(In 2004, I backpacked across 22 countries exploring the world with eyes wide open. I wanted to discover the Kingdom of God. Driven by the inspiration of my faith and its humanitarian impulse, I joined to other young men and discovered the declining face of Western Christendom. We also wandered outside the borders of the West, and we could not have been ready for what we found.
My life as I knew it was ending. When a physician attaches, “terminal” to your record, you know that nothing will ever be the same. As wise men and women have noticed over centuries, new life, better life, emerges only when we fall like the seed to its grave. Only then can we resurface. As we pulled up to the gateway through which all must pass, I knew then why they called this place, “terminal.” Any world traveler must pass through one if they hope to journey onwards.
As a wanderer of the globe, you live and die, and live again every new day, and as the road leads onward, the path to self discovery must pass through some of the darkest paths. As naïve boys we approached our first gate with far less trembling than was merited for a 7 month journey to lands and places our parents had never dreamed of. This journey would destroy me from the inside out.
O’Hare’s “International Terminal 5” would be the first of a hundred gateways for us this year. We arrived with our mothers and loved ones by our sides. The ticket desk attendant printed all our 31 tickets and stapled them together in a book that would be worth more than gold these next months. As we kissed our loved ones goodbye near the point of no return, my mother must have had her worries reinforced when the attendant came running after us. “Sir”, she yelled, “you forgot your tickets!” I chuckled in order to mask my nervous embarrassment. This first expression of wanderer’s grace came to me as a warning: “you are on your own now, boy. Shed your careless ways.”
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