A Father’s Love
The moment I explained the miraculous news to my girls that my father was coming to visit us in Swazi, Ayanda literally screamed and jumped up and down on her bed like a six year old. After calming down and collecting herself, she beamed, “I knew he would come! I dreamt he would!”
Never ever ever in mywildest dreams would I expect my dad to come visit me in Swazi. First of all, he hates the heat. For my dad, being cranky in the heat is like an apple colored red; it is just a fact of life. Second of all, my dad hates crowds and being surrounded by lots of people. Well, if a house full of fifteen girls isn’t crowd enough, anywhere in town there are loads of people and lots of stop and go traffic. Now, combine those two together—heat and crowds—and how do you think that would go over? Third, my dad has never flown overseas nor has ever desired to leave his homeland. Lastly, he never liked the idea of my move to Swazi, and we certainly didn’t have that “daddy’s girl” relationship which one would think would be the reason for him to come and visit.
To be honest, I was completely satisfied with the idea that only my mother would come to Swazi; in fact, I told my dad not to come because I knew it’d be a miserable trip for him.
So, after the initial shock of the news that my dad was indeed coming with my mom to visit me for two weeks, I decided to warn the girls, who were ecstatically excited about meeting my dad, “Mkhulu” (Grandpa). “Girls, just to warn you, he might be a little intimidating. He’s going to need his space,” I cautioned, knowing how overwhelming the girls can be. “He hates the heat and might get a little cranky…” and I continued explaining how he might be a little more disengaged than the female crowd they’re used to.
“Mkhulu is so funny!” Ayanda giggled in the car ride when we first picked up my parents in Johannesburg. A few days later, she commented (while my dad was right there), “He’s not at all what you described!” I had to then explain that this, too, was in a way like a new part of Dad I had never expected.
Not only did my girls absolutely adore him, but Benny loved having another man around. When Dad was working on the fridge on the front porch, Benny didn’t want to be anywhere else other than right next to my dad, watching and “helping” him work. My dad was completely transformed. He wasn’t the dad of the flesh, he was Abba, “Daddy” of the Spirit. He was a direct reflection of God as Father, and it was indeed miraculous. I could hardly believe my time with him was real life. As much as it benefited me, my greatest thrill was seeing how impactful he was with my girls. Out of 15 girls, only one still has her father in the picture, and it’s not a nice picture. Most of these girls have never even met their fathers, a few had to run from their fathers, and others’ fathers passed away. But here was a picture of a father, willing to take risks he claimed he never would and travel a long ways to a place that he never desired…just to see his daughter, to be with her, encourage her, and love her and her Swazi children. Amazing.
My dad not only was transformed as a father figure, but also as a husband. There are far, far too many women in this culture that are abused by their husbands or other men and let it happen, as if it is a fact of life and they can do nothing to stop it. Women not only seemingly “accept” abuse, but they also make excuses for it. Not a single one of my girls has any idea of what a marriage really should be. In fact, most of them say they don’t want to marry a Swazi because he will just beat them or cheat on them. But with my dad present, these girls and the women from the workshop, were able to see a picture in the flesh of what God designed marriage to be. My parents’ marriage is not perfect, just as no marriage is. But for two weeks, it was a perfect reflection of Christ and his Church. It was my mom and my dad working together to love me, support me, and glorify God daily. It was in the way my dad showed affection for my mom in public and the way my mom was mesmerized by how my dad was interacting with the kids, particularly a dirty one with a running nose. What my mom and dad didn’t know was how this left a lasting impression on anyone who saw them together.
During the two weeks, my remarkably talented mother started a workshop for the prostitute women of Mangwaneni who were seeking a way out. These women in particular come from abusive relationships, and most of them have babies. During these workshops, as my mom was teaching the women sewing and jewelry making, etc., my dad would busy himself with these women’s children, helping to entertain them while Mom worked with the mothers. After one of the workshop days ended, we were all hanging around outside just talking. My mom and dad were talking and laughing together, and I don’t know exactly what they were saying or doing, but it was enough for one of the women (a complete stranger to them) to giggle to her friend, “Wow, they look so in love!”
What an amazing testimony to both of my parents. But more importantly to Our Father’s love who is so present in both of them. My dad never cries, but when he left Swazi, he left with tears in his eyes and a love-soaked heart. I saw my dad transformed. I saw our lives transformed by a father’s love.
When my dad hugged me, I knew I was being held by God the Father.