Monday, September 14, 2015

“What is the son but an extension of the father?” ― Frank Herbert

One of the very hardest things for us to do when answering God’s call to mission in Africa was leaving family behind.  In ten years, we have only managed three short visits, but both Karen and I have been able to hold, cuddle, and love all three of our grandchildren on those short trips.  One of the reasons I have been excited about my trip to New York in a couple of days is that I will get to be with family again.  We do not have Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or any other of the important milestones in the life of a family, so even a few days in person is a really big deal.  I thought because of all the limitations on my time, I would only get to see one son (and his wife) on this trip, but it seems that it may be possible for my youngest son to travel to New York to spend at least a couple of days with his old dad.  I can’t begin to tell you how happy this makes me.  There is no way to put a value on the hug of a father and son who don’t see each other for years at a time.  Armed service folks know this kind of sacrifice and it only makes me admire them all the more.  I’m too old to play touch football, go to the batting cages, or do much more than fight over a video game controller, but that’s now what’s important.  It doesn’t really matter what the doctors say, I will get enough of a lift from being with my absent sons to run for at least another ten years.  Those of you who live in close proximity to your family, please don’t waste opportunities to be with them, to hug them, to let them know by feel, smiles, and tears how important they are to you.  It will be difficult to make this particular connection work, and I am completely dependent on others for making the arrangements.  All I can say is that Robert Frost got it wrong.  In his poem, “Death of a Hired Man,” he describes home as that place that when you go there--they have to take you in.  For missionaries serving continents away from everything familiar, home is where you can touch, talk to, and see the love in the faces of those who make up such a large part of your heart.  We don’t need turkey and cranberry sauce, waiting for grandmother to get her camera ready Christmas morning, we just need to be in the same room for a short while.  Karen, John, and I are fond of a rather raunchy British sitcom called “Mrs. Brown’s Boys” and the reasons we put up with the crude humor is that underlying every episode is just how important family is.  It’s the only leg-slapping funny, irreverant show that routinely makes us cry over the relationships and love between family members and the sacrifices they make for each other.  Seems like I remember a Father making the supreme sacrifice for loving His children that makes me cry every time I read John 3:16.  I’m far from being a great father, but I’ve had some good role models, earthly and heavenly, and I have tried my hardest to live up to them.  In my own flawed way, it’s the best I have been able to offer my sons.  Just so you know, these are no “trust fund” missionary kids.  It’s more like that line from “Poppa Was A Rollin’ Stone” and 'when he died all he left us was alone."  I hope I leave more than that, but I don’t expect any of my sons to be putting down payments on Ferraris at my passing (unless they’re Hot Wheels).  I love my boys so much and am blessed to have John with me, and doubly blessed to get to see my other two in a couple of weeks even if only briefly.  It doesn’t take long to convey our love and our feelings of pride and respect for each other.  I am truly blessed.

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