The 17th of June is Father's Day. Our Education and Campaigns Officer, Michael Briggs, reflects on becoming a father four years ago.
On the 27th February 2014 at 3pm, I became a father to a beautiful baby boy, Nathan. As happy as I was, I quickly became aware that I had not really been provided with appropriate training for this role. In the first few days of fatherhood, I learnt more about life than I had in all my years on this earth. Now, four years later the challenges are still present. How can I be the best father possible to my child and family? What does a good father look like?
One of the oldest and yet most beautiful images we have of a father comes from an old parable Jesus told, known commonly as ‘The Prodigal Son’ though maybe a better title would be, ‘The Loving Father’. You can find it in Luke 15.
The image Jesus paints to those listening to the story, is a father at his estate looking diligently into the distance anticipating the return of his son. The father sees him “while he was still far off.” This line holds a double meaning, the son is distance both in geography and relationship. Jesus says, the father “was filled with compassion” and then he said, “he ran!”
The theologian Ken Bailey has said that to run to meet his son the father would need to gather up his robes, thus exposing his legs as he ran. At the time, this just wasn’t done and so the image that’s created is that of the father humiliating himself before the village. He runs out to greet his son, to hug and kiss him and welcome and accept him. It is hard to overstate the shocking impact this picture painted for the first hearers of the story. The beautiful picture of a father who desires above all else, to love and care for his family.
Pictured above is James Kheiri from Mwanza, Malawi. He shares laughter and joy outside his house with his wife and the youngest of his two children. His story also paints a picture of a father who loves and cares for his family.
In the past, erratic rains and prolonged dry spells caused by climate change had a devastating effect on James’ crop and his ability to grow enough food to eat and support his family. However, James has been given the opportunity to adapt and farm more effectively by using something as simple as a text message. The texts come from Christian Aid’s ECRP project. They tell James the weather forecast and he in turn shares the information with his community (up to 500 families).
James was able to plant the crop when the forecast said it would rain. And as such he had a bumper harvest, with 40 (50kg) bags of maize. With the money he made from selling the maize, he bought iron sheets for the roof of his house. The roof now no longer lets in the rain during the rainy season. Before he would have to leave his house during the rains and fix the roof constantly, but now, with a working roof, he instead is able to spend more time with his family.
James Kheiri is a loving father, doing all he can to bring his family and wider community together to rise above poverty. This Father’s Day, may we praise fathers around the world, like James, who strive to care for their families amid hardship and poverty.
As for myself as a father, I have loved the journey of the last four years. Yes, the challenges may still be there and I still have plenty to learn, but reading these stories inspire me to seek to follow in the footsteps of James Kheiri and indeed of ‘The Loving Father’.