As a father of five, even though I feel the enduring weight of responsibility to provide physical nourishment for my family, there is something beautiful about watching my children eat. I have discovered a deep sense of fulfillment when I am given an opportunity to provide for my family, enabling them to experience a satisfying meal or offering them something that they need.
As our family serves in Rwanda this summer, we are learning that it is not always possible for parents to experience that type of joy. Many fathers around the world struggle to put food on the table, or to care for their children the way that they would like to. Millions of children live in poverty around the world today and many of them have fathers who wish they could provide more for their children.
At Hope Haven Rwanda, I have enjoyed getting to know Jerome, one of our cooks. He is an excellent example of a father who labors hard to provide for his family. Originally from Kigali, Jerome is 38 years old, happily married and the father of one of our Hope Haven Rwanda students, 8-year-old Ihirwe Teta. He is an Elder in his church and has been serving there since he decided to follow Jesus in 1998. Jerome has also been active in our Savings Groups and told me recently, “a lot of good things happened when I joined Hope Haven, and through the savings program I was able to build a house.”
Jerome is part of a community that endeavors to provide spiritual nourishment as well as physical nourishment to his family. According to Saint Paul, spiritual nourishment is the most meaningful contribution a father can make: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”(Ephesians 6:4).
As a father, I have definitely been guilty of “exasperating” my children. To exasperate means “to frustrate, to annoy or to not listen to.” Kimberly, my bride of nearly 24 years, gently reminds me to slow down, to listen to our children and to value their input more. This is so important.
The Apostle Paul began his admonition with a negative imperative: “do not exasperate your children”but he quickly transitioned to a positive command: “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Fathers, we are able to profoundly influence our children. Indeed, we can introduce them to a personal relationship with God, modeling through our own faith and teaching them how to follow Jesus during each step of their own spiritual journey.
On a macro level, fathers are vital elements in elevating communities, especially as they follow their Heavenly Father’s guidance, supporting each one of their family members as they discover and fulfill God’s unique purposes for their lives.
Fathers, what are some of the ways you can offer spiritual nourishment for your children this week?