When I think of back to school, I think of stocking up on pencils, pens, notebooks, and a new backpack. My kids have always enjoyed purchasing their back to school supplies but this year, back to school has taken on a whole new meaning. Sixteen years of practice could not prepare me for this year. Supplies were a little different this year. They consisted of “survival” American foods such as easy mac, cereal, and cereal bars. We also purchased a thermometer and an assortment of over the counter medications in case of a minor emergency. Plane tickets, passport, and visa were in order. This year, my daughter, who is a junior in college, is spending the fall semester in China. She is not traveling with a group but is doing this solo. While there, she will be attending classes just like she would at home. Some of those will be taught in English and others in Chinese. Her Chinese speaking skills should improve tremendously. Even though she is a seasoned traveler, she had a tremendous challenge trying to pack all of her necessities for the next 15 weeks into two suitcases, which could not exceed 50 pounds each I might add. She passed that challenge with flying colors. She had 3 pounds to spare! In the few weeks before her departure,we went over lots of essential information. We talked about safety. We talked about our plans for communicating. We talked about school. We talked about shopping. We talked about surviving the long flight. And we talked about being a blessing to those less fortunate around her.
A friend asked me if it was emotional at the airport. I told her yes, but not the way she expected. While at the airport we had a little time to wait between checking luggage and the time she needed to go to the gate. As we waited, we saw a group of soldiers assembling upstairs. In just a few moments, the soldiers were led by the USO to the gate area. They received a standing ovation. That was the point I nearly lost it. I silently prayed for them as they paraded by. I prayed for their safety and protection. I thanked God for their willingness to serve. I knew that my daughter could be one of those. I am thankful that because they are willing to go and serve, my daughter is able to go also. I thanked God that we live in a country with freedom to come and go when we choose.
I know that this semester will be a learning experience for our entire family. It will be painful, but our faith will grow.