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Of risks and storms

June 16, 2010

Quite a few months ago I read a blurb on one of the news sites speaking of how two teen girls were separately attempting to be the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the world solo, in a sail boat.  At least one of them was trying to do it non-stop.  Both girls were sixteen years old.  One was from Australia, one from California.

Sixteen.  What were you doing when you were sixteen?  I know I sure wasn’t trying to sail around the world in a solo sailboat trip.  Heck, I did well to walk down the halls of my high school without tripping over my own feet.

Jessica Watson, the Australian, recently completed her trip.  She sailed into Sydney just a few days before turning seventeen, and though there is some argument that she didn’t sail far enough north of the equator or log enough nautical miles, she still did something few other people have done, and it was remarkable.

The other girl, Abby Sunderland, did not fare as well on her trip.  Her determination to make the trip non-stop was thwarted by mechanical issues that required that the sailboat be docked and repaired in Mexico and South Africa, but she did not give up on her quest to at least circumnavigate the globe.  And then last week while sailing through the Indian Ocean, Abby encountered a terrible winter storm that battered her boat and broke its mast, leaving her without satellite communications and any means of propulsion.  She set off her two emergency distress beacons.  Australia sent out a plane to locate her, if she was still alive.  It found her still with her boat, alive and well, but there was no way for the plane to bring her back.  It took two days for her to be rescued because she was literally in the middle of nowhere with no vessels near.  A French fishing vessel was rerouted to pick her up and she escaped her ordeal with the clothes on her back.  Her sailboat, Wild Eyes, was abandoned to a watery grave in the Indian Ocean.

The media frenzy has been remarkable.  The girl who captured the imagination of armchair adventurers has now become the target of armchair critics.

Abby, who is homeschooled by Christian parents, had been training for this trip since she was 13 years old.  She was capable and skilled and strong.  Her parents raised her to be fearless and to push herself to accomplish her dreams.  Her brother had already made this trip last year, setting the previous record for the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe solo, so they– and she– knew what she was getting into.  And they knew there was a risk that it would not go well.  They were willing to let her take that risk in order to do something great.

I know plenty of people can’t imagine letting their child take such a risk.  It would be hard for me, I admit.  But I am reminded that Paul told Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young.  I am also reminded that David was only a boy when he saved the entire nation of Israel from becoming slaves of the Philistines by killing a giant in a one-on-one battle…and he did it with a rock and a slingshot.  And Mary was likely only a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus.  God doesn’t mind using young people to do great things.  So what favors are we doing our children by insisting they live safe lives free of risk and danger?  How are we discipling a generation of warriors to greatness by projecting our fears onto them?  Why are we so afraid of losing them that we will not let them become bold, fearless, and strong in the face of battle?

Abby responded to her critics in her blog:

“There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?”

We can try to protect our kids, but the words of Abby Sunderland echo the words of Jesus, who said  in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” Life is full of storms, and they are just part of the deal.  It really doesn’t matter how young or old you are; there will be storms.  We can either teach our kids to fear them or to face them head-on.  How we train them will demonstrate to them which we value more: to die in an act of greatness, or to live a bland life of weakness and cowardice.

The eldest Sparkette is currently living out her own adventure.  She is in China, and she’s there to share the Good News about the One she loves.  She has given me permission to tell some of her stories and give some updates here, so I will be doing that off and on.  I will be changing names and at times you may sense I’m speaking in code.  That’s because I am.  If Sparkette were discovered to be doing what she is doing, she would be sent out of the country, as would all the team connected to her.  Disappointing and heartbreaking, but not the end of the world.  However, if Chinese students were discovered to be part of those activities, they would be arrested and likely punished severely.  They already live in a storm; they don’t need any lightning rods attracting unnecessary attention.

I love knowing that there are young people out there who are more concerned with living a good story than they are living a life of safety and ease.  I want to be like them when I grow up.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2010 11:31 pm

    Love the peace in the storm…

  2. June 17, 2010 12:19 am

    Loved reading your blog, Lisa. I don’t think I’d let my kids sail around the world at 16….but the fact is that we can’t protect them from the adventure even if it’s dangerous…especially when God has called them to it! But we can rest, knowing that they are in the mighty hands of our sovereign God and He’s got it covered!! Our job at that point is to pray, pray, pray!!

  3. June 17, 2010 6:18 am

    Awesome note! By the way, when I was sixteen I was working to support my family, it was kind of cool. Later in time I appreciate that experience. I got to live in the US by myself, no family, coming my self from Peru and alone, that was at 24. But to stay there was almost as some of those risk and storms. NO family, no spanish, no friends, 6 months to explore, some money, but lots of energy. I may had saved that from the late teens. I guess? And it was so cool. Kind of Timothy kind of style. My parents weren’t living with me, my Grandma was and is now. That was so cool! Thanks for bringing my memories. “)
    ~Great Love to you,
    Mirian from peelingtheorange.

    • June 17, 2010 12:42 pm

      What a great story, Mirian! You know the truth that being young does not disqualify you from greatness, nor does it exempt you from storms. You will have a lot of strength to share with your future generations simply because you dared to live large when you were young. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. Mr Sparky permalink
    June 19, 2010 6:21 pm

    I am reminded of something Theodore Roosevelt said: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    Abby dared greatly. Very greatly. Good luck next time, Abby!

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