I haven't been writing too much about my Baby Angel lately. In fact, I think this was my last specific post. It's tough, 'cause she is ultra aware of anything I say about her and, naturally, would prefer I said nothing.
Facebook is her addiction and, as I have insisted that I must be a friend if she wants to have access to the internet, she is quick to discourage me from making my online presence felt.
BA: Mum! Did you comment* on my friend's page???? (*withering)
Me: Errrrrrr.... Yes.
BA: DON'T comment. She might not like it when you comment.
Me: She likes it when I comment, she says I'm a crack up!
BA: No, mum, you're not funny. No one thinks you're funny!
Me: No, YOU don't think I'm funny. Everyone ELSE thinks I'm funny!!!!!
BA: Just...........don't.......mum. (imagine the 'don't', liberally dripping with contempt)
But regardless, I've got to tell you about her because I lurrrve her so much and it's really hard to keep that love and pride under wraps! Even though she would prefer I did.
Over the last year, the BA and a group of teens from our church were involved in a discipleship journey culminating in a trip to Vanuatu.
After the visit of Frog girl last year, the BA had desperately wanted to be involved in an exchange trip to France. At $5000 minimum and a questionable attitude (from the organisers) towards the objectives of the exchange, I informed the BA that she did not have a snowball's chance of being involved. Fortunately, at the same time as this was up for discussion, our pastor and youth minster decided that it would be a worthwhile venture to take the teens of our church to Vanuatu to see how other people in the world live . And guess what the second language of Vanuatu is? Yup. French!
It seemed the answer to a prayer. Although I felt bad about not being able to afford sending the BA on a European exchange, I also felt affronted at the nature of said exchange. The Frog Girl and her mates spent, maybe, 4 days in our school. The rest of the time was spent swanning about the state on sightseeing trips with...other French people! Now in my day, the Rotary Exchange students spent a year at the school taking part in all the classes and other extra curricula activities. My own, defining, relationship with a Rotary Exchange student in 1977 emerged during his involvement in our joint schools drama production. The students were immersed in the culture and their only contact with other exchange students occurred during the school holiday trip to the Red Centre. A far cry from our experience with Frog Girl.
Happily, the BA decided that the Vanuatu option was an acceptable alternative. She knew that she was going to have to raise a significant portion of the funds, as we were under pressure financially, but she was undeterred. She threw herself into the fund raising effort. She worked at MacDonalds and banked significant portions of her income. She worked in the sausage sizzle stall at the Lion's Mart on weekends. She manned a stall at the church fund raising fair. Her dad and grandad threw in contributions towards the end of the process; but I am proud of the fact that she raised well over half the money she needed for the trip (unlike others).
The kids were involved in a full-on discipleship journey over the year preceding the trip. They did retreats and wrote reflections. Their work at the Lion's Mart raised funds for the kids in the group who couldn't totally afford the trip. They were asked to 'present' to the church and build relationships within the group. They learned the language and culture of their destination and modified their thinking in deference to another set of values. In the week before they left, they compressed their lives into a backpack and collected clothing which would be suitable for the cultural context of their trip.
In July we gathered at the airport to see them off.
They would be away for three weeks and for most of that time they would be out of electronic contact (like the old days).
They would spend a week in a village where the most technological item in town was the pit toilet.
I think I am safe in reporting that the excitement was tangible.
For the first time in many years I felt the stretch of the umbilical cord. I am used to sending the BA off to her dad every holiday but this trip had the added element of NO communication. I was ok to begin with, but after two weeks I moved a special picture of her from my chest of drawers, onto my bedside table. Such a brave mummy.
Just before their return, the pastor called me from Port Vila. He needed to tell me of an 'incident' involving the BA. My imagination ran wild. What had she DONE???? As it turned out, she had been guilty of nothing but naivety, and had been VERY lucky to escape intact. God was watching over her that day, as she allowed her outgoing and confident personality to take her into a situation that could have ended very badly. Of course, after the initial shock had worn off she was inclined to minimise the event, to the extent that the adults present wondered if she had learned anything from the incident. On her return, however, after her recount, we acknowledged together what a lucky girl she had been and did some grieving.
I can only try to imagine the anguish of parents who have lost children on the other side of the world. I dd not lose my child. I can only thank God; from the story she told me, the possibility seemed to have been very real.
But all this aside she LOVED being in Vanuatu. She loved the people, she loved the way of life and she loved interacting with the children. Currently, her main aim in life seems to be 'aid work' in under developed countries.
A week ago we had a 'Graduation' ceremony for the teens who had been involved in the trip.
They donned the garb of the place and their excitement in sharing with us was palpable.
Some parents expressed disappointment that 'nothing had changed' with their teen.
I say to them, 'just wait', nothing this impactful goes unnoticed.
And here is the group singing the famous welcome song for the island .....
Meanwhile, in a complete contrast, back in the 'real' world, the BA heads off to a costume party as Cleopatra.
And her mother has to pick her up from the other side of town at midnight.
Footnote* Hey SSG! You would be very proud of the way I have edited this post. there were so many things I could have said!!!!!!