Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our World Tour - Texas

The alarm shattered the plate-glass window of my dreams.  I made sure my wife was upright before I decided that 4:00 AM was too early for me.  The driver from my school was scheduled to take us to the airport at 5:40 and I figured in my dreamy state that I only needed a half hour to get ready.  Never make a decision in a dreamy state!  We barely made it downstairs as the bus rolled up with five other blurry-eyed teachers on it bound for parts unknown to begin summer break.
A lot of this past year was spent preparing for this world tour.  We concocted this bold plan of adventure while watching the animated movie “UP”.  (Just kidding!)  Although it has similar characteristics, our main motivation was certainly not adventure.  It was to visit two new grandbabies which I had not met yet, and to get to know our new daughter-in-law.  Is it our fault that our children live all over the world?  But then I guess we are not exactly at our home in Idaho either. 
June 6th became our personal “D” day.  Just like this infamous date in WWII history, this was the day when we began “Operation World Tour”.  On the same day I turned a year older we began to pack for a whole summer of traveling to three different countries with three different climates.
Has it occurred to anyone else besides us that traveling today seems more stressful than it was, let’s say, twenty years ago?  It’s at the point where, if it weren’t for our family, we probably wouldn’t go much of anywhere.  Let me offer an example of what it took just to leave our airport here in Santiago.  I could write several similar stories from this summer’s travel logs, but this will make my point.
My scissors were in my backpack as part of my ever-present journal supplies that I always carry with me … even when I go shopping with my wife.  I’ve made this mistake before and have lost several pair of quality scissors during the security checks, so I was willing to chalk this up to my senility. This time I also lost a portable and handy umbrella … a new and expensive lesson to learn.  But when the sour-faced agent eyed my harmonica with a puzzled look I couldn’t stand by.  I grabbed it from her, played a small tune while every eye turned in my direction, and said, “Mira!  Musica!”  She actually treated us to a half smile before she returned it to my back pack … thankfully!  A woman in front of me turned and said out loud in English, “I like the way you travel.”  Then she proceeded to intervene in Spanish on my behalf to get my umbrella back.  She wasn’t successful but she told me she enjoys giving them a hard time. 
As we were heading past the last checkpoint before walking into the tunnel that funnels passengers onto the airplane, the lady scrutinized my passport and ticket with a furrowed brow, and then turned to the muscular uniformed man to whisper something.  With a slight nod he turned to approach me.  With practiced politeness and noticeable accent he said in English, “This is entirely routine, sir, and nothing to worry about, but you will need to follow this agent.”  A young uniformed women escorted me downstairs near the place I lost my umbrella.  Another lady who did not know English carefully placed a round foam pad about the size of a silver dollar on the end of a foot-long wand of some sort.  She rubbed the foam on my wrist, the palms of my hands, and near my private parts.  Then she placed the foam head of the wand inside a machine and scanned it. 
While she was doing this I asked what she was looking for (with my great Spanish skills).  She understood enough to reply “Exploseeves and drogas” (explosives and drugs).  The machine pronounced me clean and I was escorted upstairs to a waiting and slightly anxious wife.  We made it on the plane but by this time I was sweating so badly that I stopped at the restroom to wash under my arms so I wouldn’t offend people’s olfactory nerves in the confined space of a pressurized airplane cabin.
This first stop of our world tour was in Texas … the new stomping grounds of our oldest son Jonathan.  He and his new wife Jennifer picked us up at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport within five minutes of our arrival.  They are a young working couple living in their first small apartment (sigh – I remember those days!), so except for one night, we stayed the next two weeks at her parent’s house.
Jonathan has always been a generous person and married one as well.  He drove us straight to the place we were to be staying.  On the kitchen table was a cake and some presents to celebrate my birthday.  Among the several gifts, he gave me the largest bag of peanut M and M’s I have ever seen and a baseball cap with a Texas flag between some longhorns with bold lettering that warns, “Don’t Mess With Texas!”  During our brief introduction to Texas culture I learned what this meant.
Jonathan’s wife’s parents are Texans … born and raised and proud of it.  They are dear Christian people a few years younger than we are.  Their house declares the glory of Texas without saying a word, if you know what I mean.  The tail end of a cleverly decorated chuck wagon is bolted onto the wall of their dining room.  Many pictures of family dressed in Old West garb dotted the walls and were surrounded by bull whips.  Floor lamps, bathroom toilet brushes, fire place screens … all with the lone star symbol or shape of a cowboy hat or boot.  As you enter the home, a sign greets you at the door.  It has the replica of a .45 caliber western peacemaker with wording below which proclaims, “We don’t dial 911.”  You can’t miss the theme of this house … “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Several goals were accomplished during our short stay in this “foreign” country.  We learned some new foreign phrases, such as “You’all remember we’re a’fixin’ to go downtown right soon.”  We also shopped for clothing that we can’t find in our 3rd world tropical island, and we made time for some medical appointments with some local doctors since we weren’t going to be back in Idaho this summer to see our own doctor.
During my appointment an ENT specialist discovered a nodule growing on my vocal cord.  He called it “Preacher’s Voice” … a vocational hazard of people who use their voice to make a living.  And if I didn’t find a solution to my need to project above the unbelievable noise that surrounds my classroom, I might possibly have to find another way to make a living.
After expressing this concern to my school administration, they moved me to a room in a quieter part of campus and gave me a portable microphone and speaker system to use.  It has been only a month of school but it seems to be working.  The students like it because they think I sound more “professional”, and several other teachers are asking for the same provision when they found out what happened.  So it looks like I can teach a few more years.
Like most Christian parents we pray for our children and their families often.  We’ve come to realize over the years that family is the most important (not necessarily the only) ministry a Christian person has.  What happens to and how we treat our wife, children, grandchildren, parents, in-laws, etc. is what matters the most.  So we need time with them to see how we can pray.  This therefore became the driving force behind our world tour and this is how we spent most of our time in Texas.
During these two weeks with Jonathan and Jennifer and her folks we watched “The Iron Chef”, went to Marine Creek Community Church, ate out and shopped, visited the Fort Worth Mint, and enjoyed home cooking with them.  And while this was going on we listened for the beat of their heart.  A parent can be no more blessed than to see his son walking in the truth … and to marry a woman who loves the Lord.  This is what we found in Texas.  We spent much time listening to testimonies of what God is doing in their lives, discussing questions about the Bible, wrestled with practical application about decisions they were facing.
Jonathan is working at two jobs now temporarily as he pieces away at getting his Texas teaching license and finding a teaching job.  Jennifer works at Crème de la Crème, a privately held childcare that promotes early learning programs.  With his recent conversion God has given Jonathan a heart to share the gospel.  On the front of his Home Depot apron he printed five symbols which look like hieroglyphics.  When people ask what they mean, including his bosses, he succinctly shares the gospel.  During his security job where he sits for much of the time, he reads the Bible and shares with homeless people who walk by asking for a handout.

During Father’s Day Jonathan took us to eat at “The Stock Yards”.  This historic part of the city used to be where Texas ranchers drove their long horned cattle to be shipped out by the railroad.  As times changed an entrepreneur seized the opportunity to restore it and use it for business.  Now small curio shops and restaurants occupy the space where the holding pens used to be.  The original train gives rides to the next town and back.  You can even attend a “cowboy church” where the altar at the front is bales of hay.

All the locals recognize it as a tourist trap, but it was a memorable experience.  While we ate at Riscky’s BBQ a rodeo clown made long horn “hats” out of balloons for the children.  Several authentic cowboys drove a herd of long horned cattle up the street.  A little later, a town Marshall had a gun fight with two desperados using blanks in their six-guns.  We bought some matching pink T-shirts for our granddaughters in Peru that said “Texas Princess in Training” and another for me with a picture of John Wayne that says “Old Guys Rule” which I intend to wear in my class one of these days if they start getting out of hand.

This is not unique to us, of course, but in our short visit to Texas to spend time with our son and new wife, we saw in them ourselves not too many years ago … the dreams, the hard work, the beginning of everything we hold dear today.  My prayer for them is that they would grow in their love for each other and the Lord … and they would weather the hard times by being rooted in the faith … so they can experience the fruits of a faithful life. … and that they will have lots of babies!

For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.  Psalm 78:5,6

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