Today I have some reflections on where I’ve seen God in my son Joel’s summer. For anyone who doesn’t know, we have a 20 year old son who was lucky enough to go to Europe for over 4 months this summer. The first ¾ of the summer was spent in Germany, working at a pool and lakeside resort, doing glorious things like weeding, painting and any other small jobs. The point of this adventure has been to work on learning german, which is his major at university. He’s coming home in little over 24 hours from when I am writing this blog.
For the last part of the summer, he has been traveling with some buddies. Flying or riding the rails, camping and hosteling along the way, he has visited the Ukraine, the Swiss Alps, England and Ireland. Joel has emailed and phoned during his travels, and one theme I have seen over and over again is the generosity of people he has met.
When you have someone you love dearly, it is essential to let them go as they find their way in life. We watched his plane depart on May 1st, and as parents everywhere do, we sent him with many prayers for his well being and hopes that he would find his way in this first venture in independence. Worrying isn’t one of my biggest vices, but I certainly wondered how things would pan out.
Soon the stories began to trickle in, building to a steady stream that we’d hear about all summer. First there were the kind people in Hemmingen who gave him a place to stay and helped him with many details. The two “Frau’s” who hosted the two Canadians at their houses, Frau Quentin and Frau Rumberg, are in Joel’s words, “some of the kindest people I’ve ever met”. “Herr Novak”, the head of the program, helped him sort out many practical details such as banking. Today those very people are hosting a good-bye supper for him.
Joel also enjoyed meeting people at his job site, people who were tourists like himself and enjoyed meeting the Canadians. Joel has a knack for talking to strangers, and this became one of his favorite parts of the summer. We’d constantly hear about him asking people for directions, and he and his buddies would end up being invited over to camp in their backyard and join them for supper. Once, after hiking up a mountain in the rain, they ended up at a small hotel where people took them in and bought them supper.
As a mom hearing about all this across the ocean, I’d always say a heartfelt prayer of thanks for all those angels who gave him a kind word, food or lodging. I remember when he was going through school, I’d feel the same gratitude for those teachers who were able to make a connection with our son, going the second mile to be friendly or humorous or just human, encouraging Joel with their friendship. It was the same way when we heard about the generosity overseas. I kept being reminded of God’s bountiful world, and the many ways Lyle and I have experienced God’s help in raising him. We truly have never felt alone.
Over the years, we have been so grateful for the love shown to Joel in our community. Every child needs caring and interested adults to help them grow in life, and Joel has received that in abundance, from loving grandparents, to all our dear friends, to mentors like Cal and Paul in Watershed who have spent time going through books with Joel and giving him guidance and friendship. I remember when I first learned we were expecting him, and the pang of worry I had as I wondered how we’d be able to nurture this new life. Now, twenty years later, when I see the web of love that God has intricately provided for us, I know that our prayers were answered in ways I couldn’t even have imagined.
We have also been grateful to see that Joel has been learning to see this bounty as coming from God. It is always our prayer that he might continue to make faith his own. God knows we need more people in the world who are able to translate faith and meaning in a relevant and contemporary way. There’s enough crazy translations of faith out there.
I don’t mean to say that it has all been clear sailing, because it hasn’t. I don’t think there’s a parent alive who hasn’t had worries and bumps, sometimes big bumps, along the way. But even there, I have seen God providing guidance and healing.
It has often helped me rebuild my own sense of what God’s world looks like. With these many examples, my worldview is slowly being changed to seeing that “God is everywhere”, which was one of Joel’s first sentences in life.
There are so many verses that illustrate what I am coming to see, but one that comes to mind is Romans 11:33: “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.”
Joel, as you travel home, I want to say that I always thank God for giving you to us. You have been my greatest gift in life and God has taught us so much through your unique and precious life. We’re looking forward to seeing you again. It’ll be different at home since you have acquired so much independence, and we want to continue to help you as you step into new adventures. May you always continue to see God everywhere you go.