Ever since then, my other boys have all been looking forward to their twelfth birthday, when they too will get to do an epic adventure with dad. To be honest, I was a little nervous after Britt's adventure, b/c I didn't know if I could pull off another one of the same 'epic-ness.' After all, we no longer live in Borneo, and where else can you arrange an adventure of that magnitude?
When Hudson was 11, we began to talk about what he and I might do together, and where we might go for his 'coming-of-age' trek. We talked about doing something here in East Africa, but frankly, it's a bit difficult, and expensive, and sometimes dangerous, to try to get out into the middle of the wilderness in these parts of Africa. I had looked into some promising options, but then it occurred to me that we would be in the U.S. for a short home assignment, during the summer when Hudson turned 12. So I gave him the option of instead doing something in the U.S. and he immediately loved that idea.
Having spent his whole life thus far in either Indonesia or Africa, (aside from a few brief trips to visit family and supporters the U.S.) he had never had the chance to experience much of the beauty and ruggedness of the colder, alpine regions of the American Rockies. So we decided to do something 'epic' in the American Northwest, just before returning to Africa.
After looking at numerous options, we finally settled on the White Clouds Wilderness area of Idaho.
Just like in Britt's case, it took a lot of planning and preparation for us to pull this off, and it was not easy, but the rewards were SO worth it.
Throughout this post I've shared some random shots from our adventure. Next post I'll tell you a bit more about where we trekked, what it was like, and what we saw and did.
If you look closely in the shadow of the pine trees at the end of the little peninsula on the right, you can see Hudson doing a bit of fishing in a high alpine lake, just after we set up our camp (which is just outside the picture on the right hand side) for the evening. Within five seconds of casting his line the first time, he had caught a trout. We caught a lot of trout, but more on that later...