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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Welcome Home, Again

I'm never sure what's coming next, but I'm an open minded person and I welcome any challenge. Sarah Polley

While he is the youngest of my 3, he has never been the baby. He seemed to be the smallest out of the three all of his life…until he wasn’t. He preferred not to play the sports that his brothers played. He wanted to blaze his own trail. As a baby he was the picture of patience. I think he knew that with 2 big brothers, he needed to wait his turn. Being the youngest, he received lots of love from all 3 of us. His brothers have him pegged as the coolest of the bunch. (I think they are all pretty cool.)

What do you say when your youngest son mentions the possibility of traveling all the way to the other side of the earth to teach? I have learned that you have to use facts when dealing with male children. Although emotion may be your first preferred approach, male children process facts much better. The more authoritative you can be connects with a logic that they can appreciate. As women, the tendency to yell in high pitches or “just because” really doesn’t address their need for information. I learned how to lower my voice an octave or two to indicate when communicating from another room or when it was the last and final directive. It is the language and the tone young men recognize and respond to.

He had all of the facts and details. After calmly explaining that one of his professors visits often and enjoys it, he added “and I am praying about it mom.” This was during Christmas break so I had a few months to pray about it too. There’s something you have to know about my youngest. He was taking this gradual approach for my benefit. Once he gets his information down and prays about it, you really have no recourse. Your job at that point is to get with the program. He is very receptive of your input - especially when it is coming from an encouraging place. But make no mistake, he is not the fly by your pants, this is my decision and I have paid no attention to the consequences kind of guy. He is

deliberate to a fault.

He also has a very spontaneous side which is fun to watch too. In college he started a free style club. Think of it as musical improvisations. One of their exercises was to take a page in the dictionary and freestyle. Use every word on the page in a spoken, rhythmic collage. You have to be creative to master that. Sometimes I get called on to freestyle with him in the car. It takes work!

We’d raised the money, told family and friends, celebrated graduation, bought the luggage, attained the necessary paperwork and we are finally days away from dropping him off at the airport. I’d decided that this goodbye would not be laden with tears…somehow. This was the best time in his life to enjoy this type of adventure. He should be sent off with happiness! UGH!

Two days before the flight, we hear that the Thailand government had been overthrown by the military

Saying goodbye at the airport

– a coup. Many well meaning friends are calling him encouraging him to take the safe option and not to go. We hear from the trip coordinator that the Thailand contact has assured us that their assignments would not be in the areas that are being affected by the protests. Our group would fly into northern Thailand which was away from most of the protest and the group could get them out quickly via that airport should it became unsafe. Apparently a coup takes place every 3 – 4 years, similar to our elections, but without the campaigning or voting. My son looks at me, with all of this information and says “What do you think, ma?” The Thailand contact took a liking to him during their interview. There is a Christian church in one of the northern cities that he was interested in introducing him to. This was a great opportunity to encourage this church since most of the town is Buddhist. We wondered where he would worship in Thailand. The good news is that because God is not defined by a building or location, the open air is a perfectly appropriate place for worship.

So with everything I could pull together, resisting all of my natural maternal instincts, I looked him in the face and said, we will not be deterred from doing the Lord’s work. You are going and you (and the other 17 recent college graduates) are going to be safe. We agreed to some base guidelines:

  1. He had to be prepared to leave everything he was taking with him should a warning be issued by the American consulate or embassy to get to the airport.

  2. He had to carry his passport and visa on him at all times and register with the American authorities there.

  3. Last but not least, I needed to hear from him every week, just like when he was in college.

Under those conditions, he was able to take a journey that he will treasure for a lifetime.

Are you wondering about those tears? I managed to hold it together at the airport. There is a place when things are out of your physical control, but well within the Lord’s control, that may be uncomfortable for you. Learning how to rest in that uncomfortable place is a building of your faith. We watched his planes (all of 4 them) on the computer as he racked up miles over the 22-hour journey. When we were able to speak to him when he landed, a few tears of relief emerged. I think I’d earned them. So much about raising men is supporting them in their decisions. No matter how strong the urge is to keep them close to you, they don’t really mature/blossom/emerge, until they are equipped to exist on their own. I am so glad he has returned. While this is not about me… I am back to enjoying a few games of Jeopardy!


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