I can still see the picture in my mind of my dad seated on a “kapoi,” the carrier four Africans transported him on into the jungles of Africa. He did not have the stamina the Africans did to walk for three days. The sweat gathered under his helmet and ours as we swatted the never-ending flies.
Mom tucked several loaves of fresh-baked banana bread into his belongings because banana bread kept longer than most food items. I caught a whiff of the aroma and I looked forward to fresh slices of the tasty treat later.
My dad endured long trips into the interior of the jungle despite the unrelenting heat, threats of gorillas and poisonous snakes. When he arrived at his destination, the people mobbed him, feeling his face, his hair, his arms. They had never seen a white man before. As they stared at this pale creature, they giggled with childlike delight.
He preached the gospel and recruited young men from the jungles to bring them to the mission station. There he trained them to return to their villages and establish their own churches to spread the good news about God’s love.
What motivated him to take his twenty-six-year-old wife and two young daughters to a mission station in the jungles of the Belgian Congo? One of his favorite Bible verses inspired him: “For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV 1984).
My dad’s example encouraged me on a trip to Brazil. In July, 2004, I left the comforts of my American home to go to a poor area in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a month to visit my adopted son, Alex. My husband and I had adopted four teenagers from poverty backgrounds.
We joined with God to nurture them with love and discipline and watched them begin to flourish. Our Brazilian son, Alex, had graduated from a local university and decided to return to Brazil to help his brother and sisters, who were still living in poverty. He told me, “Mom, I want them to have the same opportunities I’ve had.”
When I arrived in the house where Alex lived with his siblings, Michelle, Ingrid and Michael in Brazil and glanced around the meager accommodations, tears came to my eyes as the level of my son’s sacrifice sank in. I sat on my hard bed, which felt like a bag of sand, and viewed the tiny bedroom without space to hang my clothes or unpack my suitcase. I wondered how I would manage for four weeks living in those cramped quarters.
My dad came to mind and the memories of his journeys into the jungle. If he had slept on a cot under the stench of drying elephant meat to share the love of God with those people, I could endure this adjustment to show God’s love to these neglected children. My dad’s courage to endure hardship gave me courage. As I faced my hardship, I grew in my appreciation and admiration of his.
Now, I find myself in need of daily courage as I write to help others and to continue to help children in poverty. I am grateful for the example of my parents and the courage of my father to press into the unknown African jungle to share the love of God. My dad’s actions taught and inspired me to follow Jesus Christ’s example of loving sacrifice more than any words he spoke.
The love that compelled him, now compels me.
Published in “Celebrate Dads”
Copyright © 2005 Sharon Gibson
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