Seriously, what kind of idiot literally pours a heaping tablespoon of salt into an open wound? Me. That idiot was me.

     I must confess I’m pretty stupid about who I trust sometimes. Take for example, Jeff Miller, my one-year-older-than-me nephew.  If you’ve ever read my book, The Cows of Hobson’s Pond, you met Jeff Miller, my nephew and childhood nemesis. In the book, I write about the incident when Jeff convinced me to pour salt into a gaping cut on my eight-year-old foot. That same incident that caused every cow in a three mile range to turn their milk into cottage cheese upon hearing me wail.

     That same person who singlehandedly was behind almost every childhood spanking I received, oddly enough, is the same person who, later in life, launched me into international mission work. He once suggested I go with him to Nicaragua on a trip, the same trip a starving 5-year-old girl crawled in my arms and asked me to feed her. That moment changed my life forever.

     Jeff later suggested I go with him to Africa. Always being a good lemming running into the sea because Jeff told me to, I joined him on a trip in January of 2004. After That Time the New York City Police Surrounded Our Plane on my first attempt to reach Africa in 2003, we finally made it there a few months later along with his son, Paul, and my son, Isaac. Both boys were in their senior year of high school.

     I fell in love with Africa long before I went there. Even as a child, I had three sources of stories about Africa; The National Geographic, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Christian Missionaries that visited my Dad’s church. I still have some of those old National Geo’s and, of course, the black magic markers still hide the breasts of naked women.

      We flew into Accra in the middle of the night; 2 AM to be precise. We had been up for several hours already and, when our ride arrived, bounced along the coast for a dusty, diesel-smoke filled,  three-hour-ride to Keta. Once we arrived, it was time for church. We were not in our Sunday best.

     Now, in America, we were accustomed to church services lasting an hour to an hour and a half. However, we were told church in Keta might last three or four hours. It’s hard to hold my attention for three or four hours in my own language let alone a foreign language. And, because we were the guests of honor, they put us up on the stage with the minister. There was no way we could take a nap. And it took 45 minutes just to take up the offering!

      When it was my turn to speak, I would speak for a paragraph or two, then let my translator speak. He took my one-minute paragraph and turned it into a five-to-ten minute, very animated delivery. I turned to look at my companions on the stage and said, “I wish I knew what I was saying; this is the best sermon I’ve ever given!”

     It was both a wonderful and fearful week. We simply fell in love with the people, many who lived in mud huts and thatched roofs. 

    However, the fearful part came when Jeff had a grand Mal seizure as we were driving through the countryside. Jeff is the strongest, toughest, smartest, brick-mason that you’ll ever meet. However, he records that haunting experience best in his blog, Stories of the Father’s House. 

     Then there was the night we awakened to millions of little fly-like creatures covering every square inch of our bed, sheets, skin, and room. 

    The day arrived for us to return home and, again, we scored first class tickets. Jeff asked for two-fingers of scotch from the flight attendant and, as we sat there waiting for the plane to move, he looked at me and said, “If I have another one of those spells, please tell the stewardess that I’m acting that way because I’m just happy to go home.” Jeff is a more reluctant world-traveler than me. 

    Then it hit him; a vision of an orphanage to rescue boys used as slaves in the fishing industry in the Volta Region. Jeff went home and shared that vision with a few folks.

    Here it is 15 years later, and the Father’s House has rescued several boys and turned them into incredible young men.

    If it is true that people perish for the lack of vision, then it Is true that people thrive with a shared vision.

     Even if it did start with two-fingers of scotch.