Dear Friends, Family and Partners,
Two men were born in different states and never knew each other. But their choices in life dramatically affected the generations that came after them.
The first man was only a child when his father died. His young widowed mother struggled to support her son and decided to remarry to secure a financial future for her and him. But she didn’t count on the fact that the new husband would not want another man’s son in his house. With much sadness, she was forced to send him away to live with relatives, with aunts and uncles. This was especially hard for him because he had to help support himself by working in the local mill while continuing to attend school. What kind of man and father would he grow up to be when his two immediate male role models had either died or rejected him?
The second man was also a child when his father died. Prior to his death, his mother had married a widower with one daughter. Too soon she discovered that he still loved his first wife and always kept her portrait above their bed. When she began to have their children, she named each of her boys after one of his names, hoping that would turn his heart toward her. But it never did. After he died unexpectedly, she was forced to take in laundry, cook and work odd jobs to keep the family together. The young children were left to themselves much of the time. What kind of man and father would the youngest grow up to be when he had little memory of his own dad?
But they weren’t abandoned – The Father was watching over them. He saw each step as the first man accepted Christ at a young age and worked his way through high school, college and seminary. He eventually became a pastor, married and had a daughter. After his wife died in a TB sanitarium, and desiring a ministry companion for himself and a mother for his 4 year-old daughter, he remarried a second time and had four more children. Against many odds, he worked hard to be the husband, father, spiritual leader and tender shepherd to his blended family.
The Father saw each step as the second man chose education, but with no regard for God, as a way out of the poverty in which he had grown up. He too worked his way through high school and college. He too married and had four children. He tried various professions from bricklayer to selling feed to farmers. He finally found his niche as a teacher and eventually a college professor. Thankfully, he accepted Christ at the age of 37, which dramatically change the trajectory of his family. Against many odds, he worked hard to incorporate the new Christian principles he was learning into his role as husband, father, spiritual leader and tender shepherd.
Maybe you have figured out who these two men were. The first man was J.L.’s father and the second man was mine.
Stories of boys becoming men are repeated all over the world. It is a difficult journey for them at best, but made more so with the continual decline of the importance of the family and the absence of the support that men need to be husbands and good dads. Even much of our media presents them as laughable and clueless, especially those who choose to support their families, who play with their children, who lead their families in devotions.
And if it’s hard here in the USA, where we are supposedly the enlightened ones and are at the top of the world’s heap, imagine those living in Third World situations! They have even less guidance in being good fathers. That is one of the things we have tried to support and make possible, for men in developing countries to get spiritual training so they can be Godly leaders in their homes and ministries, and be engaged in self-support. Remember to pray for the many Dads that are supported through your partnership with us at JL, Patt & Friends. Here are just a few: Rev. Simon Mkolo, Pastor Yacob Tshering, Pastor Chavannes Jeune, Stakwell Yurinemo, Brother Komivi Ayiboe, Evangelist Yaw Asante, Pastor Gyan Sunuwar, Bishop Ezra Sargunam, Rev. Wilbur Outten, Rev. Chinkosoi, Pastor Santosh Ramdam. (More men and their stories can be found on our website.)
I would also like to applaud all men who have been “like a father” to younger men and boys who are not their own. Thank you for doing your best, as God has enabled you, to guide and direct those under your care. I hope each of us will encourage all men to be faithful in their fatherly roles and may we be diligent in our prayers for them, finding ways to make their lives as role models easier instead of harder.
Each generation of fathers in Christ can be an improvement on the generation that preceded them. J.L. and I are grateful for our earthly fathers who persevered in being our protectors and defenders, who gave us glimpses into what God the Father is like. And to those closest to me who have incorporated what they learned from their Dads and have now gone on to be great Dads themselves – like J.L., my two brothers, Tom and R.J., on my side of the family, and our sons, Joseph and Jonathan, in the next generation – I thank the Lord for you and honor you on this day!!
And finally, to the perfect Father, who so wondrously weaves our lives together, who connects us in His love with His great power and mighty strength so that none of us is missing (adapted from Isaiah 40:26), we bow in gratitude and awe to Him!
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