And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
-Mark 16:15

Savannah is in Zimbabwe, Africa.

She left after graduating high school and spending the summer working to save money for this trip. We hope that all our children make the decision to explore this very great earth and learn what the face of our one true God looks like in other cultures. She is learning so very much about life, grace… and sadness.

Savannah is steady, introspective, and would nearly always prefer a good book and a cup of coffee over a social engagement – especially if that activity includes strangers. She opens up to be incredibly nerdy with her close friends and family, but she holds her emotions close to her heart, and I don’t think anyone could ever accuse her of oversharing.

Leaving our family was hard for our sweet firstborn. She didn’t realize how much she relied on our support until she was an ocean and a continent away. As a natural introvert, being known and understood comes at a high price, but Savannah was excited to press into a new relationship with her host family. She knew it would take work and that there would be difficulties – unforeseen and obvious. What she wasn’t prepared for was Ariko.

Ariko, a 14-year old Zimbabwean boy, is one of Savannah’s students. He is kind, tenderhearted, laughs at Savannah’s antics, comes from a large family with several younger siblings, and achingly reminds our daughter of her lost relationship with Asher. This sweetness of provision by our Lord is all at once an acute reminder of the grief Savannah (and our entire family) is still reeling from, but also a blessed sign that all 14-year olds are not tortured with an ugliness that presses them into sin and pain the likes of which our own son has succumbed.

Our internet connection is shaky, at best, but last week Savannah and I managed a brief phone call. The sound of her voice was small as she shared with me about Ariko. But it wasn’t small because our connection was bad. It was a moment of excruciating awareness that brought our daughter to these questions: What would Asher be like if he had never been hurt by Drake? What would our lives be like if Asher did not choose to abuse his own siblings?

“Momma, I don’t know how to process this…”

It’s not as if we haven’t all asked ourselves these two simple questions a million times. We have. But Asher is our only experience. He led and informed everything that we thought we knew about boys. And Nathan is so much younger than Asher that he still can’t truly change our experience of male adolescence. We are years away from puberty for our second son.

So what’s the big deal about Ariko and his role in bringing these questions to Savannah?

Ariko is a real person, and his very being marks an unavoidable contrast between healthy and unhealthy in a way that is not conceptual or hypothetical. It is forcing our sweet girl to wrestle with the loss of her family, her brother, and the relationship she thought she had with Asher – and to do so a million miles from home with no one but Jesus to hear her cries.

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
-Psalm 10:17