I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
I wanted to share this newsletter update with you from our partners at CLW (Chapin Living Waters). We use their bucket drip irrigation kits with other partners around the world. - JL
Chapin Living Waters Newsletter - June 2010
I wanted to share this newsletter update with you from our partners at ECI (Evangelical Church of India). I hope it is an encouragement and a blessing. - JL
June Church Planter Newsletter from ECI
Four of our grandchildren that we have not
been permitted to see in over 2 years.
“...rejoice before Him…a Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows…God sets the lonely in families.” (Ps. 68:5-6)
Dear Friend & Partner,
As you know, this Sunday is Father’s Day in America. For many fathers, it will be a wonderful day of affirmation, appreciation and affection from wives, children and grandchildren. But for millions of broken and estranged families, it will be a day of sadness and sorrow rather than one of joy and celebration. That’s because there is an epidemic of fatherlessness in our world today. So Father’s Day will only remind them of the relational vacuum in their lives due to an absentee father.
This attack on the family through assault on fatherhood is no accident. It is the specific diabolical design of the arch enemy of the family—Satan. You see, he especially hates the unique Christian revelation of God as Father—perhaps more than any other truth revealed in the Bible. The Fatherhood of God is the primary revelation and incarnation that Jesus came to the earth to reveal and demonstrate. That’s why He said: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:11). He further asserted: “I and the Father are one…the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father” (Jn. 10:30, 36). So Jesus and the Father are one in nature and purpose. He came for no lesser reason than to incarnate the Father’s heart of love and compassion for His children.
Since Jesus came to reveal the Father, Satan has done everything through his perverting power to destroy or distort the concept of father. It matters not to the devil whether he does it through death, desertion, divorce, disease, distortion, deception, depravity, disaster, displacement, dissipation or distraction. The end result is always the same—fatherlessness. As the arch enemy of the family, Satan continues to “steal, kill and destroy” family relationships (Jn. 10:10)—beginning with the fathers! He well knows that every distortion of human fatherhood skews our perspective of God as our Heavenly Father.
So the devil always has us men in his crosshairs! He is always eager to “take us out.” To do so, he uses any and every tool of sin, rebellion, immaturity or carnality to cunningly assault and destroy us fathers. When the strongman of the marriage and family is bound, the wife and children are all spiritually and emotionally vulnerable and Satan can “rob his house” (Matt. 12:29). Today in America and around the world, Satan is “robbing us blind” as men and fathers! All around us there is a carnage of hurting, fatherless children—many of which are grown up and married. Cut loose from a healthy and holy relationship with their earthly fathers, the children live lives of spiritual, emotional and relational insecurity and inferiority. There is a life-long existential hole in their soul from a broken father relationship. They wear a relational tag over their hearts that screams out fatherless! This relational vacuum hurts and haunts their lives and relationships consciously or unconsciously day and night. Some of the fatherless try to compensate through anger or aggression. Others try to do so through over-extension, over-achievement, over-spending and over-consuming. It manifests itself in their sense of “not belonging”—even in church. They feel like unwanted orphans in the universe. They manifest a sense of rootless and restlessness because they have an acute sense of fatherlessness.
All over the world I have seen this sense of fatherlessness in the empty faces and hollow, longing eyes of abandoned orphans, street children or refugees. Whether they are the victims of warfare, genocide, natural disaster or displacement, they have a father vacuum that they are desperately hoping that someone will fill! I saw it in the children who suddenly lost their fathers in the tsunami waves that washed over Asia. I saw it in the children who were kidnapped from their families in the Congo and Sudan and forced to be “child soldiers” by maniac leaders. I saw it most recently in the lives of children who suddenly lost their fathers in the Haiti earthquake. I have seen it all of my life in American teenagers who grew up with an absentee father through divorce, desertion, dissipation or death.
The net result in all was a life-long sense of fatherlessness. And this Father’s Day will see millions more join the rootless ranks of the fatherlessness. For many, their fathers did not return from the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. For others, their fathers were capriciously killed through murder or an automobile accident. Others lost their fathers slowly as diseases like cancer consumed their vitality and reduced them to impotent shells of manhood. Some lost their fathers through the quick suicide of a bullet or the slow suicide of alcohol. Some lost their fathers emotionally and relationally through diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Others had their fathers taken from them through a prison sentence that will last for years or for a life time. With their father’s incarceration, they were also locked up in a prison of hopelessness because of a terminal sense of fatherlessness. And without the intervention of the healing love and grace of God, they will live out their lives with a gaping vacuum that wants to suck in anything and everything around them that will anesthetize the loneliness of fatherlessness.
I want you to know that I have not written the preceding words from a sense of safe aloofness and impersonal detachment as a “preacher.” I have written them as an involved friend, partner and counselor to countless numbers of fatherless people I have been describing. More than that, I have written out of my own broken heart as a father and grandfather. Let me explain…
The picture at the top of this newsletter is of 4 of my grandchildren whom I have not been permitted to see in over 2 long, lonely years! When that picture was given to me on Father’s Day a few years ago, it brought me such great joy as a grandfather. It hung above my desk where I am writing this article—along with pictures of my other 7 wonderful grandchildren whom I have a wonderful and rewarding relationship with. Now I have had to take that picture down from the wall because it brings me such pain and heartache. It only reminds me of the broken and estranged relationship I have with my oldest daughter, Trish, and her husband, Joe. It reminds me of the hugs of 4 grandchildren who used to jump into my arms as their “Pop.”
While it is unnecessary to go into the painful details of the cause of the estrangement between my daughter and me, the bottom line is that Trish is cut off from us, her 3 siblings, 7 nieces and nephews, many uncles and aunts on both sides of the family plus all previous friendships and partnerships that are in any way related to us as her parents. I could never have dreamed or imagined that this kind of brokenness and estrangement could invaded our family! After all, we raised our 4 children “by the Book” through God’s love and grace. And Patt and I have been life-long teachers and counselors in the areas of marriage and family relationships. How and why could this have happened to us?! We have sought to love and serve God all of our adult lives. Surely God would give us some “spiritual insurance” against such Satanic assault! But no, like every other family, we are not immune to the disease of broken family relationships. So for two long years, the brokenness has continued—even worsened.
As a result of this alienation and estrangement, Patt and I—along with our other 3 children and their families—have not been allowed any contact with them. No visits are allowed. No “grandparent rights” are permitted. No phone calls, emails or letters are accepted. In years past they were weekly and almost daily—initiated by Trish and our grandchildren as much as by us. For the past 3 years there have been no “family vacations” together as in years past—when we usually took our annual “family picture” for Christmas cards. All Christmas presents, birthday presents, anniversary cards to parents or children are refused and returned—from us, her brothers and sister or from cousins. Now there have been 2 long and lonely years of losses in family events that can never be repeated, rerun or restored. And at every special family event we are ALWAYS aware of the 6 empty places at the table.
Besides the tragedy of our own personal pain, as parents and grandparents, is the very poor witness of this whole family breakdown before a watching world—whether Christian or non-Christian. You see, all of us involved profess to be “dedicated Christians.” And both my son-in-law and I are “Christian leaders” who head our own ministries that have a strong “family focus.” Oh the painful irony of that spiritual contradiction! Oh the subtle danger of spiritual pride and Biblical justification of indefensible positions motivated by rebellion and insecurity! Satan’s greatest desire is always to defeat us with our own weapons as we increasingly put a spiritual and Biblical veneer over our selfishness and disobedience! Truly, all of our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, as Jeremiah warned (Jer. 17:9). I know my own heart is! As C.S. Lewis said: “I have my own heart, I need no other, to convince me of the total depravity of man.”
Why am I sharing this pain with you? Because so many of you are experiencing the same thing in some broken or estranged relationship with one of your own children, grandchildren or step children. There is not a family alive that has not—or will not, face some degree of this family alienation and relational carnage due to sin, rebellion, carnality and immaturity. And it is always motivated by a willful rebellion that refuses all steps or overtures that would lead to forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. So I share my pain as a father in the hope and prayer that my transparency will help other parents and fathers who are struggling with similar problems of alienation and estrangement. Believe me, I understand in my gut exactly what you are going through! It matters not that I am a preacher and teacher. As Christian leaders, Patt and I live and play by the exact same set of parental and relational rules that you do. We do not have any special favors from God because we are “full time Christian workers.” Quite the opposite. The higher your Christian profile, the easier target you and your family are for the evil one. That’s why he especially likes to take down Christian leaders, marriages and families!
Like most life-impacting lessons, this one is being learned through much pain, heartache and soul-searching. With the Psalmist we have “wet our pillow with tears” many nights (Ps. 6:6; 42:3). It has added many grey hairs to our heads and negatively affected our health as we have grieved day and night over this brokenness with our firstborn daughter. With David we have cried out again and again: “How long, how long, O Lord?!” (Ps. 6:3; 13:1-2). But God is teaching us important lessons that we pray are maturing us personally. And our parental pain is giving us greater ministry to other parents and grandparents facing similar family struggles. Let me outline a few painful lessons I am learning and re-learning through this. Each is drenched with my own blood, sweat and tears as a parent and grandparent. Obviously, each of these principles are the worthy subject of chapters of writing, reflecting and teaching. But at this point I will only outline them for your prayerful consideration…
Those then are a few lessons Patt and I have been learning and relearning in the last several years—which have been some of the most difficult in our 45 years of marriage! I once thought it would “get easier as you get older.” Not so! It’s just the opposite. It seems that God saves the biggest battles and biggest giants until our final seasons of life. That’s when Abraham and Sarah faced theirs. That’s when Joshua and Caleb faced those ominous “giants in the Promised Land.” If they could successfully do so in their 8th decades of life, by God’s grace, I will do so in my 6th and 7th decades—and beyond if He gives me more years!
Thanks for letting me openly “share my heart” and “spill my guts” with you as friends and partners. I know this has been a long email—and one that you did not expect for Father’s Day. But is the most intimate and transparent one I have ever written! Patt and I strongly desire your prayers for us and for Trish and Joe and their 4 children—Victoria, Jack, Elizabeth and Rebekah. Pray with us that God would soon give us lasting reconciliation and reunion as an extended family.
Finally, in the days of the New Directions musical ministry, we used to sing a wonderful song by Andrea Crouch, “Through It All.” Many of you will remember the chorus: “Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon God’s Word.”
So God is still good—all the time! Even on Father’s Day when there are absent places at the Sunday dinner table—whether yours or mine and Patt’s. His unconditional love never fails. His mercies are still new every morning. “Great is His faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:23).
Under His Fatherhood,
PS: Please pass this email along to any of your friends who might also be struggling with a broken family relationship. Perhaps our Father’s Day story can bring some comfort and hope to them.