For everything there is a season,
a right time for every intention under heaven —
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to discard,
a time to tear and a time to sew, a time to keep silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3
For our family, there is also a season of change.
With my youngest child’s graduating from high school, my reaching 50th milestone in age, and the start of a new decade 2020, I feel my season of serving in China the last 19 years with World Vision has come to an end. However, I am excited about God’s leading for my wife and I to continue serving Him in the Middle East. During our family’s one-year backpacking trip through the Silk Road in 2015 where we traveled and prayed for the nations, we came to love the people of the Middle East and began to have a desire to live among them.
Transition for us means an opportunity to embark upon a new adventure – Su Family Gap Year 3.0. It is a once a lifetime opportunity, for a third time! The first time, the children were in elementary school age. The second time, they were teenagers. Now, they are all adults, ages 23, 20, 18. Each age bracket has its own excitements and challenges. I wonder how it will be like traveling with adult children?
I am starting to get a taste of what it might be like traveling with adult children based on what each child is telling me.
“I am getting excited about our gap year. Do you know why?” Olivia called me one day. “I don’t want to just follow you, but I want to have my own goal – I want to interview different people during our trip to hear their individual stories. I will post it on Instagram, hashtag #the_story_well.”
“Another project I want to do is to do public speaking throughout the trip,” added Olivia who will be graduating from the business school at UBC soon. “I have started to enjoy speaking publicly believe it or not!”
I laughed, “Do you know that number one fear for most people is public speaking? And you actually enjoy it! No wonder you were the top five speech finalist out of 300+ business students in your class.”
Olivia also shared that being together as a community of five, we can keep each other accountable in our personal and spiritual goals that each of us has set for ourselves. For example, she would like our travel to allow for a half-hour of devotional time each day.
“Since we are traveling to both Africa and Central America, I can talk to my professor and maybe I can do a project on the linkage between Africa and Central America due to the enslaved ancestral African past of those now living in Central America?” pondered Nathan, who is currently majoring in Human Geography at University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada.
“Or I might just want to take a nice break between my 2nd and 3rd year of UBC to renew and recuperate so that I can be ready for my 3rd year,” reflected Nathan.
Joani was very clear on what she wanted to be different for this third gap year.
“Before we leave each country, I want to have few days to relax and not go sightseeing so that every person has mental space to do their own thing – a vacation from vacation,” demanded Joani. “Nothing like how we went from country and country in Western Europe every 2 to 3 days.”
“Because the project I want to accomplish during this one year is to do a bullet journal for each country we go,” explained Joani who plans to go to UBC as well after the gap year. “By writing journal for each country, then I will remember them better and treasure my experience in each place.”
I frowned because having planned this gap year with great painstaking details, I surprisingly concluded that a year is very tight. But realizing that now each child is an adult and wants to make their own mark in this journey, I relented. “Yes, I will try my best to plan 3-5 days of personal time each month where we don’t do anything. It will be difficult to do that for each country but we can do it for each month. Plus, weren’t you wishing to hit 100 countries by the end of this third gap year?”
“Yeah. How cool would it be for me to begin my university life having reached the 100 countries milestone!” laughed Joani. “But seriously, during this trip I want to be more intentional in building relationship with those we meet and to share about how God has impacted my life – a servanthood mindset.”
What will 3.0 look like? I am curious too. We will be a family of five adults: two mid-life adults and 3 young adults. We are in different life stages enjoying each other before we each fly off into different journeys. My goal is very simple this time. I am a mid-life woman saying goodbye to her role as mommy, getting to know my children as adults and cherishing this year to do family with them before Jonathan and I fly off too. I love my children dearly and would gladly do mommy all over again. That season has ended and now, I embrace these precious moments doing life with them on the road as we each emerge out of the cocoon of growing into our life callings. I look forward to this partnership and team building as we learn to serve whoever we meet along the way!
For myself, I have also been pondering over what I would do differently this third time versus the other two times. Now that the children are grown, instead of just focusing on experiencing new adventures, we can focus on ministering to others as a family. Instead of finding mainly workaway opportunities (working for food and room, www.workaway.info) like last time, I can seek out ministry opportunities as we backpack through Africa, Caribbean, and Central America. Of course, what will not change is to travel and pray through the nations.
How cool would that be!