A few years ago, Jana and I were at a church conference where one of the speakers was Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission. The mission of IJM is to rescue people from slavery and human trafficking. Gary was talking about finding the courage to end slavery, which is worse today than any time in history.
When Gary was ten years old, his dad took Gary and his two older brothers hiking on Mount Rainier. He was having a good time until they came to the point where the paved trail ended. There was a big warning sign with all the dangers that lay ahead.
Steep drop offs. Loose footing. Bears and other wildlife. Beware crossing streams and creeks. Watch out for sudden storms.
Trying to be nonchalant, he told his Dad that he thought it would be fun to spend the day in the visitors’ center. His dad told him about the adventure they were going to have, and said, “I’ll be with you.” But Gary wasn’t buying it. He went back, while his dad and brothers went ahead.
When he got back to the visitors’ center, it was nice and warm. There was a video playing, showing what it was like to climb to the top of the mountain. There was a hot chocolate machine which he liked. There were lots of other exhibits. At first, he had a great time.
But as the day wore on, time dragged by. The video was on a loop, reminding him for the umpteenth time, what he was missing. It was the worst day of his life.
When his dad and brothers came back, their cheeks were red from the adventure, their eyes glistening as they told of all the things they had seen and experienced together.
His dad asked him how his day had been. And do you think he admitted being bored? Did he tell his dad he was sorry for having been such a coward? No, he lied, and said he had a great time.
Even then he knew he had missed out on a special day with his father.
Gary said, “You miss out on the joy in safety. The church doesn’t thrive in safety. God doesn’t show up in power in safety.”
The sign of Immanuel means that God invited us to be part of the greatest adventure of all. God came to us and said, “I’ll be with you.”
As Gary Haugen said, “Let God show up in power. Go where you can only go with God.”