Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers matter

The following is a repost from the Choshen Farm blog. The original post can be found at: Fathers matter

Happy Father’s Day, world! We are celebrating Jeremy and Grandpa this fine day and thinking much about all the things we could never have done without wonderful Dads in our lives. We are also thinking much about Zambian Dads today. We’re not sure if anyone in Fimpulu knows that its Father’s Day today. We’ve never heard of a Father’s Day celebration, and we’re fairly certain that the Sunday School classes are not making “We heart Daddy” cards this morning. But what we know to be true is that there are many wonderful dads around us.

Golden is teaching his daughter English. And holding her. Those two things are so rare.


Jimmy is the only man we know who has been present for any of the births of his children.


Boniface is raising his children in the Lord.


Joshua is always the one to take his children to the clinic – something usually considered women’s work.


George is a grandfather many times over, but he is probably the most tender hearted man we know.


These fathers are the kind of people that make us smile and challenge us to love our child and other kids around us with constancy and fervor. But, in many ways, these fathers are unique. The cultural climate for fathers in rural Zambia is quite different than that of North America. In general, fathers are providers and nothing more. They are not spiritual guides, guidance counselors or play mates. There are certain tasks that the men will never do, such as cook or clean, and they will absolutely under no circumstances ever ever ever change a diaper. Men raise their children to do one thing only and that is respect his authority. A heavy hand (or tree branch) is the means by which this respect requirement is communicated and enforced. And what about love, you ask? As we’ve interviewed many young people, asking if they feel loved by their dads, the responses vary from, “I suppose he must,” to, “Haha, no.” to, *blank stare.*

Many NGOs have recognized the lack of positive participation amongst men and have endeavored through various programming to change that aspect of the culture. Let me say that again – the secular world has largely taken up the charge to influence fathers – not the Christians. While many Christians are busy with “gospel work,” many fail to connect the perceptions of earthly fathering with ones ability to see God as father. If you grow up in a house where dad gives you things when you do well and beats you when you do poorly and that’s pretty much the sum total of who dad is and what he’s like, wouldn’t it make sense that your view of God would be cold, distant, and legalistic? And that is exactly what we find in the vast majority of churches. Our desire to emphasize fathers in gospel communication was confirmed some time back when we talked to a teacher at a seminary in Lusaka who said that they only recently started introducing a class on human relationships and fatherhood. And the result? Grown men, seminarians, tough as leather Zambians, curled up on the floor bawling because they had never known fatherly love and therefore, in their heart of hearts, assumed that God hated them too.

Many of the students that we have discipled over the years have given us similar feedback. We’ve been told several times that it is a shame that we must refer to God as father. “Unless if God were mother, that would be much better. She was much kinder to me." The negative associations with fathers is disheartening for many reasons, not the least of which is the destruction of a fundamental theological concept.

And so on this Father’s Day, we remember the men who are admirable dads for the children who so badly need them to be. And we remember those whose relationships with their fathers are strained, and we pray that they may be encouraged and healed by the Father they need more than anything.

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