Has anyone else been obsessed with the story of Ben Lecomte in the news recently, or is it just me?
I came across a blurb about him a couple weeks back and was so mesmerized by what I read that I have been following him ever since. I literally sent him a good luck email when he first started out – “There’s a mom and three girls praying for you from Africa! Be safe!” (He didn’t write back.) I check his blog on a regular basis. The past week it has been daily blurbs about jellyfish and seasickness and really cold water.
Because Ben Lecomte is currently swimming across the Pacific Ocean. Not sailing. Not rowing.
With a snorkel, really thick wetsuit and some fins…..swimming.
Lecomte is swimming to raise awareness about human impact on oceans, to test the limits of human endurance, just to see if it can be done. He estimates this 5,700 mile expedition from Tokyo to San Francisco will take about six months. He swims eight hours a day. He burns about 10,000 calories a day. He wears a bracelet that emits a magnetic pulse to repel sharks. (Because, as if 30 foot waves and 50-degree water weren’t daunting enough he will be swimming right through migration areas of great whites).
Chances are, when you and I drink our morning coffee and scroll sleepily through the news, he is swimming. When we putter down the road in traffic, he is swimming. When we take a hot shower or slow jog or snack break he is either preparing to, recovering from, or still ceaselessly swimming.
Now, whether you think that is a little bit stupid use of your time (like my husband) or an incredible test of the human spirit (like me) either way he’s doing something undeniably impressive.
But as it turns out, so are the eight people in the sailboat behind him.
Because even though he may be the only guy in the water all day, he is not the only person spending half a year on the open ocean eating dehydrated vegetables. There is a whole team of people keeping him healthy, focused, funded and, quite frankly alive. There are people who monitor his heart-rate, keep an eye on the weather, warn passing ships not to plough over the guy in the water. They sail the boat he sleeps on, communicate with the outside world, and spend hours each day bobbing along in a lead dinghy so he can keep an eye on something other than the watery horizon and stay true to his course.
Ben Lecomte is a part of a team. And without them he would be dead in the water.
For the better part of the last decade I have been a missionary among refugees in North Africa. It has been both far less exotic and far more so than it sounds. There have been more days than I care to admit that I have thought, “Ah, so this is it how it all ends. So much for that.” And many other days where I have been brought to my knees by the honor of getting to witness what God is doing in parts of the world that most of the world never sees.
It is gut-wrenching.
And without a team of people in boats all around me I would have been dead in the water a long time ago too.
The longer I live the more I realize that life calls for a team of boat people. Because, whether or not God calls you to a refugee camp in North Africa or a small town in Arkansas, a board room or a baby’s bedroom, a hospital on the West Coast or a clinic in Southeast Asia, if you are swimming with Jesus, you are in for a really long swim.
And long swims call for boat people.
Many of you reading this are my boat people. Sometimes you have jumped in the water with me and helped me keep pace: you’ve listened to me process over skype, you’ve engaged the emoticon ridden Whatsapp messages at midnight, you’ve loved on my culturally-confused kids, you’ve given sacrificially, you’ve come to visit.
And many more of you may never even know my real name. But you have written a few encouraging words that I carry around with me like a pretty stone in my pocket. You’ve prayed, even if just in passing, for my family and the people we live with who you will never meet this side of heaven. Through your love and prayers and support in one small way or another, you have been a boat on the horizon showing me which direction to keep kicking towards.
For your presence in the water with me I am eternally grateful.
The sea is teeming with swimmers.
We all take our turns cheering from the hull of the boat and coursing through the water on our own, rotating rhythmically through our own seasons in the life of faith.
It’s tempting to join Elijah on the mountain some days, on our faces before a whispering God in a cave. We’ve all felt his words in our own throats. “I am the only one!” And the same voice that breathed into Elijah’s ears breaths into ours: Oh Child, I have thousands upon thousands….
Together, from the most impoverished refugee camps in the world to the greatest cities on earth, there are swimmers. Men and women new to the water need your prayers cheering them on from the boats beside them. And I assure you, there are many people out there whose lives you could only struggle to imagine, who are calling out blessings from the boats beside you.
Keep loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, blessing instead of cursing, welcoming little children, giving only to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, grieving with those who grieve, rejoicing with those who rejoice, denying yourselves, praying, washing, asking, seeking, knocking, and straining ahead for that narrow door.
Because we are doing it together.
May God continue to bless you and yours as you live for him.