“…May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Genesis 31:49
The context of this reading is an accord between Jacob and Laban, the former feeling a bit scorned by the latter’s less than fair treatment of him. After Laban is rebuked by God the night before, he agrees to see things a little more in line with Jacob and they agree essentially to become friends. Laban adds, though, that God will be watching them both so basically they both better not screw up. The context of this reading isn’t exactly in alignment with our day today, but the whole watching while we are apart sort of is, in a stretchy kind of way.
Our original plan, nay our fourteenth plan on which we finally settled, for our last weekend in Sri Lanka was to head back to Colombo and see the big city. We would go to a museum, see some temples, and maybe even hit the mall. That did not happen. We awoke with great ambition and proceeded to have breakfast. Our meal gave us opportunity to catch up on the reading of our daily devotionals and then to discuss a plan that Sara and I had hatched while cleaning turtle tanks. We thought that maybe we could take videos of our service projects to capture not only the service itself but also the ups and downs that go with being away from home, in another country, with three young children….etc. But, as we have promised our family from day one, we needed to get input from the kids and to make sure that they would be okay with this experiment.
So the conversation went something like this.
Dad: So guys, I was thinking and mom and I talked a little bit and we even contacted Uncle John (Marshall, whom we knew from his book and then the Farm and who knows people in television..) to get his feedback.
Kids: (Staring blankly as dad yammers on and interrupts their consumption of sugar covered waffles)
Dad: So we thought that maybe we could video a family doing what we are doing and then maybe do like a podcast/youTube thing, or maybe that even turns into a reality television show.
Kids: (drool now emanates from their mouths as the sweet aromas of donut, waffles, and juice overwhelm their limbic systems)
Dad: But we would need a test family to kind of be the first ones to try this so we were wondering if you guys….
Mom: Well hold on Anjali, before you say no. Why would you be opposed?
Anjali: (tears welling) No, I just don’t want to okay?
And so an hour long discussion ensues, occasionally halted for mastication of breakfast confections, about how we should logically think through decisions before rashly answering. Anjali is not dissuaded from her position that she is utterly and adamantly opposed so we, as a family, agree to hold off on this grand notion from mom and dad. No hard feelings and Anjali kind of sees the point we wanted to make about how you should think before you answer because fear or lack of understanding of all the facts can lead you to make a poor decision.
Childhood lesson learned or at least discussed, we headed out to sightsee. We left the confines of the hotel and were immediately greeted by what could best be described as the moist, fiery breath of Satan himself. It was as though Colombo had been set on fire and simultaneously was spraying us with a hose. The heat and humidity, robbing us instantly of our breath, worked as a veritable mire intent on preventing our every step. We slowly meandered in the direction of the mall, our first stop on the tour de Colombo, all the while fending off offers of rides from eager Tuk Tuk drivers. What would normally be a five minute walk was slowly dragging out to an interminable trek, each minute making us hotter and wetter. The impending heat related snippiness was growing closer and closer but the crisis was averted as we finally arrived at the great salvation of air conditioning.
After twenty minutes or so of respite and realizing that we really needed to buy nothing we begrudgingly left the mall and made our way to one of the temples across the street. We learned that we would need to pay for entry so we took a quick glimpse from afar and moved on. We had seen a lot of temples in Thailand so wat’s (pun intended) one more? We strode across a walking bridge to a small island park, did a once around, and then walked back over. Engaging in a quick family meeting we decided that our sightseeing was now over and that our time was much better spent sitting poolside and relaxing.
Now, this is where the whole watching while we are away from each other comes back in. On our way up to the hotel Sara got a text message from a stranger. She had seen our post on Facebook about saying goodbye to the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project and was interested in our story. After seeing our family’s journey, she reached out to learn more about COG. Sara and she traded messages and agreed to re-engage after we had gotten settled in Romania and after she had returned from travels to visit her daughter. After donning our relaxation clothes and grabbing the next available elevator we encountered a man on his way down. We exchanged pleasantries and learned that he was originally from New York, now living in Colombo. No big deal there. What was very interesting though was that he had started his own company. What kind? Television and film production services. Sara and I said nothing, just shared a humored glance, but just as we were about to leave the elevator he offered us his business card and bid us farewell.
These two encounters prompted an immediate conversation with the kids about how maybe God did have a plan for this after all. We expressed to Anjali, and to David and Luci for that matter, how we saw this as a sign or at the very least a nudge. We had given up on our plans that morning and simply turned the idea over to God, basically saying that if this project was meant to be then it would find another way to manifest itself. We needed our family to be in a good place first and foremost to fulfill our primary obligation of this service trip, the video idea was secondary and maybe wasn’t even that good of an idea. I am not sure what caused the change of heart but Anjali was suddenly on board with the idea of our family making a podcast. We figured it would be a great way if nothing else for us to share with our friends and family more than just words about what we were doing. And if enough people cared and shared then maybe it could inspire others to do the same and join in the fun of service.
I am not sure how the video will go. This might just be another instance of thinking we have the answers and trying to pork barrel our way on God’s plan. But with the nudge we got on Facebook and in the elevator we are going to give it a go. If it is meant to be then with God’s help it will be. If it isn’t, well then we just spent a hundred bucks on a selfie-stick (I cringe as I write that) and a memory expansion drive for the phone. But we will have some fun videos, and probably a few that are less fun, for everyone to get a better idea of what our lives are like. I cannot promise Emmy award winning television-though if we get one it will be to God’s honor not ours. But the tears, of laughter or sadness, are real and heartfelt and we have enjoyed every one of them.