by Luke Vorster, 2016 winner of the $1000 CHEA Support Network Scholarship
The Maasai people are a semi-nomadic ethnic group that inhabits parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Like many other African tribes, the Maasai prize physical endurance and proficiency in combat. A fascinating aspect of their culture is the rite of passage that boys must undergo to become men: killing a lion. At dawn, the warrior sets out with only a spear. Lions are unpredictable, agile, and fast, meaning that if they are not killed quickly, they can be vindictive. If wounded, they often hide and lie in wait to charge at the hunter. So you can imagine what this warrior is feeling like. Even though he has been trained for this exact moment, he is well aware that the lion is, in many respects, a vastly superior hunter.
Why does he continue on? Because he knows that, should he succeed, there will be a week-long community-wide celebration in his honor. He will receive the reward of an Imporro, a doubled-sided beaded shoulder strap, to wear during ceremonies. And he will continue to be held in high esteem by the community as long as he lives. To that Maasai warrior, it is the obvious choice. Even though the challenge he is facing will be difficult to overcome, he keeps the end goal in mind and perseveres, even at the expense of his own life.
What About Me?
Now, while most of us will not be asked to literally kill a lion, our grit will be tested in other ways. Homeschooling through high school presents a unique set of challenges. Over the past four years, I have often experienced the feeling that the work I was doing was pointless, simply going through the motions to prepare for some far off thing called “college.” At times I struggled with the impulse to leave my books for the beach. Thankfully, being a homeschooler, I was sometimes able to compromise, taking my books to the beach! This wasn’t always an option, however; and even when I would rather have been doing anything else but studying, my parents helped me to keep that end goal, of getting into college and the opportunities I knew that would provide, as my point of focus.
For public schoolers, advanced level classes are easily accessible, and high school counselors are available to guide the students. As a homeschooler, I had to find AP classes online and tackle the formidable task of taking City College classes as a sophomore. My mother served as my high school counselor, endeavoring to plot a unique education that best suited my strengths and weaknesses. This was a process of trial and error, with a lot of mistakes along the way. But despite these challenges, I was determined to ignore the sneers of those who thought a homeschooler couldn’t get into a competitive university; determined to overcome a lack of finances; and determined to give my all for the sake of Christ Jesus and His kingdom. This resolution, coupled with God’s incredible favor and blessing, has earned me acceptance into the Honors Program at Pepperdine University.
Other Ways to Kill Lions
There are other ways we can “kill lions.” Homeschooling has afforded me the opportunity to accomplish goals and learn life skills which have directly contributed to my character growth. One of these experiences was hiking the final week of the John Muir trail with my dad from Onion Valley to Mount Whitney. At 14,500 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States; in other words, no small feat. It was the first day: we had rapidly summited Kearsarge pass, gaining 3,000 feet in a little over four hours, before descending into a valley on the other side.
We were setting up camp when altitude sickness hit me. Fighting severe headaches and nausea, I crawled into our tent and lay curled miserably until morning. When I awoke, the nausea had subsided, but the headaches were still coming. At this point a serious decision had to be made. Either we could turn back, ending our trip after barely beginning; or we could press on for the summit of Whitney, hoping that I would not reach a critical state. In that moment I was afraid: afraid of the pain, afraid of the miles of grueling climbs ahead, and afraid of failure. Just like the Maasai warrior, I recognized that I was facing a formidable foe. Yet, as in in the case of the Maasai, the victory and sense of accomplishment that were awaiting me made it worth the struggle.
Although I use two large-scale examples, don’t misunderstand me: the lions in your homeschool journey can take many shapes, big and small. Whether it be simply getting through the day, or making it through another year, each of us has lions we face: situations or challenges that take courage to address and perseverance to conquer. And if we follow in the footsteps of the ultimate warrior, Jesus Christ, then there is no lion we cannot kill.
Luke Vorster is the 2016 winner of the $1000 CHEA Support Network scholarship. He is a member of the Santa Barbara Christian Homesteaders and is the son of CHEA Members Ian and Dyan Vorster.