Earlier this week, our second son, Gabe, returned to NET Ministries for a third year, this time as a staff member and traveling team supervisor. When he graduated from high school, college wasn’t calling him; God was. We are blessed to live in a Catholic community with a history and large appetite for supporting such missionaries—the past two years he has been fully funded, enabling extra donations to flow to teammates and friends with less support. He has crisscrossed the state and much of the country, logging tens of thousands of miles on lots of prayer and little sleep, fueled by egg bakes and pizzas, sloppy joes and taco bars. He has shared the word of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit with thousands of middle- and high-schoolers.
Coronavirus brought him home early this spring, and we were glad to have him. He helped tremendously around the house, schooling his youngest sister, eight-year-old Lily; discovering new recipes and cooking several great meals; helping me get into the habit of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and generally doing whatever we asked of him.
Indeed, Jodi and I both noticed that if we asked the kids to do something, by the time the other three looked from one to the other to see who was going to move, Gabe was often up and gone, without a word of complaint. I asked him if he had decided to work on obedience this summer, and he looked at me quizzically.
“I mean, I should always do that, shouldn’t I?” he asked. “I didn’t decide to work on it specifically, but yes, I am working on it.”
We drove him to a NET-owned home dubbed The Bastille in a beautifully wooded neighborhood in South St. Paul on Wednesday, where he will live in community with the other young men on staff this year. (Providentially, Bastille Day is also his birthday, a good omen to be sure!) He will travel several times this year, primarily to the West Coast, where the teams he will help to oversee are based (and where he’s wanted to be sent since he began his NET adventures)—but much of the year he will be just 45 minutes away.
We met two of his housemates when we dropped him off. His actual roomate, Francis, was the youngest NET staff member this past year, but declared that, at not yet 20 years old, Gabe may be the youngest NET staffer ever.
Gabe just smiled.
We unloaded his belongings, said goodbye and left without taking a photo this year. In never occured to me until later: He seemed perfectly comfortable in a room and house he had never before entered.
He was leaving home to return home.
God bless you, son, and your fellow NET missionaries. We love you, and we are proud of you.