At the end of January I wrote a post about my 19-year-old son Allen-Michael. He is in his second semester as a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. This appears to be the perfect place for him since he is immersed in the culture of his Catholic faith and, from all accounts, flourishing in that environment.
About a year ago Allen-Michael began talking about NET Ministries. At first it was just in passing, he had a good friend who had taken a year off of school to become a team member and he thought it was an interesting organization.
The word "net" became a little more frequent in our home last summer when he was on break. And, while I listened to his growing enthusiasm, I honestly didn't put much thought into his increasing desire to want to travel around the country sharing his faith with other teenagers. My attitude was kind of like a vague, "Oh that sounds interesting Mike..."
Allen-Michael was a little more adamant and forthcoming with information about the program when we visited him in October for Parent's Weekend. I think Tom and I continued to turn a mainly deaf ear, though I remember asking him why he couldn't just finish his BA and THEN traipse around the country testifying about his love of the Lord and all things Catholic. Upon reflection, I am ashamed to say I don't remember his response.
In December, when Allen-Michael was home for Christmas, he made a bigger deal of both NET Ministries and the fact that he would like to apply for a semester abroad (in Rome of course!). It was at this point Tom and I came to the understanding maybe this "NET thing" wasn't just a passing fancy for him, but something he was truly serious about.
The fact that Allen-Michael was strongly considering leaving school for a year to travel around the country and testify to young people about his Catholic faith caused more than a few discussions between Tom and I. Of course we know Allen-Michael has always had a good head on his shoulders, but the idea of his interrupting his education to drive around the country in a van with other people, staying in stranger's homes really made us pause.
A week or so ago, when Allen-Michael learned he'd been accepted into both the Rome program and NET Ministries, he emailed us three possible plans for the rest of his education. One included the course he was on and when he would graduate, the second included the semester in Rome, the third was the NET Ministries program. In addition to the layouts there was his plan for how he could finance each option.
We didn't even have time to review his plans (assuming of course he was looking for our input) before he called with his decision.
He turned down the Rome program and accepted one of only 120 positions serving on NET for the coming year.
This is a brief overview of what my son will be doing from this August until May of 2014...
Every time I watch this video I get teary-eyed.
I mean, who am I to stand in the way of something God has clearly put into his heart?! It immediately makes me think about the kids I work with that have absolutely no desire or belief in anything spiritual. What makes it more challenging is that I cannot be the one to introduce God to them (even though I believe it could be of huge benefit).
It embarrasses me to think I would consider even trying to talk Allen-Michael out of this adventure.
One suitcase, one van, nine other people...a new city every night, being part of a group of young people chosen to share their faith with other kids????? How awesome that we have young people inspired to do this!
Allen-Michael is an A student. My concern centered around his interrupting the momentum of his studies. Tom, who has always been about the financial side of life, is quite worried about how much the cost of putting off a year of school will be for him. Tuition increases every year, would St. Thomas hold his scholarship for him, he works on campus now as a peer minister and he would be losing that position (which covers his room and board), not to mention the fact that if he isn't actually in school his student loans will have to start being paid. Oh, and he will be making about $100 a month while serving on NET.
You can see why this would make us nervous.
Anyone that knows me understands that I have a great deal of faith, but am by no means a "Jesus freak" (apparently I am the mother of one though, which I say with a lot of love). I am, however, a huge believer in everything happening for a reason, so I have no choice but to embrace the fact that this is the path my child has chosen. He will no doubt learn a great deal enroute. Maybe he will decide he should have chosen a different road...or, maybe it will lead him to something even more amazing!
As I have previously stated, moms and dads are guides, and we have a short time to direct before we have to step back and watch their journey unfold.
How could I be I anything but proud of the fact that Allen-Michael wants to be a part of inspiring other kids to live their life for God's purpose! A song that bears repeating because it speaks so clearly my thoughts and feelings about his decision: