Wednesday, January 28, 2015
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
Back when I was in my twenties, we didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and I truly didn’t expect to live to thirty-five, because of Viet-Nam, Nixon, the Civil Rights Movement, and because we were hippies. The picture at the right is from 44 years ago in 1971. My wife, my only son at the time who was three (now 47), and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and camped out along Bright Angel Creek for a week. We took two days to get down and two days to get back up, and our three-year-old Chris hiked every step of the way (which made a lot of older hikers very mad as he would pass them singing as he went). In the picture, we are sitting in Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the canyon, and, as it was February, it was snowing on the rim about one mile above us. At that moment, we thought and believed we could do anything, and, as it turns out, we did quite a lot with our lives. We have no regrets and know that all of the things we did both good and bad are what made us who we are today. I was 59 years old when we came here to Africa and really didn’t expect to live more than a couple of years as my implanted defibrillator would quit working in 2006, and we could not afford the $50,000+ operation to implant a new one (no insurance, and no money for airfare back and forth to the U.S., etc). A friend who started us on the biosand filter project was here in early 2006 and said he used to work for the company that made my defibrillator. He encouraged me to send them an email, and the result was that with just two months left on the one in me, Medtronics, through its South African headquarters, gave me a new one for free. All I had to do was travel to Nairobi and they paid for everything else, hospital, surgeon, device ($30,000 just for the part), and all other expenses except travel. The one they put in was much newer and better and still has two years to go, but since it has never had to be used will probably go much farther than that. So now, I am 70, Karen is 71 and we are still beginning new projects as well as maintaining all of the other ones we started ten years ago. No, we don’t move as fast as we once did. Yes, there are days that pain keeps us both down for the count, but we think of ourselves as modern pioneers. Of course, we don’t get to drink Starbucks or eat Krispy Kremes or stop by KFC for dinner on the way home, but we have internet, running water (hot and cold) in the house, and now glass in all our windows, so as far as we are concerned, we are in tall cotton. We both know that there are many physical things that would be fixed easily in the U.S. that will probably kill us here, but we are here to stay until God calls us home or we become totally useless to God, the churches, and the people we serve. I don’t see that day happening anytime soon. We have lots of wonderful memories of many wonderful friends with whom we keep in touch by Facebook, Google+, email, and Hangouts on our computers, and who still help us with our mission work. We can still sleep sixteen and openly invite anyone who wants to come do mission work with the added perk of having a safari through the Serengeti National Park. Yes, we feel old, but we are in a culture that respects elders and are greeted many times a day as the English equivalent of “respected and wise elder.” It’s not so bad. The quote above is very apt, it is when you stop pursuing your dreams that age conquers you. I’ve searched the Bible backwards and forwards and there is nothing in it that says you get to quit loving and serving others because of your age or position. Moses was eighty years old when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. Happily, that’s been done, so I don’t have to worry about anything quite that epic. We just keep feeding our orphans, starting churches and schools, providing biosand water filters, and educating children of all ages. Turns out we have lived a whole lot longer than we thought we would and we are not ready to quit, just yet.