Sending Them Off

Those last few moments were quiet in the car as we said goodbye. Mom gave me a hug, hiding the tears the best she could. I got out of the car, and walked up the steps of my new home-away-from-home. Mom drove away. I couldn’t understand then what she was thinking; I think I have a better idea now.

It was August 1980 and I was beginning my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. My new home was Woodrow Dorm, Tenement C. It was old and full of roaches. At the end of my freshman year, it would be condemned. But for the next nine months, it would become my spiritual haven, a place where I met God like I never had before.

I had been a Christian for less than a year at that point. Saved at the age of 17 as a senior in high school, I had little knowledge of what being a Christian meant. But I had learned one lesson in my first months of following Christ – I needed a Paul ? someone to show me the ropes, to challenge me in my faith, to teach me how to walk with the Lord.

I walked up the steps of my new home to the second floor ? all alone for the first time in my life. My other three roommates hadn’t yet arrived. I walked into my room and knelt down beside my bed. “Dear Lord,” I prayed, “Please send me a Paul.”

Little did I know, God was already at work.

All summer long, another student at South Carolina had been praying God would give him someone to disciple. He would be a sophomore at USC that year, also living in Woodrow dorm, a tenement down from mine. Sometime during my first week there, that young man would stop by our tenement and pass out surveys, asking about our spiritual interest. I filled the survey out, checking the box that said I would like to talk to someone about my faith. He came by a day later and my life was changed forever. For two years Ralph discipled me. He taught me how to study the Bible, and to share Christ wherever we went. Our single goal became to reach that campus for Christ. At the end of my freshman year, Ralph challenged me to go to Africa with him on a mission trip. “Let’s go,” he said, “where the pond has yet to be fished.”

And so, we went.

I can’t begin to write all the ways my life was affected because of God’s answer to my prayer that first night alone in that dorm room. But now, as a father of a son getting ready to enter his first year of college, I do take comfort in one key point: God watches over the needs of His children. At the same time I was praying for someone to disciple me, God had placed it in the heart of one of His children to pray for someone to disciple. Then, by His providence, the Lord brought us together.

I trust that as well for my own children. In the same way I knelt down by that wooden dorm room bed on a hot August afternoon in 1980, I will kneel down by my own bed on my children’s behalf, trusting that God will take care of their needs. In an essay entitled “Releasing the Arrow,” Stu Webber compares his own children to arrows, all different but all “designed to leap from the bow and split the air. … (and) to pierce a target.”

Webber ends the essay by stating that his children were never intended to stay in the quiver of their home. ‘Yes, the home is a vehicle to fashion and straighten and true and balance the boys,” he wrote. “But when the moment comes … young men ? and young women ? were made to experience flight.”

Just like my Mom had to drive away and leave me, so Judy and I will have to drive away and leave our children ? each at their appropriate time. I’m sure there will be tears and concerns. But there should not be fear. For God is guiding the arrow. He knows their needs and will watch over them in their flight. He has a target for them to hit.

Judy and I will hit our knees on their behalf; I trust our children will hit their knees too. We have this promise from God to count on: “Call unto Me,” the Lord assures us, “and I will answer you, and show you great and might things which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) The great news is, He’s always faithful to His Word.

By Tom Wilmoth