Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day

It Never Meant So Much

Hand in hand, we walked across the lush green grass toward the head stone of the solitary grave positioned in the back of the compound. Over our shoulders Mt. Elgon proudly pierced the deep blue African sky as numerous waterfalls gushed down it's vertical face, glistening in the sun.  After a three hour drive toward the Kenyan border I found myself standing with Sarah in the midst of her family's historical beginnings. "Was she your birth mother or your stepmother?" I quietly inquired.  "My stepmother," she quickly replied.  "How many wives did your father have?" I asked.

This time there was no quick reply.  In fact, I still don't know the answer. I turned to look at Sarah only to observe her face fighting to control tears which refused to remain hidden behind her sad eyes.  We had just come from the front yard after boisterously singing "This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made" and praying together.  I made no effort to discover the reason for the emotional U turn.  I simply wrapped my arms around Sarah and let her cry.

Sarah Waisana & her father
Sarah and her husband, David Waisana, have been our friends for several years.  Pastor David was a student in our Next Generation Leadership Institute from 2005 to 2007.  But, it wasn't until Sarah sang at the dedication of the land the Lord gave Fountain of Hope School in Bukeeka that met her.  My relationship with David and Sarah has grown significantly since those days.  We love to take short term missionaries to their small, crowded church to experience what a real village church is like.  We love the heart this dedicated couple has for children. I can't remember if they care for 14 or 15 these days, but I'm quite sure that only five of them are biological!

When Sarah called me "papa" it was different from many others who use that title for me.  It was last year that I discovered why.  Sarah grew up without knowing who her real father was.  When she got born again she struggled greatly with the name Heavenly Father since her stepfather mistreated her seriously.  Though her mother bore five children for Sarah's real father, she kept the history of their origin a secret from the children.  Sarah was one among thousands who are part of the fatherless generation in Uganda.

David with Sarah's 94 year old grandfather
When it was time for Sarah to wed David she experienced such trauma that during the wedding she found that her "work" was to simply cry.  She had no family to represent her at the introduction or the wedding and once again she felt alone, abandoned, and neglected.  She told me that on her wedding day David became her whole family ... her husband, her brother, her mother, and even her father.  The pain was deep, and my question about family yesterday brought it all back to the surface.  Sarah had to lubricate it with tears.

Along with Sarah, her family, Peter, Jeff, and my granddaughter Robyn, we left the original home place and drove down toward Mbale to share a meal with extended family.   Sarah sat beside me and again shared the story of her life without a father and the pain of her wedding.  Peter, who was driving and sitting on the opposite side of Sarah, wondered how it was that we had just met her real father, stood in their compound, rejoiced, sang, prayed, and wept with him.  Sarah explained.  Two years ago an uncle died and Sarah attended the burial.  Unknown to her, her real father was also attending the burial.  He was 72 years old at the time.  Studying her face he began to wonder if this was the daughter that he has lost so many years ago.  After the burial he began to ask her questions about her history and before long it became obvious that Sarah not only resembled his other children and him, but she was, in fact, his birth daughter.

Putting Sarah's heart in the Father's hand
The passion that Sarah had for me to come to Mbale to met her father was so strong  that I could not avoid laying aside all of my scheduled plans to come and met her father.  Early in the morning, before leaving for Mbale, I told Pam and Robyn, "We have no idea what the Lord has for us today.  Let's ask Him to prepare us so that we can be a blessing to anyone we come into contact with as we represent the Father's heart."  I had no idea how important it was to Sarah and her father that I come to bless their family.  One daughter had a child who was only several weeks old, but born with a hole in its heart.  The medical assessment recommended the baby be taken to India for surgery. That option is really no option.  We prayed for God to close the hole.  The 94 year old grandfather was also sick.  We asked him if he was genuinely prepared to go to heaven or did he need to stay on earth longer in order to get ready.  He assured us he was ready to go home.  We prayed for God's mercy and what was best for him to be done.  During the four hours that I was with him, Sarah's father kept standing up, throwing his arms wide open, shouting with a huge smile "Hunter!  Hunter!" to which I would also stand up and say "I'm here!" and we would embrace and he would tell me again how much he loved me, thanking me for being a father to his daughter, loving her, and taking the time to be with them that day.

There are so many adults who are living life with unhealed wounds inflicted by their father.  Through neglect, abandonment, abuse, indifference, or simply not there.  Fathers may not realize how important their role is in the life of their children.  Children need to know that they matter ... that they are loved, significant, beautiful, and capable.  They need to know that their father loves their mother with single hearted devotion.  They need to know that their father has a heart for God, his Heavenly Father ... and, that more than anything, they want their children to connect to the father heart of God.

Sarah & her sister Joy with their father
There is only one solution to the father wounds of children:  FORGIVENESS.  Harboring unforgiveness is akin to drinking poison and hoping your father will die. Forgiveness releases God to heal and set free.

Yesterday Sarah was not wading in the sea of regret.  She was rejoicing in the abundance of the goodness of God.  She said, "if it was not for Jesus I would have never met David; if it was not for Jesus I never would have met you; if is was not for Jesus I never would have met my real father; if it was not for Jesus I don't think I would be alive now to see today and rejoice with all my family."

Father's day is not a national day of celebration in Uganda like it is in America.  But, truthfully, Sarah is celebrating her father's day and it has never meant more to her than right now.


  1. Beautiful! I so enjoyed meeting Sarah and David--they are an amazing couple.

  2. What an amazing story. Praise God, the father of lights, in whom there is no shadow of turning and from whom every good and perfect gift comes.


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