Monday, July 16, 2007

On the Way to a Mission

If you've been reading my blog over the past few weeks, you know that I have been fulfilling one of my personal interests by spending my day off (Friday) by taking any of my kids who are willing to come with me and traveling to area scenic or historic sites. Our Fletcher Family Friday Fun Days have been a good investment of my time and energy, although they are fraught with the typical squabbles and irritations all families face when engaged in travel. I now understand why my mother was reluctant to go any kind of distance with both my sister and I together, since I was a constant irritant and instigator of emotionally difficult moments. While my understanding of spiritual life does not include karma, if I were such a believer it would be clearly displayed for me on a regular basis, especially with our second-to-the-youngest son who is so much like I was at 12 you would think we had a genetic relationship. And no, I cannot believe that environment has made him so like myself, but I wonder sometimes. But I digress.

This past Friday we left home an hour earlier than usual on our trek to Montevideo, Minnesota (which is a solid 2.5 hours from our home), in search of the Lac qui Parle Mission, one of the earliest outposts in territorial Minnesota (dating back to the 1820s), serving as a fur trading post and as a mission for Christians to bring their faith to the native peoples. Having lived in the western part of Minnesota for seven years (and now for a year in another part of Minnesota with more population), I had forgotten how quiet and "empty" are those spaces. In our journey we could travel for a number of miles before meeing another vehicle or seeing any human presence, so by the time we arrived at our destination, we were all a bit underwhelmed.

We drove into the gravel parking lot which was rapidly becoming encroached with the surrounding grasses. While the grass had been mowed, the quiet, "empty" feeling of the prairies enveloped us as we stepped out of our van. Ricardo, our family introvert and the one least likely in any given situation to say much of anything immeidately asked, "What are we doing, Dad?" "We're on the way to see the Lac qui Parle Mission, Ric," I responded with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. "But, dad, where is it?" he questioned in his charming Guatemalan-American accent. "Ummm. It's up there on the hill," I informed our small group as I gestured toward a replica building a few hundred yards in the distance. "That's it?" the chorus of young voices responded. "Yep, I guess that's the Mission up there. Let's get walking," I instructed our group.

So we trudged up the trail to the Mission, all of us feeling a bit deflated after the hours together in the van to see something so historically important and so visually miniscule. Our tour of the interior took less than five minutes, although it did include an opportunity for Sadie to try her hand at "preaching" and Dominyk an opportunity to "play" the organ. I quickly scanned the glass displays which spoke of the early years of the mission, the important work the missionaries did in helping to translate the Scriptures into native Dakota language, and the ways the Mission served as an outpost nearly two hundred years ago.

Looking back now on the day we spent traveling to visit a quiescent historical site, I wonder if it was a good investment of our time and energy (not to mention the gas money), but I recognize again how difficult it is for any of us to feel as enthused about another's mission as they themselves do. The early fur traders and Christian missionaries had a distinct sense of purpose in mind when they formed their small community in what is now western Minnesota. Based on the accounts I have read, they had a passion for their work, and they found fulfillment in their mission. Now, nearly two centuries later, with their mission having been completed, it is simply a place of historical recognition and remembrance, a quiet location on a prairie hill overlooking a river.

It helps me understand a little better those who do not share the same sense of mission that Claudia and I have concerning adoption. Because we are so intimately involved in the adoption experience and the adoptive world, I sometimes forget that there are others around us who do not "get" it. While they are respectful, ask appropriate questions, and often provide the support they can muster, their mission is not necessarily ours. It doesn't mean that they are impervious to what we do, nor do they think it unnecessary or unimportant; they simply are not in the same place as we are. And while I would hate to draw this comparison too far (I do not, for example, think the mission of adoption is some historic relic that can only be appreciated from a distance), it does help me to understand why those of us passionately involved in adoption work do not always receive the enthusiastic support we think we deserve. And it helps me to to think of ways to be more supportive to the mission of others that might not necessarily share my particular passions.

While our trip to Lac qui Parle Mission was not one of our summer's most exciting trips, it has given me the opportunity to think about mission in general, and that makes it worth the time and the money we invested.

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