The second visit to Africa was when James was 14. By this time, James’s adoptive family had grown to include three more adopted siblings. The family of eight made the overseas trek together. Up until this time, James had been under the impression that his biological father had passed away years ago. In conversation with his biological mother, he learned that his biological father was still living and that arrangements could be made for them to meet.
When his biological father arrived at the compound where they were staying, he extended his hand in greeting to his son, with three other kids in tow. It was their only point of contact in his ten-day visit.
Back in New York, life resumed as usual. James’s family had moved to a larger property with more acreage when the family had expanded. James helped tend to the animals and continued in his hobbies of baking and playing piano. His family’s house church began to get together with another house church in the area on a monthly basis and his community continued to grow.
In his high school years, James began to look for new ways of self-expression, and he started to test the boundaries his parents had set in place. Conflict arose between James and his parents. As their communication began to break down, James began making choices that ultimately broke their bond of trust.
James’s parents started looking for out-of-home placement for their son and presented Christian Encounter to James one evening. In the face of flying to the other side of the country, James promised he would give counseling another try. His parents were unwavering in their decision. In a matter of days James and his father were on a plane to California.
It took some time for James to adjust to the new rules and to a new community. He had demonstrated great courage in flying across the country, but settling in and building new relationships with complete strangers didn’t come easily for him.
Not even a month after his arrival, James experienced the Agony Ride - the Ranch’s 24-hour bike-a-thon. He witnessed another community of strangers show up and willingly sacrifice for him, whom they had never met. That was significant to him.
At first the structure of the Ranch felt restricting, but over time, James discovered that he felt more free. There was a freedom to be fully himself, to share what was on his mind. He experienced this time and time again, and saw that was others’ experience as well.
“I think I’ve made a lot of growth. The biggest thing has been being able to be vulnerable with people and being able to use my voice.”
James enjoyed the adventure of the four-day snow camping trip earlier this year, learning the value of teamwork and making new memories together. He has also had the opportunity to watch the Sacramento Kings play live, as well as getting to take a trip out to the Pacific Ocean last fall. And to kick off his senior year of high school this month, James and his peers will be participating in a 15-day backpacking trip in the Tahoe National Forest.
Though we may not know it at the time, sometimes God gives us the courage to step into the next thing even though we may be kicking and screaming on the inside. And when we are ready, he will give us the faith to step into the next thing, too. Pray that God will do this for James.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6