Family—we are constantly reminded of the importance of the family unit to everyday living. How much more important it is to those who are undertaking a treacherous journey, as were the settlers who by the hundreds of thousands in the 1830s through the 1860s started out from Independence, Missouri to find a new life in the far west.
Those who were not part of a nuclear family still traveled with others as groups of 30 or so people headed west together. Some had not even met until they assembled themselves into wagon trains at Independence and elected one of their number to serve as leader. The western half of the trail roughly follows what is I-80 today. What we traverse in a matter of a few days took them about six months, through arid plains, treacherous mountains, and a perilous crossing at the Columbia River.
We were privileged to learn a little about these pioneers at the Oregon Trail Visitors’ Center outside Baker City, Oregon. As we looked out across the arid prairie and the mountains in the distance, we were sobered with the knowledge that at one time, one would see graves every 80 yards along the trail. As we stood on a section of the original trail, we were filled with admiration with a sobering realization of what it cost these families to make the journey.
As we journeyed across Idaho from Wyoming, we also visited with family. We were delighted to visit my niece Ginger, her husband Phil, and children Kaylee and Wesley in Boise. Being separated by many miles, we had not seen them since the children, who are now 14 and 12 respectively, were very small. We enjoyed getting to know all of them a little better, and hope that they got to know us better too. Ginger is the one who got the whole Gardner clan started on letterboxing, and we had fun finding some of her boxes, as we had enjoyed finding her dad’s boxes in Iowa. If you are a letterboxer, you definitely need to find Ginger’s highly-rated National Treasure series!
We also visited Dave and Debbie Bochman, who have been members of our spiritual family ever since, as a young Moody Aviation student couple, they attended the fledgling Johnson City Alliance Church in the early 1980s. What a joy to catch up with them and hear what the Lord is doing through them in their current ministry, called Aphesis, and also to hear about their children and grandchildren.
As we crossed into Oregon, following the Columbia River Valley, the terrain changed and we were refreshed by the stunning views along the river, first from the Oregon side on I-84, and then from the Washington side on the Lewis and Clark Highway. We visited a replica of Stonehenge near the town of Maryhill, Washington, built in memory of the local men who died in World War I, and thought again of the sacrifices made by others so that we could be free to enjoy the beauties of this country today.
Arriving in Keyport, Washington, we were blessed to spend over a week with my Brother Steve and his wife Marie, something I’d been looking forward to ever since they moved from Michigan to Washington in 1998. What a joy it was to look out over Liberty Bay each morning, watching the boats going in and out, and then to travel with them to explore the beauties of the Olympic Peninsula and the unique city of Seattle, across Puget Sound from their home.
We are grateful today for our natural family, and the blood ties that bind us to them; for our national family, who have made this country what it is today; and for our spiritual family, who are our “forever family,” part of the great family of God who will spend eternity together. We are truly blessed.