Book

Summary
His life was well-ordered and predictable, but his heart yearned for adventure. This book chronicles the exciting story of a man who followed his dream to Africa.  Lon Garber exchanged his ordinary life as an associate pastor of an emerging mega-church for an extraordinary life in the African wild.

The story contains all of the elements of an epic fairy tale come to life: overcoming obstacles in the midst of danger, intrigue and a series of miraculous circumstances. It's also an intimate account of Lon's emotional and spiritual journey and gives insight into how an ordinary life can reach extraordinary heights of adventure and purpose.

The Leap answers questions we all ask of life: Can God use me?  What risks will I need to take to discover His plan? and Will He be waiting to catch me when I jump into His will?

Lon will challenge you to evaluate your own life story and inspire you to reach for your dreams in spite of the obstacles you will certainly face along the way.

Setting

The story unfolds in Namibia, a young country in southwest Africa.  Namibia houses the oldest desert in the world, with its stunning red sand dunes plunging into the deep blue sea.  Its small population and endless savannah make it the perfect habitat for African game.  

The Garbers settled in the highlands town of Okahandja and began working with the poor in the Five Rand Camp.

Excerpt

I love adventure. Several years ago, our family drove the bushveldt of Etosha National Park, in search of African game.  When you imagine Etosha, don't think wild animal theme park. Located in southern Africa, Etosha is roughly the size of Switzerland. During our two-day visit, we saw a plethora of wild creatures from ant bear to zebra, and even the rare Damara dik-dik; a veritable feast for fauna-viewing eyes. Still, we hadn't seen either of the Dark Continent's most majestic species: elephant or lions

As I drove our double-cab bakkie (pickup truck) down a dusty track leading to a waterhole, I thought, "This is our last chance to see the big prize. We'll soon leave without the girls having seen lions in the wild." My wife, Val, and I had seen them many times, but our daughters, Jenny and Jamie, visiting from the States, hadn't yet experienced the thrill. In early morning, lions are on the move, in search of water and breakfast. By 9:00 a.m., the sun begins heating the savanna in earnest and the lions hunker down for an all-day nap. In the tall, golden grass, they're impossible to see. The lions nap time was creeping near; this waterhole was our last chance before leaving the park.
All of a sudden, I heard this strange gurgling from the back seat: "Luh . . . loh . . . lih . . . lie." Jenny was trying to say something, but she couldn't get her lips, teeth and tongue working together. Finally, the word "LIONS" exploded from her mouth. We looked and two female lions bounded along gracefully right beside the truck, matching our speed and watching us, seemingly chatting amongst themselves as they ran:

“Hey, Elsa how do they look to you?” 

“Well, they're pretty skinny, but at least there are four of them. And they're Shilumbu; you know how I love white meat. I think they'll make a nice breakfast, and besides, we haven’t eaten in three days."

            As I slowed the truck, they slowed too. When I stopped, they stopped. They were obviously interacting with us, inviting us to join them, not for breakfast, but rather as breakfast. Their pride of five had been traversing a diagonal animal track that intersected the road just as we were driving by. So the lead two lions dovetailed in with our vehicle and ran beside us for a quite a ways.

How can I describe the feeling of "playing" with two grown lions as they ran with us through the African veldt? I can't; capturing that experience in words is as difficult as Jenny trying to initially get the word “lions” out of her mouth. That brief encounter was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. We weren’t just watching them; we were in relationship with them, however briefly. That experience captured in a moment the sense of adventure that originally drew me to Africa. It awakened in me the thrill of being fully alive as a participant rather than a spectator, intensified by the rush that only comes in the face of manageable danger. That exhilarating event is forever imprinted on my soul; the thrill of a lifetime; one of the greatest moments I can ever imagine.

            When we stopped for a photo opportunity, they stood there waiting for us to open the doors and invite them in for a snack. We declined. The doors represented the “manageable” part of the danger. Eventually they tired of the game and returned to the other three lions (two more females and the alpha male) and continued on their way to the waterhole. I hope we enriched their day even half as much as they did ours. The fact that our whole family shared this moment magnified its value; a story to tell the grandkids how their mommies were almost eaten by lions. By the fifth grandchild, the story will have grown to include how I snatched Jenny from its very jaws, with its putrid breath and blood-stained teeth just inches from my face. I love being an Opa (granddad); such tales I'm gonna’ tell.




Still invigorated by our romp with the lions, we stumbled across a bull elephant feasting on the top leaves of an acacia tree. If there is an animal with more majesty, I haven’t seen it. Even the lion gives way to the elephant at the waterhole. This moment was the cherry on top of our morning delight. We’d come face-to-face with the wonders of God’s creation that morning and we gratefully thanked Him for the show.

We’d just seen elephants and lions up close in their natural habitat. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if every day could match those few moments? But why not? Are there are so few lions in life, or are we just too lazy or scared to look for them? Why do people live life constantly in safe mode? One dreams of adventure from the couch and sighs. Without realizing it, people spend their whole lives in the safety zone; never venturing into the wondrous world beyond. Why? Everyone says, “Life’s an adventure,” but then settles for living the adventure vicariously through books, TV, and movies. They don’t plan for life to be so mundane; it just happens. But why? Is life meant to just happen to us? Is one supposed to watch one’s own life fly by, almost as if that life were happening to someone else? Or does God want individuals to take an active part in their own destiny?   

We all want life to be exciting and adventurous, but we also want it to be safe. We don’t quit our job before finding another one. We make hotel reservations because we can’t imagine getting too close to nightfall without a place to stay. We prefer to view our lions in cages behind iron bars. We stay at home rather than enjoy the wonders of other worlds and other people. We sometimes avoid activities that look exciting because we’re afraid of getting hurt. Is life really intended to be lived this way, or are we killing ourselves slowly with our need for comfort and safety? Doesn’t the Bible say we are fearfully and wonderfully made? Is this the abundant, joyous life God planned for us, or is our fear of the unknown interrupting the prosperous life God promised, the life that gives us hope and a future?

It’s so easy to fill our day with work that pays the bills, but leaves us otherwise empty. Then there are car pools to drive, meals to prepare, sickness to nurse and all the other necessities that fill our daily routines. Someone once said, “The problem with life is that it’s so daily.” These activities are necessary, but they can also rob us of our sense of wonder, our realization that God has more in store for us than just surviving another day. By paying close attention, we can see the small wonders in our daily routines and draw the pleasure God intends for us in the midst of them. In these moments, we enjoy the priceless treasures our kids share with us in their normal conversation. We can linger over looks from our spouse, savor over-the-fence conversations with a neighbor or chance interactions with a stranger. We can pause and see beauty all around us in the midst of otherwise hectic schedules. There is wonder everywhere if we slow down just a bit to look and listen carefully.

But these small treasures aren’t the same as living life with a sense of destiny, a life that transcends normality and reaches for the stars in some small way. Isn’t it true God calls us to rise above the daily grind, grab hold of our future and refuse to let go? Isn’t that why we are so enamored with heroic stories where ordinary people follow their quest, rise above their fears and do extraordinary things? There is a voice within calling us to a place we don’t naturally want to go; to a place neither safe nor comfortable. That is the voice of God calling us to trust Him and live the life He so gladly wants to give us, an abundant and exciting life where every day is an adventure we share with Him.

This book is about interrupting the process of growing old gracefully. It is about bolting out of the rocking chair and getting off the porch. This book will challenge you to pay attention to the major intersections of life and realize the large and small choices you make determine the quality and importance of the life you live. Life doesn’t just happen. You choose the life you get every day by the choices you make.

God intends for us to live an adventurous life; an exciting life and even at times, a dangerous life. In C.S. Lewis’ classic book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver tells the children they are destined to meet Aslan, the lion. Susan and Lucy want to know if the lion is safe. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.  He's the King I tell you."  Those who answer His call, quickly learn God isn't safe, but He is good.

There are times when the only way to experience the goodness, and even greatness, God has planned for us is to walk through the doorway of danger. At some level, we all know that. That’s why we love movies filled with these elements. But why don’t we choose to live that kind of life ourselves? Why are we satisfied with living that grand life vicariously through books, movies and our imagination? What gives us pause and turns us back? Why do we continue to answer the call of safety and turn away from a quest for adventure? This book is about answering when God calls and trusting Him to keep you safe in the adventurous life He’s chosen for you. To read further is dangerous, but it is also good.