Riding a motorcycle is like playing a video game where everyone is out to kill you.
Or, at least that’s what they told us during the safety course we took, prior to each of us getting our motorcycle license. Over the course of three days, we learned about all of the things that could possibly go wrong while riding a motorcycle. And at the end of those three days? We marched down to the DMV, took our written test, received our motorcycle endorsement, and purchased the most unique bike available to us: a “vintage” Ural Gear Up.
Since then, we’ve taken the bike (affectionately named “Boris” — a throw to his Russian roots) on camping trips and regular nights out on the town. He’s been the highlight of charity rides and parades. This year for Father’s Day, Gabriel even surprised his dad with a Father-Son motorcycle trip along the Outer Banks.
Every time I put my helmet on, I feel the excitement to ride building in my core. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the sidecar or behind the handlebars, I love riding that thing.
But I wouldn’t have fallen in love with our motorcycle if I had allowed fear to stand in my way. The same goes for a lot of things I’ve done — going sky diving, getting a tattoo, moving to Japan, riding on top of a car through a game park in Kenya, snorkeling in Guam (laugh all you want over this one, I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable when I confess water is a real fear for me), shooting a gun, eating unidentified food from a street vendor in Nicaragua…
It amazes me how many people are fearful for us as we move to Uganda — both strangers we meet and friends we’ve known our entire lives. Not worried for us, but truly fearful. And it amazes me the things they say to try and scare us out of moving to East Africa. (Note: it’s not everyone. Most of our friends and family are highly supportive).
But the naysayers speak about violence, disease and hardships. They tell us to trust no one. They assume the worst of the worst will happen to me and blame Gabriel for taking me there. They tell me I’m sacrificing my career. They say they’re glad we don’t have kids, because we would be irresponsible parents if we moved our family to Uganda.
And then they tell us that they will pray we change our minds and stay on American soil.
I try to exercise patience when these conversations come up. I try to remind myself that they are unaware of the emotional roller coaster we’re already on, without the added worry of every possible danger ahead. They don’t know what it’s like to sell everything and move overseas, say goodbye to all of your loved ones (for some, maybe the last goodbye) and go live in the unfamiliar culture of a foreign land. Each night, if I’m not careful, my head hits the pillow and I start feeling a bit overwhelmed and emotionally drained from it all. Exhaustion sets in and I forget to fight against fear.
You see, the “fear spreaders” aren’t telling us anything new. Just as Gabriel and I knew the dangers of riding motorcycles before getting our Ural, we’re aware of the dangers that come with moving to Uganda.
Just because we’ve made the decision to move to Uganda, doesn’t mean we aren’t afraid and without fear. The road ahead is full of unknowns for us. And yes, sometimes those unknowns scare me.
The difference is that, when you’re not doing something out of selfish ambition, but are following a calling on your life, you can trust that you are in the safest of places. As Corrie ten Boom believed, the safest place to be is at the center of God’s will. Right now, for Gabriel and I, that place just happens to be a broken, impoverished country in East Africa.
Fear is a powerful motivator. It can make you do something you didn’t want to do. It can also prevent you from doing something you're called to do.
Fortunately, there is something greater than fear: love. My heart is already bursting with love for this country I have not yet seen and its people I have not yet met. I am not disillusioned — I know fear will continue to try and creep into our lives. I also know that having a healthy dose of fear will keep us cautious and aware of our surroundings, once we’re on the ground.
But to the naysayers trying to keep us from our calling by telling us in detail all of the terrible things that could happen to us, let me be clear:
We are not slaves to fear.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. [Joshua 1:9]