In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent off two brave explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, with their entourage and supplies enough for two years. They set out from St. Louis along the Mississippi River to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, following water route to the Pacific Ocean. Sounds simple. The journey was anything but.
Wild animals, natives—some helpful, some threatening—extreme weather, diverse and treacherous terrain—these were the constant challenges encountered. And yet, Lewis and Clark embraced the opportunity to make this historic journey.
As I step inside the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washington, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, I see a name on a plaque to the right of the entrance. Andrew Ellicott, my Quaker grandfather seven generations ago, was hired by Jefferson to teach surveying methods to Meriwether Lewis, who lived with him from April through May, 1803. Lewis carried The Journal of Andrew Ellicott (1803) in his traveling library, referring to the work frequently during the expedition.
By the time Ellicott was asked by Thomas Jefferson to train Lewis, Ellicott was already an established surveyor, well-known to George Washington, also a surveyor, for his meticulous work, like the first topographical study of the Niagara River and Falls, the boundary between the United States and Florida, and completion of the layout for Washington D.C. after Washington dismissed Pierre L’Enfant from the job.
So, here I stand on the edge of a continent, staring at a bronze plate dedicated to one of my ancestors who was pretty well-known, well-respected, and well-liked by some big names like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Banneker, Pierre L’Enfant, and Meriwether Lewis. I walk and wonder . . .
What will be my legacy? After my life on this earth is done, what will remain of my journey and all the territory I’ve traveled and explored—all the hardships I’ve overcome? Will the One who commissioned me be there to welcome me with a “Well done!” when I step out of my traveling shell and into vast eternity? Will I rejoice as did Lewis and Clark as I spot my goal, my Jesus, right there at the end—the One I’ve held in my heart and my mind and my soul all these years—the One for whom I have faced fierce trials and tribulations? Will I fall on my face and kiss the feet of my Savior, the One who has guided me like the lighthouses on shore guide the ships into the mouth of the Columbia, the most treacherous river entry in the world?
He is faithful, our Savior Jesus. He is trustworthy and true. He prepares us and guides us and strengthens us on our journey. And He has given us His journal, His word, to accompany us and teach us as we go, step-by-step. We have all we need, if we have Jesus. And we need not fear whether we will complete our journey successfully. He has promised. We will.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.