Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
This week I have been thinking about my dad. This past Monday, July 29, was one year from the last time any of us Alaskan Rockey’s saw him, except my time beside his bed at the end of his life when he was in a coma. But on Sunday, July 29, 2018, my daughter, Mary, was visiting family in Florida. Mary had lunch with my dad and I have a picture of the two of them on that day after lunch outside the place where Dad lived. My dad was taller than I am in adult life. But, in this picture he is somewhat stooped, and his head is not quite as tall as Mary’s ear. He has a half grin on his face. My dad had a sense of humor.
While Mary and Dad were visiting, he told her something she has often repeated to her Alaska family. Dad informed Mary, “Martha (my sister) is in charge. But, when Martha’s not here, you’re in charge.” Mary has reminded us of my dad’s words many times. And, since Martha lives in FL, and Mary lives in Alaska . . . Well, you get the idea!
My dad was a little over 90 years and 10 months when this picture was taken. He would have been 91 on September 22, 2018. But, he contracted a urinary tract infection, which led to other complications, and he passed away around 5:25 a.m. on August 25. I was by his bedside.
As Monday July 29th approached, I was thinking about my dad because I knew the date of that picture of Mary and Dad. I used to phone him on Monday’s. Obviously, I don’t call Dad anymore. Now I call my sister, Martha. Since we live in Alaska and he lived in FL we did not get to spend the holidays together. But, this was the first year I didn’t send my dad a Father’s Day card and gift for the occasion. Obviously, since he died almost a year ago, he was no longer home to receive the card and gift for this year’s Fathers’ Day.
Perhaps another reason I was thinking about my dad is the St. John Alaska Mission for Christ Vacation Bible School in Eek, Alaska, last week. It was a very good trip again this year. We had about 75 children who attended 4 days of VBS. Eight members of St. John flew to Eek, including Rod and Temple Christiansen, and their son, Aaron, Sara Guhl, and her grandson, Gaelen Swigart, Marilee Nufer, Margaret Runser, and myself. This year, we also added basketball camp at night, led by Rod Christiansen. That camp was a BIG hit. I also offered an adult Bible Study at the same time, based on the lessons we had taught the children that day in VBS. I did not get the attendance Rod got in basketball camp, but I had at least 5 folks a night.
One other phenomenon we experienced again was the regular visit of children to the place we were staying. Some children especially came to visit every day. They seemed to crave our attention. Interestingly, some of these children always seemed to show up around meal time. One day our village contact and friend, George Alexie, was present during one of these visits. He said, “I’m glad these children are coming to visit you.” George explained that, at least for a couple of these children, home life was not all that good, and the children were often hungry.
Do you realize what a blessing it is that many of us have had loving fathers who worked to provide for us, and care for us, and laugh with us, as best they can? In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about the care of fathers. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? In God’s plan for the world fathers take care of their children, even if that does not always happen in our world. Thinking back to my dad, He did provide, and he did love, and he did teach. He especially taught us about our Lord, which is the main responsibility Scripture gives parents. ( See Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Proverbs 22:6, and Ephesians 6:4). Thank you, Dad!
But, dads are human as all of us are, and all parents struggle at times in raising our children well. So, I am thankful for the rest of that Matthew verse which indicates we also have a Heavenly Father, whose love and provision even surpass the love of our earthly Fathers. Jesus tells His disciples at the end of that section of Matthew, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
And, if our Heavenly Father loves His children and cares for them, consider the meaning of the best known verse in Scripture, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (NAS)” Our Heavenly Father obviously loves His “only begotten Son.” So, if our Heavenly Father “gave” His Son that we might believe and have eternal life, how much does our Heavenly Father love us??! Actually, this truth further explains the words of Psalm 103:13, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” God gives us fathers to love and care for us. But, the love of our Heavenly Father surpasses the love even the best earthly dad can give.
Like my father, I am the dad of 4 children, and now I am also grandfather to 6 grandchildren. I have tried to love, and to provide, and to teach. But, I know at times I have struggled. In the end, I am thankful. I am thankful for a dad who did love me, provide for me, and teach me about Jesus. I am thankful for the privilege of loving and caring for my own children and grandchildren. And, I am especially thankful for my Heavenly Father whose love even surpasses the love of my earthly dad.
Do you have good memories of your father? If so, be thankful, not everyone has that blessing. But, everyone does have a Heavenly Father who loves us so much He sent Jesus. Thank You, Dad!
A Child of God, Thankful for My Earthly Dad and for My Heavenly Father,
P.S. Here is the picture of Mary and my dad. https://photos.app.goo.gl/keRqtPgVQM11twZm9
P.P.S. Here are some pictures of the Basketball Camp that Rod Christiansen conducted during our time in the village of Eek. While Rod was running a basketball camp for youth, I was teaching an evening Bible Class for adults. (He had a bigger attendance than I did. J ) https://photos.app.goo.gl/75Ux3FHsgSC7cV1C8
P.P.P.S. Our Church Publishing House, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), donated 50 children’s bibles for the St. John team to hand out in Eek. Here are some pictures of children with the Bibles, discussion about the Bibles in worship, and pictures of adults taking the Bibles. https://photos.app.goo.gl/P5PG24HH8LcorDux5
P.P.P.P.S. Gaelen Swigart and I did get to go fishing with George Alexie, Eek resident and head elder at Eek Moravian Church. Here are some pictures from that fishing trip. https://photos.app.goo.gl/MKyKnG3yBDfcf7qDA
P.P.P.P.P.S. Here are all the pictures from our trip to Eek, to provide VBS for the children of the village. https://photos.app.goo.gl/md5NmyN1J45XDPfd7
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.
IMPORTANT - When I retire I will continue to write these devotions, but I will no longer send these e-mails as a St. John newsletter. I will post these devotions on my Facebook page, but not on the St. John Facebook page, for now at least. I believe the articles will also continue in The Frontiersman. However, if you want to continue to receive these devotions by e-mail please send me an e-mail TO ME at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know to send them to you.