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My Father, 3 Other Fathers and a Few More…

Dad and Cody
My dad with Cody my oldest son back in 2011.

It’s fathers day here in Manila. 12 hours before fathers day for my dad in Abbotsford, Canada. I called him earlier today. I’ve never missed a Canadian holiday with this 12 hour advanced warning. 🙂

It’s hard to live far away from my Dad. I’ve had a few stints around the world in since I was 18: Thailand, the Caribbean, Southern Philippines for a year with my wife then living summers in the forests of BC as a tree planter. Although, I’ve spent most of my life 10 minutes away from my parents. That make living in Manila tough some days even though it’s only 24 hours in a plane rather than the 6 months in a boat it would have been 100 years ago.

My parents have always supported my efforts no matter what. My dad’s classic line was, “I don’t care what you want to do. If you want to be a basket-weaver, I’ll do every thing I can to make sure you’re the best basket-weaver you can be!” I can see now that his (and my mothers) support gave me a lot of confidence as a kid. I was an inconsistent (to put in nicely) high school student. I wasn’t a tremendous athlete like my brother. Throughout all of that I did learn that I can be confident as a leader. No matter what field I’ve entered my dad’s example and confidence in me has followed me and inspired me to stick my neck out for others as a leader. I’m thankful for that.

My Mom’s Dad David Sawatzky

There are a few other men who’ve impacted me greatly:

My Grandfather David Sawatzky passed away last year. He taught me how to embrace my creativity and the desire to work with my hands as a mechanic. He was a machine operator for 30 years and a shade tree mechanic for all of his life: from Russian refugee to farm boy to retiree. I’m forever thankful for the years he spent with me turning wrenches and telling stories about the Volkswagen beetle he tore down and reassembled twice in the same day and the old Scout he had with 400CU ford in it that pulled a heavy travel trailer up jackass mountain without changing gears. Those silly and powerful memories will go with me to my grave and to the resurrection when I look forward to turning wrenches with Grandpa again.





Gerd and Opa
Gerd Bartel and Siegfried Bartel (Opa)

Secondly, my father-in-law Gerd Bartel has been a great example of Christlike leadership for me. He’s held positions of leadership nationally, provincially, locally and he is an informal leader in every sphere of influence he enters. He’s a willing servant and powerful advocate for justice everywhere he goes. I’m inspired by him. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without his example.

Thirdly, my wife’s Grandfather, Siegfriend Bartel AKA. Opa. Opa is a 99-year-old man who still lives with deep convictions. He was a WW2 army captain for the Germans on every different front. Then after the war and moving to Canada he became a very successful dairy farmer, community leader and outspoken peace activist with Mennonite Central Committee. He spent more than 10 years decrying the “glories of war” for his own experience and revealing the beast of nationalism and the dehumanization enemies that is essential for every soldier to embrace if they will learn to kill another person. Opa’s stories and example have also shaped me. My understanding of how to follow Jesus and my commitment to serving God’s creation as an Ambassador of reconciliation stems from the seeds he has planted in my life. As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:20 –

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Opa has inspired me to me a messenger of the Gospel of Peace: all things are being made new (2 Cor 5:17) and the church is a community of friends called to carry the message of that healing! That message is so much bigger than the good news church at large has carried for the last 200 years. I’m thankful for Opa’s role in my understanding of the message of the church from Jesus our King and I’m thankful that he’s still alive and we’ll be having coffee together in a few weeks.

Leaving our home community Emmanuel Mennonite Church in June 2012.
Leaving our home community Emmanuel Mennonite Church in June 2012.

Finally, during the last two years in the Philippines we’ve been adopted and have adopted a lot family. I have new grandparents, new fathers, new mothers and even new children. I expected this. I’m so thankful to have experienced the truth of what Jesus said in Mark 10:29-30:

“I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life.

I’ve experienced gaining new family as we left Canada and came to the Philippines. Peace Church is my family and I have learned to embrace new fathers and mothers in my life and have felt every bit at home and at peace here in the Philippines as I ever has in Canada.

A Large Part of PeaceChurch Philippines
A Large Part of PeaceChurch Philippines

But, somehow, it is still never the same as hanging out with my Dad.

I miss my Dad and my Mom today. I’m thankful that even when I’m apart from the people who lead me. I do carry their influence with me for the rest of my life. It’s a reminder of how important the people who’ve influenced me really are.

See you in Canada soon.