When we were in Mexico last month celebrating our ten year anniversary, Megan and I noticed a cordoned-off area on the beach with a sign on the fence that read: “Keep out. Sea Turtle Protection Project in Progress.”
Because sea turtles are protected species, the Sea Turtle Protection Project helped to hatch the eggs, keep them from being eaten by predatory birds and then safely release them into the sea two days after gaining strength. One afternoon I saw the biologists working and I reached my camera over the top of the fence:
On our last night, we caught wind that at sunset biologists would be releasing baby turtles into the ocean. Apparently, it was the season for mother turtles to lay their eggs. Late at night, they waddle up on shore, dig a hole, lay their eggs, cover them with sand and waddle back into the ocean. Biologists dig them up and then watch them carefully in this protected area.
When we showed up on the beach, there were several dozen people there who had heard the same rumor we had heard: it was release night for these turtles.
A line was drawn in the sand about twenty feet from the shore and we were told to stay behind the line. Picture taking was allowed, but no flash photography, as it may startle and scare the babies. (Click pictures to enlarge).
But in Mexico, it seems that things are little bit more hands on.
The biologists came out with large buckets of these baby turtles – maybe 400 altogether. Each turtle was maybe 2 inches long.
Megan I got to release about 6-8 of these turtles, crouching down near the sand and cheering “Go! Go! The ocean is that direction. Go to your new home!”
It was an incredible experience.
I asked an employee on hand how many of these turtles would survive because of the Sea Turtle Protection Project and the work of the biologists.
“Oh, only about 30 percent,” she said casually.
“What? Why such a small percentage?”
She told me that once they reach the ocean, predatory sea life oftentimes gobble them right up.
I asked. “Then why all the time and energy for such a small success rate?”
She looked at me with a grin and said, “If you’re one of the thirty percent, aren’t you glad for the work of the biologists?”
After a few moments the crowd thinned out and people scurried to dinner. Megan wanted to go to dinner, too, but I did not want to leave. Dinner can wait. I’m releasing more baby sea turtles.
I wanted to stay until every last turtle was released – and we did. By the end, it was basically me, the biologists and just a few other intrigued people. I giggled embarrassingly and said, “Man, this is so cool! What a great experience. How cool is this?” I think I enjoyed it more than anyone else on the beach.
For the next few days I pondered why I thought releasing baby sea turtles (especially when I am not a huge animal lover to begin with) was such a significant experience.
And then the thought hit me: this is the perfect metaphor for my life. I love starting new things, encouraging new birth and new life and cheering people on to their potential.
I am apostolically wired – a spiritual fire-starter. A kingdom entrepreneur. Someone who likes starting new things and seeing them become sustainable. I love taking risks and bush-whacking through the jungle, blazing new trails and encouraging others who are doing the same as they attempt to extend the borders of God’s kingdom.
I know the struggle of starting new things, and, by God’s grace, have been given the privilege of seeing how rewarding that struggle can be in the lives of other people. It’s an incredible joy that inspires and challenges me. It gives me life to encourage young leaders and pastors in new pursuits and to yell “Go! Go! Go!”
And though at times the percentages of survival may seem slim, helping people move into the direction of their calling encourages me – even if I help ‘just that one’ make it.
It seems in this season of transition as if the Great Biologist has brought out the bucket to the shoreline of the journey, reached into the bucket, turned to me and said, “J.R., here you go. Release some of these little guys.”
Hence our impending transition in the next few months.
Stay tuned… there’s more to come.