As a kid, I dreamed of adventure. I figured I’d become an explorer. Or a detective. Or better yet, a cowgirl who wrangled live dinosaurs. That would be cool. But I never dreamed that a single seminar on the topic of origins would become the rocket fuel to ultimately launch me on a wilder adventure than I could have imagined—one that wrapped around the entire planet.
But let me back up. Growing up in a Christian homeschool family, I acquired an early taste not only for adventure, but also for missions and ministry. At age 11, in fact, I journaled that I was born to be “on the road, and on the mission field.” Somehow, I’d spend my future making a difference. Fighting for justice. Doing something important.
But do you know one thing I didn’t consider “important?” The creation-evolution controversy. Yeah, I’d seen creation displays before—fossil collections, Grand Canyon photos and model arks. These concepts, I decided, made a nice hobby for someone’s great uncle somewhere, but didn’t relate much to the real world—the world I wanted to impact. But, as you might have read in my first article, something happened to change my mind (and life) at age 14. It all began when I heard a seminar by Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham.
From its first photos showing boarded-up European churches, the seminar seized my mind by its coat collar and shook me awake. Eyes wide open, I listened as Ken Ham tied the collapse of Western Christianity to a long-running cultural attack on God’s word, beginning in Genesis. He explained how this assault worked so well because every major doctrine in the Bible is ultimately founded in Genesis 1-11 (directly or indirectly). So, attacking the foundation of Genesis meant attacking the basis for all Christian doctrine.
The cultural attack on Genesis impacts the types of moral topics I cared about as a teenager, because those topics’ significance hinges on the truth of God’s word. For example, morals about valuing all human life must have originated from a Moral Lawgiver who created humans in His own image. If that history in Genesis is false and humans evolved naturally, then humanity gets to set its own morals, rights, and values about what it means to be human. By this line of reasoning, I recognized that anything which undermines Genesis’ history ultimately undermines everything I knew to be important.
This realization drove me to study evolution, one of culture’s favourite paradigms for undermining the creation account in Genesis, at secular university. As I explained in my last article, my experiences in evolutionary education taught me the importance of building spiritual, intellectual and interpersonal foundations to survive secular university as a Christian student. After I graduated, however, I wanted to compare my experiences with those of Christian students in other countries. But how? And where?
A little research into where led me to a document called Resolution 1580, The Dangers of Creationist Teaching in Education, which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed in 2007. The PACE, I learned, sets the legal agenda for 57 member nations. To these nations, the PACE wrote:
“If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists…The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities to…firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general the presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion; [and to] promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculums. The Assembly welcomes the fact that 27 academies of science of Council of Europe member states signed, in June 2006, a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.”1
Wow. All those pictures of closed European churches on Ken Ham’s slides were making more sense every minute. But wait…what was that declaration the PACE wanted its members to sign?
I soon found the document, the IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution.2 The statement included not only a pledge to teach evolution in public education, but also a list of 68 undersigned international and national academies—state-supported organizations which oversee official education standards. I saw my home country, Canada, on that list, nestled amidst scores of nations from Albania to Zimbabwe.
Scanning the nations’ names, I knew the calling I’d felt towards missions at age 11 had never quite left me. And until now, I didn’t exactly know how that calling would fit with the call to apologetics ministry I’d felt after hearing Mr. Ham’s talk. But what if I went on a DIY mission trip to learn how Christian students navigate evolutionary education in some of these countries? That would combine both callings.
Grabbing a red marker, I printed a world map and shaded all the nations which had signed the statement. The red band wrapped around the entire planet!
Obviously, I reasoned, I can’t travel THAT far.
Or could I?
The idea seemed too extravagant—too much to hope for. But what if I could travel that far asking Christian students how they keep their faith in different countries? After all, I could legally be out of Canada for six months before losing my residency benefits. Could I backpack 360° around the world solo in 180 days?
It sounded ridiculous. But I gave the idea for the project, 360 in 180, to God. If it was His idea, He’d bring it to pass. He’d open the doors, provide the means, and take care of any troubles that might occur along the way. That’s what makes the surrendered Christian life an adventure.
So, I started knocking on doors, emailing overseas organizations, and researching visa requirements. Soon, I’d secured confirmation to meet contacts in Australia, Japan and Thailand, though I didn’t know exactly when. I also didn’t know where else I’d travel. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing.
But legally, that was okay. Apparently, to enter most countries on a one-way ticket, I’d only need to produce another ticket proving I’d leave that country. Therefore, I’d only need to plan one country in advance at any given time, relying on God for every next step.
So, late one night with wildly frizzy hair, I booked a one-way flight to Australia.
Launch date would be in only three months: September 17, 2018.
No turning back now, I thought. I’d be an explorer after all, like I’d imagined as a kid. I’d be a missionary, learning how to equip the church in secular nations. And I’d be a detective, investigating how Christian students defend their faith against the foundational attack on Scripture Ken Ham had showed me. Clearly, God’s dreams reached farther than mine ever dared. I didn’t know what He had in mind, but one thing was certain: it would be an ADVENTURE.
Stay tuned for Part 4!