The crowded airplane barely comes to rest at the gate before passengers push hips and shoulders into the aisles.  I stay seated, my hands folded calmly across my lap.  It is not the weariness of nearly 20 travel hours that keep me in seat 34B.  Nor do I feel anxious about separating myself from the friendships, sights, sounds and experiences of the past nine months.  In fact, my heart quickens at the thought of breaching the vast expanses of language, culture, politics, and economy back to That Which Is Familiar.  But I’m not yet ready to return to normal, right here on the airplane, where people thinly mask their irritation for delays, maintain personal space as a sacred right, and live inside a safe, secure, sanitized emotional bubble.  It is a normal that seems so… trite.  So I pause, and wait, and hold my wife’s hand, and give a secret wink to my kids.

Children grow and change right before our eyes.  They experience imperceptible changes in height, verbal patterns, and facial structure that mark the journey from birth to adulthood.  Insignificant daily changes add up – over nine months the differences can be staggering.  So it was living in Nicaragua.  The culture had shaped and molded me, little-by-little.  And now, sitting here on this airplane, about to re-enter my home “culture”, I am just beginning to notice how much I’ve changed.

*****

One year ago today the most epic chapter in my life ended where it began – at SeaTac Airport, the gateway to a new dimension.  Leaving the US in August of 2010, I crossed over into a world where the rules I knew didn’t apply.  Learning the language provided a pinch of understanding.  Making friends added a dusting of comfort.  Volunteering among the poorest of the poor infused a heap of compassion.  But still, even after nine months I felt discord between the normal life experienced by 40 million people in Central America, a mere shadow of the 4 billion people in the developing world, and the echos of my own expectations.

My favorite books are page-turners, the end of each chapter escalating to higher stakes and offering greater treasures just around the next page.  The author of my life is using the same technique as He crafts the narrative of my thirty-seventh year on Earth, seventeenth year of marriage, fourteenth year of fatherhood, and the first six months of my calling.  In November of 2011, I began pouring my heart and soul into building an organization that will make a difference in the lives of others.  This year more than 500,000 pre-teen children in Central America (equivalent to the entire first through sixth grade population of Washington State) will drop out of school, their chance at escaping the cycle of poverty crumbling before their eyes.  Furthermore, children born into families among the poorest 20% of the region complete seven fewer years of school than their cohorts at the opposite, wealthier end, and the gap is growing.  The stakes are high, and the tension is building.

Breaking the cycle of poverty for the children of Central America will take work, creativity, passion and persistence.  I am thankful for a core group of supporters and do-ers who stepped onto the pages of this adventure before the plot was fully formed.  And I am thankful for those who have provided wisdom, direction, and tough love along the way.  We have come a long way in six short months, but this will be a marathon, not a sprint.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.  ~African Proverb

There is a place for you in this story.  If you want to make a difference in the lives of the children in Central America, if you desire more meaning and fulfillment through international compassion and service, if you are ready to surrender to the adventure, you just have to write yourself in.  But be warned, you won’t come back feeling normal…

Want to know more?  Let’s have coffee…

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