What are you determined to do before you die? Many of you will likely have experiences and adventures on your bucket list. But what if there were significant obstacles between you and your dream? Vision’s Chaplain, Rob Mann, recently helped a friend achieve one of his lifelong goals, and learnt a lot about himself and God along the way.
Rob’s son Andrew had always wanted to cast a fishing line off the tip of Cape York, Australia’s northernmost point. His original plan was to ride his motorbike all the way from Brisbane to Cairns, drive from there to Cape York and back, then ride home again, a journey of 6,500 kilometres. “Well, that’s really stupid,” Rob said to him.
Rob suggested instead that he take Andrew’s motorbike to Cairns on a trailer, so Andrew could fly in and ride from there. Andrew loved the idea. He soon learned that his workmate, John, also shared his dream. But there was a problem. John had motor neurone disease, a debilitating condition which gradually causes complete paralysis. Already suffering impaired mobility, he had less than two years left to live.
John felt he couldn’t join them on their trip, fearing he’d be a burden. “Listen,” Rob said. “If Andrew and I can’t do everything we can do to give you the chance to do something like that, we’re pretty weak human beings.”
John flew into Cairns with Andrew, then joined Rob in his four-wheel-drive, while Andrew rode up ahead. The journey was far from smooth. Several times, Andrew had to conduct emergency repairs on his bike, drilling holes in the thermostat to prevent overheating, and disassembling the carburetor to fix a fuel leak. “The ability to face adversity, and find a problem, and then to apply himself and fix it, I learnt something that day.”
The trip also gave Rob and John plenty of time to talk. “That man wasn’t a Christian,” Rob said, “and I broached spiritual issues. A number of times he didn’t really want to talk about it, but I’ll guarantee, before he dies, he’ll be a believer.”
Through the people they met along the way, they also got a sense of how big and diverse a country Australia is. They crossed paths with Stuart, one of Vision’s technicians, working to bring the Word to the places we forget, but God never does. They were cheered on by an army unit they met, and Rob had some long conversations about faith and belief with the Commanding Officer.
Their meeting reminded Rob how many people are out there with questions waiting to be answered. “If we in the Church could learn to speak the language of the street, with the accent of the cross, we’ll be much more effective, and be able to really communicate with and love people with things that they want to know.”
“When you get to the tip of Cape York,” Rob explained, “you park your car in an area, and then it’s about 700 meters to the actual tip. And so John said ‘Look, I’m slow. You and Andrew go ahead, and I’ll make my own way around’.”
So father and son headed off with their rods to achieve Andrew’s dream of throwing a lure off the end of Australia. Of course, usually nobody ever catches anything, but today, something special happened. “On his second cast, he’s hooked a really big crayfish. I felt like hitting him round the head with my fishing rod.”
When John failed to join them, Rob and Andrew split up to search for him. Rob found him waiting, dejected, by the car. He’d tried twice to walk those final steps, but he just couldn’t make it. But Andrew wasn’t ok with that. So he helped John to walk around the rocks to his destination. “That was the high point of the whole trip,” Rob said.
“You will never know at you guys have done for him,” John’s wife told Rob on the phone that night. Telling the story of that day, Rob still felt emotional. “Regardless of the fact that there we things that we didn’t do that we would’ve done, the fact that he got there, and he achieved that, and he can die with having been there, it’s worth it all.”
Rob came home with a new determination to take every opportunity God gives him, to reach his dying breath with no fuel left in the tank. “Like Paul said before he died, I’ve run the race. I’ve done everything that I was given to do. I don’t want to die with the song still in me.”
“When God called us to this Christian life, he called us to an adventure. He called us to a journey. He called us to fight battles, and he called us to live to the fullest, not to sit immobile and dull. It’s meant to be interesting. It’s meant to be exciting. It’s meant to be adventurous. Go and do it!”
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