The following article was published in the Salisbury Post on Sunday, January 17, 2010.
A year or so ago, Rick Grubbs and his wife, Carrie, got to thinking about taking their family on a journey to see the world.
Their oldest child, Sunshine, was about to finish high school and would soon be leaving home for college. If they were going to take an extended trip as a family, they'd have to do it soon.
"I knew that if we didn't, we might not ever do it," Rick said.
What the Grubbs family wound up doing was taking a four-month tour of Europe and North Africa, in which they visited 30 countries, drove 31,000 kilometers (about 20,000 miles) and returned home with memories that will last a lifetime.
But, hang on, there's more to the story.
The Grubbses have 10 children. That's not a typo. And Carrie found out in December that she's pregnant with baby No. 11. Sunshine is 17. Paul, the youngest, turned 1 while they were in Europe.
"It was an exercise in faith," Rick admitted of the overseas endeavor.
The posting on the wall of the kitchen in their Granite Quarry home sums it up well: "The Lord has done great things for us," reads the scripture from Psalms 126:3.
Rick is the founder of Life Changing Seminars, a ministry that includes a weekly radio program and "Redeeming the Time" seminars that are aimed at helping Christians better manage their lives. He has traveled to 49 states and other parts of the world as the keynote speaker for these seminars. He delivers about 180 addresses a year. Depending upon the distance to the destinations, all or part of his family frequently accompany Rick on his trips.
Rick, 48, and Carrie, 38, met while students at Hope Sound Bible College in Hope Sound, Fla. They served as missionaries in the former Czechoslovakia about 17 years ago, shortly after the fall of communism there.
Rick and Carrie said they'd always wanted to return to the Czech Republic and said that when they began planning their family trip a year ago, they initially considered merely taking their children there. From that relatively simple idea, the plan took on a life of its own.
Rick began speaking to ministers and others he's met through Life Changing Seminars about the trip. Feedback was immediate, with friends in other countries inviting the family to visit and, "Please! Stay with us!"
"It seemed like one country after another opened up," Rick said. "We didn't set out for 30 countries, but one thing led to another."
Admittedly, the Grubbses found the prospect of financing this whole endeavor a bit daunting. Rick's ministry (details of which can be found at http://www.lifechangingseminars. com) is financed through donations and offerings.
As anyone who's raised even a couple of children can attest, bringing up little ones isn't cheap. Pause for a moment to fathom the expense when the number of offspring reaches double digits.
And, for a bit, it looked as though the cost of it all would quash the Grubbs' hopes for a European family vacation. The expense of flights were outside the family's price range. Rick and Carrie were on the verge of reconciling themselves to the fact that they might have to scale back a bit their plans.
But one day, quite by accident, Rick stumbled upon an offer from British Airways that made the whole trip affordable. The entire family flew round-trip from New York City to London for just under $5,000. Thanks to the fact that the Grubbses had to pay for only one night of lodging (and that was at a youth hostel) during their four months overseas, the trip cost the family about $30,000. Half of that was made up through offerings collected for and presented to the family.
"I prayed," Carrie said of the dream that lodging for the family would be provided free of charge throughout North Africa and Europe. "If we had had to have paid to rent rooms, that would have been the killer."
Rick listened to his wife, then chuckled that his convictions in this instance may not have been as strong.
"I didn't have enough faith to pray for that," he laughed.
They are members of Salisbury Bible Methodist Church, homeschool their children: Sunshine, 17, Summer, 16, Josh, 14, Joy, 12, Ricky, 10, Royal, 8, Caleb, 6, Christian, 5, Precious, 3, and Paul, 1. They're all bright-eyed and attentive, each with his or her favorite recollection of their journey overseas.
Guests to the family's home can't help but be impressed with the children's courtesy. Souvenirs and postcards from the trip abroad are abundant.
A few of the highlights included a night spent in a castle in Belgium, observing the difference in culture and people in Morocco, a visit to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz and the display of 800-year-old mummies in the basement of a church in Dublin, Ireland.
"You could touch them," one of the children said, seemingly amazed at the close proximity visitors have to the mummies.
The Grubbses seldom ate at restaurants, almost always dining with their host families or churches. Again, an attempt to save money was one of the big reasons the family did so, though they learned that it wasn't just dining out that could cost them big bucks when it came to food. Name-brand American food was expensive on market shelves throughout Europe, an example being the $9 box of Pop Tarts they observed in a store in Greece.
"We didn't eat a lot of Pop Tarts in Greece," Rick said, chuckling again as he spoke.
But they did consume a gracious amount of spaghetti and soup.
During the course of the trip abroad, Rick spoke to thousands as part of Life Changing Seminars, addressing crowds as large as several hundred and as small as just a few. He and Carrie also spoke to numerous groups about the merits of homeschooling children.
Mini-disasters were relatively infrequent, though a handful occurred. One of the greatest involved a Ford Transit van (a model sold in Europe that's similar to an American cargo van) that the family bought to tour Europe since the cost of renting such a vehicle would have been exorbitant.
While driving the van through the Czech Republic, Rick glanced down to see the heat gauge buried in the red. He shut the vehicle off as quickly as possible, but the damage was already done. A fan belt had broken, causing the van to overheat and the engine to seize.
The cost of having the van repaired in the Czech Republic was prohibitive, so the Grubbses had it towed through two countries to Romania, where mechanics are apparently more affordable and the motor was rebuilt. At the end of their stay in Europe, they sold the van.
The parents said they're asked frequently about their decision to have so many children. They said the decision was simple.
"We're Christians and we see children as a blessing from God," Rick said.
He paused to survey his brood before continuing, "He's blessed us."
They have no immediate plans for tackling another adventure similar to the family trek of a year ago. That said, they admitted they're also not opposed to another such undertaking.
"If we learned anything," Rick said, "it's that if God calls you to do something, he makes a way."
By Steve Huffman