Bicycles are a big deal when you’re a child. It means transportation, independence, accomplishment and a way to belong. While we were on the AFM training grounds preparing for our new mission, our son and daughter learned to ride without training wheels. Mom and Dad celebrated, but with a sense of sadness. Taking off the training wheels seems like a rite of passage as they, and we, move on to the next chapter of our lives.
AFM training brings together diverse families who love Christ and want to tell the world about Him. This summer, we sometimes had a total of 30 people on the grounds. Thirteen of them were children. You could look outside and see the children going around and around the property at any given time. They rode bikes for hours. They would run in the house to grab a snack, then dash back out to ride. Whenever we needed to gather the children for meals, we usually found them by spotting the pile of bicycles in front of someone’s house. This had been the most that my children had ever played outside.
Next to the parking lot in front of Morgan Hall is a bicycle rack with at least 20 bikes. These belong to the missionary children that have passed through here before us. I think about the sacrifice the children have made. Hundreds have temporarily called the AFM campus home as they enjoyed the bikes and their new friends while trying to process the upcoming changes in their lives. Those bicycles encourage what I think is the most beautiful sound here at AFM, the laughter of children.
As new bikes are added every year, with more children taking off their training wheels, new families take off their own training wheels and leave for different parts of the world. Each goes to preach the gospel. The bicycles that are left behind remind me that we are just passing through. We are but pilgrims, and this world is not our home. Those bicycles have brought us much laughter and joy. Yet, we remind our children and ourselves that what is waiting for us in the new world with Christ is far better—and that is why we are leaving our bicycles behind to tell others about Jesus.