Friday, August 27, 2010

Passing on Godly Legacies to Our Sons

Day 5 (Thursday, Aug. 5)

Leogane, Haiti

Everything I needed to know about Bill, I learned while hanging the orphanage’s gate earlier in the week. Our leader, Jonathan, looked at the gate at one point and said to Bill, “That’s good enough.” To which Bill responded, “It’s good enough for government work, but this is for the Lord, and I have to do it right.”

That’s the voice of a servant who wants to do his best work for God. That’s what we all should be striving for.

As the week went on, Bill’s expertise on everything construction came to the forefront. No matter what we were up against, Bill had a response based on experience to share with us. And, as a teacher, Bill was top-notch. Bill had a knack for getting the seven Haitian men who worked under us to convey his desires, often without our esteemed interpreters. Bill, no doubt, has the same reputation with his employees who work under him at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.

But the best teaching Bill has done in his life is with his son, Paul, who also is on our team. Bill tried to teach everything he knew about construction and fixing things to Paul, and he did a commendable job. Paul had the same desire as Bill to teach the Haitians life and carpentry skills. Not only did they try teach them the right way to do various carpentry skills, they also tried to teach them the meaning of hard work and integrity on the job, traits that seem to be sorely lacking with many of the Haitians.

Watching Bill interact with Paul was a joy all week. They had the kind of relationship every father and son should have. It included one important element: mutual respect. When Bill was away from Paul, he talked admirably about Bill's ability to play games with kids and be a team leader in the corporate world. Later, Paul marveled at his dad's vast knowledge of all things carpentry and the like. They had fun working together, razzing each other.

Christians need to always remember to exhibit those two characteristics when on the mission field. Bill and Paul lived that out throughout our week in Haiti, and with a good sense of humor.

Bill has passed on a legacy to his son, something that all fathers need to do with their sons. My dad taught me how to be a godly man simply by setting a lifetime example for me. I can remember having only one or two conversations with my dad about what a godly man looked like. I knew what one looked like by looking at my dad.

My dad also had a knack for fixing and designing things and would have made a fantastic engineer had he not wanted to be a farmer. My only regret I have with my dad is that I didn’t seek him out more on how to fix things. He would have taught me everything he knew, but I never had the desire – until he died five years ago.

The Haitians quickly took to Bill, too. They came to know him and trust him, even giving him the esteemed nickname, “Papa,” an endearing name in Haiti.

Men, what kind of legacy are you leaving your sons? We should all strive to be more like Bill and Paul, who is working to pass on his own legacy to his son.

When I think of legacies, I think of what Joseph passed on to his son, Jesus. By age 12, Jesus knew enough of the Pentatauch (books of Moses) to teach in the Temple. No doubt, Joseph was there in the temple studying God’s word with his son. For at least 10 years, Jesus made a living as a carpenter. Because we know he never sinned, we know that Jesus always gave his best work and never cheated any of his customers or lied to them about his workmanship. The Bible doesn’t say, but I think Jesus had an outstanding reputation as a carpenter in Nazareth.

I think about my own legacy to my sons. I am nowhere near the godly man my dad was, but I constantly try to instill in my 23-year-old son and 16-year-old step-son (Julian) the importance of hard work and integrity. My son, Matthew, is not walking with the Lord, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have godly characteristics. The things I taught him as a boy growing up in the church can still be seen in him.

Like Bill and Paul, I, too, want to go on a mission trip with my sons. When the prospects of going to Haiti came up in late April, I told Matthew I was planning to go. I hoped to instill in him a desire to go. Because he’s studying architecture in college, I tried to pump up the unique design my church is using in the rebuilding of the orphanage. In the end, Haiti lost out to an architecture class in southern Europe, where Matthew drew pictures of buildings of antiquity. Go figure.

I won’t give up in my hopes of trying to persuade my sons to go on mission trips with me. I will return to Haiti one day to plant a garden, and perhaps my son will come with me. Maybe another city will be devastated by the likes of a hurricane, earthquake or tsunami, and our church will decide to go and lend aid and care for the dead, sick and the injured. That’s where my heart is, to go on the first wave of relief aid and write about it.

Matthew is preparing to apply for grad school in architecture, and I keep pushing Habitat for Humanity on him. Not only would it be good experience for his studies, it would put him in the midst of other like-minded people who believe in helping those less fortunate than us. That’s the legacy I want to leave with my sons.

Caption: Paul is in the middle smiling broadly, while Bill stands in the background at far right, admiring the work of one of his students.

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