Today, I sent out a missionary and indeed, as the definition holds - he's heading out to to evangelize, minister in service and through his acts of love and kindness (and only use words when necessary) will preach Jesus's name. This missionary is 13! This missionary is my precious boy - Canyon.
This isn't his first mission by any stretch of the imagination. He first stepped into the field right here in San Antonio, Texas. At the very young age of 7, Canyon began going with Doug and I each and every Tuesday night to spend time with a group of Somali Refugees that had been settled here in San Antonio. We worked with a wonderful ministry under the leadership of some of the most amazing cross-cultural disciplers and teachers I know. During those two years and with each teaching - each example, Canyon would soak in every single word. Each week, we'd show up at an apartment complex that, if one didn't know better, you'd thought you'd been taken right into Somalia itself. We loved it! Canyon loved it! Canyon would show up each week on the field and hit the ground running ... literally. He'd play soccer until his legs could barely keep up, sing worship songs with a bunch of rambunctious kids and at the end of their "play" time, the boys group would sit around a tree and Doug would teach a lesson about our faith to our special friends. We, followers of Jesus, had the awesome opportunity to share our faith with our Muslim friends and to learn of their faith/comparison to ours as we honored them during times of Ramadan etc.
I will never forget one week during the summer when we were working hard to get school supplies gathered for all the kids. As we prepared each bag, I asked Canyon "why are we doing this"? He gave me the token Sunday school answer "Jesus says so" . I grinned - of course he was right ... but what did that mean? Digging further I asked him, "But WHY does he say to do this"? Canyon, whom has shown to have a faith far beyond his years from a very early age began to think a bit. During his time on the soccer field he had befriended a precious boy named Hassan. Hassan was older than Canyon but for some reason - had a true affection and affinity for him. Most of the boys were much older and bigger than Canyon (though he could definitely hold his own on that field) and Hassan had seemingly taken to becoming Canyon's defender and protector each week. They had created a special friendship very quick, one that held a special place in Canyon's heart.
So ... as he began to think, I began ask questions of Canyon and his knowledge of scripture. sharing with Canyon that Hassan was of a different faith, one that worshipped a God named "Allah", I began to ask Canyon of Jesus's response in John 14:6 and with eagerness he began to recite, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. "Exactly," I told Canyon. "And if this is so, what does this mean for your friend, Hassan, who worships another God"? Canyon's eyes began to water and tear. In that moment, the scriptures and truth came alive for him. The words began to jump off the page and in that moment, my 7 year old son realized that it wasn't about a wrote "Sunday school answer" but about a life ... one that he had learn to love! Canyon began to learn and understand that through his friendship with this young boy, that maybe - just maybe the Lord would give him a chance to use his words and tell him about the Jesus he knew. But if he didn't, he also learned that that was o.k. ... because in the end, Canyon was being Jesus just by bringing HIM with him each and every time he stepped on to that field. We prayed his friend would see a glimpse of him and we prayed some day, Canyon would have built enough foundation to walk him right over that bridge!
Those years helped shaped Canyon greatly. He had and still has a great appreciation for our friends who spoke into his heart about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and what it meant to be involved in cross-cultural discipleship.
Those years, were also pivotal in his life as we moved from one international adoption to the next. To Canyon, he began to see and understand that our obedience to adopt wasn't just about becoming a brother, gaining a daughter or a son - but about bringing the Nations right here into our home. Canyon is on a mission - daily! At 13, he is a missionary - right HERE!
During our time of working to adopt Zebene, we had the awesome JOY of bringing both Canyon and his oldest sister with us to Ethiopia. What a joy it was to see him step off of that bus each day and right back into the field he had come to love during those two years. He was unintimidated and unhindered. He played soccer with gusto ... just as he had done before. He loved big and served big. Canyon and Dakota would step into each orphanage and transitional home and not see an "orphan" or a 'need", or a "religion". They saw people, of all faiths, and medical backgrounds for who they were. They saw - relationships - and other kids who just wanted to play and needed love. Watching them was beautiful. It was natural, honest, pure - and simply - Jesus in a small pair of tennis shoes. As we were leaving Ethiopia and boarding our plane on our last night there, I turned to find Canyon's eyes filled with tears. Taken back by his emotion, I asked if he was o.k. Canyon quickly responded "I have never been to a place where the people have so little and yet - have so much JOY ... I don't want to leave". At 11 years old, that kid had nailed it. He saw JOY amidst places where the "world" would see sorrow or much need. Canyon caught glimpses of what it truly meant to be content in the spirit and have joy amidst all things. Canyon saw Jesus in their faces and he yearned to not let go.
So, today, I sent that same boy off. I've seen him on the field in San Antonio, Texas, in our home and in Ethiopia. This time, however, I send him ALONE (well - not really - he's with one of the most amazing teams of youth leaders and parents I know)! We won't accompany him this time. This time, this trip ... it's all HIS! As I send my boy out to be a disciple of Jesus, I rest in the peace that Jesus is the one guiding him and protecting him. I also am giddy excited to think back to each experience before and see how much it has shaped Canyon. I am certain that while Canyon and his team will bless the church and people they are working/partnering with .... that Canyon will come home even more blessed - maybe a little more refined, maybe a little changed by what the Lord will do in his heart.
A missionary on a mission ... to Mission, Texas!