I remember this day! It was full of joy and excitement. Baptizing Andy was special to our entire church family. They were aware of Andy’s story and knew of his hard past so to hear that he wanted to accept Jesus Christ and be baptized was just great news! But before he be became my brother in Christ, I became his DAD!
In my last post (Fathers to the Fatherless) I explained the events that took place for Andy to be apart of our family. My family’s legacy of taking care of the less fortunate and homeless was started by my grandfather, carried on by many of his children and continues to this day with his grandchildren.
Andy came home with us on a Sunday after worship services and Pastoral care were taken care of. I remember the surprise of many of my church members who knew Andy was coming to live with us once they saw that he was white. “Did you know he was white Pastor!” One church member ask me, “Nope, does it matter?” I replied.
It occurred to me at that moment that during this whole process, it never came into my mind to ask what race Andy was. All that mattered was that a young man needed help. Oh how I pray and hope to God that in the realm of loving the world in Jesus name, race becomes a non-issue!
Once the initial shock of seeing Andy wore off, the members of my church could not have made me more prouder to be their Pastor! I saw live and in living color the Love of God being shared with a person who may have never felt such a Love ever before.
Once we made it home, we showed Andy the house and his room. Where he was to keep his toiletries and which towel rack belonged to him in the bathroom. Not longer after he had unpacked and became somewhat comfortable, it was time for dinner together.
Now, dinner in our home is a time where we are together sharing what happened for that day, or what we expect to do tomorrow. But this day, all of the focus was on Andy and getting to know him better. My wife and I began setting the “family rules” that everyone follows in our house (yes even me!). While we were explaining to him some of these rules, I shouted, “Oh!, What do you want to call me”? He paused for a few seconds and said,
“well, can I call you dad?”
I said, “sure but why would you want to call me that?” He paused again and said, “I’ve never had a dad and I want to know what it feels like to call someone dad.” By the time he finished this sentence both my wife and I were welling up in tears and after a short pause I said, “yes son, you can call me dad”. “Can I call some of my friends and tell them I have a dad?!” he asked. “Sure” I said, still teary eyed about what had just happened. I spend the next 30 minutes or so, speaking to his friends confirm that I was in fact, “Andy’s dad”. A night I’ll never forget. I did not take long for him to start calling my wife “mom”. Needless to say, he acclimated just fine.
Shortly after Andy became a part of our family, the T.V. was full of reports and news coverage of the police killings of Afro-Americans and the so called race riots in cities across America. While we were watching the nightly news, Andy asked me, “Dad, how should we feel about that”. He said “we” I thought to myself. It took me a second to answer because I was trying to understand how he meant to term “we”. Did he mean, “we” as in what does our family think about this? Or did he mean “we” as in he is considering himself an Afro-American since he is part of the family.
I decided to explain BOTH!
“Well Andy” I said, “There are two ways we can look at this.” You can respond in anger and go after the people responsible, or you can find the real issues in your community and begin to change it from the inside out.
First, I started telling him my life’s story in dealing with racism as an Afro-American. He received the long version, but in short here is the gist of what I told him:
- In 3rd or 4th grade, I got accused of cheating in math by the teacher who said, “niggers can’t be good at math” Seems that she was angry that I was the best math student in her class.
- While living in Sugar Land, TX in the 1980’s the KKK attacked my brother cutting his hand in-half and detaching the bottom half of his ear.
- Coming home (yes, still living in Sugar Land, TX) from church we discovered that the back of our home had been tarred and feathered by the KKK. My dad, I and my older brother cleaned up the mess and moved on.
- One night while my dad was away teaching a seminary class, the KKK set fire to our garage and the fire quickly engulfed our entire house…. “Witnesses later testified that that same kids who attacked my brother were seen yelling from their car as they sped away…. “get out of here niggers!”
There is more, but you get the point. I explained to him that even through all of this, my father taught us never to be afraid of those who hate you because of you skin color. To stand strong not let them effect you (even after my brother got assaulted and our house was tarred and feathered, my dad was determined to live and stay in Sugarland), and if push came to shove, fight and fight well.
“I tell you this to help you understand that there is injustice in the world Andy, and for whatever reason people of our skin color have been on the receiving end most of the time.” Then I explained “As an Afro-american family we choose to fight injustice with education, community development and speaking truth to power no matter what, I don’t believe it is God’s will to riot or to tear-up our community.” He nodded his head and said, “they need you out there to help them” speaking of new broadcast where the riot was happening.
Andy has blessed our lives as much as we have blessed his. During a very recent family dinner, we were taking turns sharing what we were thankful for. During Andy’s turn he asked if he could be skipped and if we would come back to him, we obliged and moved on. When his turn finally came he said,
“When my mom died, I asked God why he would take my mom, and now I know. God took my mom so that I can have two parents, and two brothers and a sister. He took my mom and gave me a family.”
“All things work together for good, right dad!” Andy said. “Yes son, all things no matter what” I said.
In my last about our life with Andy, I’ll post a video of Andy giving his testimony himself! Don’t miss it.
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