Monthly Archives: September 2011

Father to the fatherless

The first two Sundays of September had been quite an emotional journey.

3 September 2011

The theme for September in Metrochurch is “Healed and Whole”, which covers aspects such as mental and emotional health, family wholeness, etc. In Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September, and this effectively kicked off the sermon series for the month. On this occasion, the church was transformed into a scary neighbourhood, with the most frightening characters ushering and collecting offering. The ushers were virtually unrecognisable with their temporary tattoos, hoodie, rapper getup and massive gold chains.

The special musical presentation was a rap written to celebrate the role of men in families and societies.

We had a really good laugh, especially with the incorporated ‘live’ performance, but any mirth was soon silenced with the message. The guest speaker shared with us his compassion and mission for the children in Haiti, who were affected by the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. You know how “crisis” can translate into “opportunity”… but the human traffickers knew this as well.

Before any humanitarian aid can be organised, the human traffickers were already there on the ground, taking the children away to be child slaves. In fact, child slavery is actually the norm in Haiti… even pastors have child slaves working in their homes. The speaker could foresee the anarchy and social issues in the country when the child slaves, many of whom are denied education and proper care within a family structure, grow up in a few decades’ time. He was to return a year later, to challenge the Haitian church into spearheading a change where child slavery is no longer to be condoned.

Do we share the heart of the Father, who champions the cause of the weak?

Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Matthew 18:4 to 7

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

11 September

Ten years ago on this day, we had just got home from Tuesday prayer meeting… turned on the television for the news and… We were to stay riveted to the continuous news stream about the plane crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

Just as the horror was about to sink in, ‘live’ news feed came in that the South Tower was hit as well.

Both of us couldn’t sleep very well that night.

Can’t believe that it’s been ten years since that tumultuous event… One of the features that was shown in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary was “Children of 9/11”. Most of the children featured had lost their dads; the kids were either very young or not born at that time. It was really heart-breaking to see how they treasured their dads’ memories through the home videos, photos and other keepsakes. For the older kids who could vividly recall the chain of events, their lives took a drastic turn and it is evident that they still hold the emotional wounds and trauma ten years on. I wonder how different their lives would have been if their dads were still around to celebrate their birthdays, academic and sporting achievements, college graduation, and even wedding down the road. There is a gaping vacuum in each of the family photos.

‘I have tried to teach my brother all the things my father taught me. How to catch a baseball, how to ride a bike and to work hard in school,’ said Peter Negron, 21, whose dad, also called Peter, died at the World Trade Center.

Life has now partly moved on for the young Peter who said that at the 2003 memorial to those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks, he had read a poem ‘about how bad I wanted to cry.’ Now he is in college, and training to be a forensic scientist, he told the crowd gathered for Sunday’s emotional remembrance at Ground Zone as he read out his father’s name just steps from where he died.

But the 9/11 attacks robbed Peter Negron forever of countless moments he could have shared with his dad.

‘I wish my dad had been there to teach me how to drive, ask a girl out on a date, and see me graduate from high school and 100 other things I can’t even begin to name … I miss you so much, dad.’

2000 over years before 9/11, an even more momentous event took place. There was no media coverage, no news feed on Facebook, no tweets… but the account was captured in the Word, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was about a Father who made the ultimate sacrifice out of agape.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, we had two guest speakers who spoke about their childhood in Australia. One of them was conceived out of wedlock and was almost aborted as a result. His parents eventually divorced and he has since had the privilege of a good step-father who loves him unreservedly. The other speaker’s father was an alcoholic who physically and sexually abused his children. She eventually fell pregnant, and did not know who the father might be… it could be her boyfriend… or her own father. The two broken individuals somehow met, and just months into their relationship, went on a road trip to meet up with some other friends.

These friends had just been saved, and they were glowing with the testimony of having entered into a relationship with God. She had attended a Methodist church as a kid and her heart was hungry and open for God. He, on the other hand, was angry at his friends’ conversion and transformation. Particularly as he had brought along a crate of beer but his good ol’ mates would not partake with him. But God’s presence filled the car of this atheist and he also gave his heart to the Lord eventually.

He was recently reunited with his biological dad who put out a notice through the Salvation Army to look for him. He first sought the permission of his step-father, who had absolutely no issue with this and even paid for his passage to meet up with his biological dad. Though he brought photo albums for the catch-up, his own dad could no longer see, blinded with diabetes and robbed of all his possessions by his step-children from a subsequent marriage.

She had prayed in her younger days for God to give her a good family of her own; otherwise she would have given in to her suicidal thoughts. God has also blessed her with a reunion of her firstborn, whom she had given up for adoption so that he could grow up in a wholesome family. Mother and son have now become fast friends.

This couple are actively involved in pastoring and church ministry. Despite their bad start and broken lives, God has given them a fresh beginning with their own Christ-centred family. It continues to be a journey, for which the destination is a bonus.

All this is possible because of God, their heavenly Father. Biological fathers will fail but our Heavenly Father is steadfast, loving and omnipresent.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Psalm 27:10

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psalm 68: 4 to 6