We do our best during dinner table talk to keep Lifa’s father as the hero every dad deserves to be to his son. We do everything we can to stay in close contact, despite the distance, language and culture gaps. Dads are important.
|Father's Day Celebration with Lifa's dad.|
No pictures of Lifa's did in this blog for his privacy.
Lifa’s father’s story has been a hard one, and the fact that he’s still in Lifa’s story has proved him to be a diamond in the rough. There are many men with children in his culture, but not many who identify themselves as fathers. According to both government and tribal law in South Africa, fathers have virtually no authority as the head of their households or guardians of their children.
When there’s no place for you in a home or in your culture, how could you know where you belong? How could you know you were made with the hero’s role in the story? Why would you choose to live a hero’s life or do anything differently than all the generations before you?
It didn’t take long after Chris and I got married for Lifa to learn about Dad Powers. I watched him learn to thrive one soccer kick at a time. Family dinners and the sound of a father’s voice praying over him every evening became life-sources for the kid (and the mom) learning about how important dads are.
Lifa's adaptation to the added stability of our house made some things at his other dad’s house hard to understand. When Lifa hadn’t known that houses with dads could be anything other than chaotic, crowded and a little lonely, it was ok. But now he knew something different. He knew dads and their houses are important.
If Lifa’s father had followed suit with the fathers in his story, we would not even know his name. He is unable to provide for his son due to his life’s circumstances, but he does want to be a dad. Lifa’s father often didn’t come ever home when Lifa was staying at his house for school holiday. His shame was too heavy. The home was too chaotic. He just couldn’t bear any of it. It was all part of the blur of living in a house of 16-ish people that you don’t really “belong to” anyway. Until he saw something different. Then it became unbearable.
Chris and I planned a two-week trip to Cape Town while Lifa stayed with his father for school holiday. Just before we left, Chris spent a Saturday with Lifa’s father. He drove 9 hours that day and brought along a local pastor for translating. The three men spent some quality table-time with plates full of meat and conversations loaded with Truth.
Chris spent hours at that table explaining to Lifa’s dad how important he is to us. He shared our burdens, convictions and prayers for Lifa and invited him into sharing the vision for his son. Chris talked to Lifa’s dad about how important it is to protect Lifa’s mind, body and spirit. He promised we would always raise him in the church and according to Biblical standards, and we would blaze the trail for him to prosper. Lifa’s dad humbled himself, and, through a translator, told my hero-husband, “I don’t know how Lifa got so lucky. He has two fathers. I am so happy we can work together to make sure he has a good life.”
Tears salted the table as they were all overcome with how families and table talk change people’s stories.
That table talk counted for a lot more than a Saturday. During his school holiday, Lifa called me a few times from his dad’s. It was always way past bedtime and when he needed the stability of a mom’s voice and nighttime routine. He was pining for my rice and beans and pumpkin cake, and he wasn’t sleeping well. We would play highs and lows, talk about what we ate for dinner, and I would send legions of angels to sing him to sleep and dance in his dreams. Lifa called a few days before the end of holiday and said his low for the day was that we were coming to get him on Saturday instead of Sunday. There was going to be a party at his dad’s house on Saturday, and there was going to be a tent.
Important things happen in tents in South Africa. Tent rentals are big businesses for weddings, funerals and all major events. Tents make things matter here.
Initially, Chris and I were thrilled that Lifa’s low involved leaving his dad’s. We want Dad’s house to be a happy place. Mostly though, we were curious as to what was really going on over there. In my six years of driving to that house, I have never seen a tent.
When we pulled up on Saturday, the air felt electrified with excitement. There was a newly-purchased cow and goat tied to the fence that we knew wouldn’t be there long. People were hustling and bustling, and there was going to be a tent.
Lifa’s dad wasn’t home, but one of the women who stayed in the house filled us in on the excitement. One of the family members had been away studying “traditional medicine” and would return that night to a big celebration. They would sacrifice the animals and honor the ancestors for making their sister a healer. She would be famous, and that house would become famous for its power to intervene to the ancestors. I couldn’t have bene more excited to sweep Lifa out of there. We had to get home to beans and rice and pumpkin cake.
One week later, the hero dad of our house made the long trip to meet Lifa’s father again. This time, he was going to tell Lifa’s dad our big news: WE ARE MOVING TO CAPE TOWN NEXT WEEK. (Here’s that story.) We didn’t know how Lifa’s father would respond because now, instead of a 4-hour day drive, it would be a 24-hour, multi-day drive to see his son. Chris communicated specific details for Lifa’s future and education potential, and that we would go the extra miles (lots of miles) to ensure the continuity of Lifa’s relationship with his father. He was almost unfazed. Location was a detail. It was obvious that we were all one family, and we do what was necessary for the good of the family.
If we are going to Cape Town, then Lifa should obviously go to Cape Town. Lifa’s dad had something else he wanted to talk about. He looked at Chris and told him that, since their last meeting, he couldn’t stop thinking about what Chris had taught him about a father’s role in his family, leading his household, and having vision for his child. Lifa’s father couldn’t shake what he knew now: He had the right, the authority and the expectation to defend his family and to be the hero.
He heard something different, and he couldn’t un-hear that. And that tent was the last straw for him. Lifa’s dad shared the dirty, demonic details of what happened that night in the tent while we were back at our house with our rice and beans and pumpkin cake.
The Truth about dads shook him until his chains fell off.
Lifa’s father has set his heart and mind on leaving that household so he can establish a home with dignity and safety for Lifa to come visit.
He wants a house that calls on Jesus and not ancestors.
He wants the best for his boy - an education, safety, spiritual guidance and a safe place for him to come rest and enjoy his father’s presence. He has never seen it, never known it, but he heard about it from another dad. And he believes in it because he’s seen the transformation in his own son.
He can no longer travel from tent to tent, circumstance to circumstance. Lifa’s dad heard about what happens in a home, and he experienced transformation at the table.
They started casting vision and sorting details to help Lifa’s dad step into the authority and design he was made for. He was made for a home, not a tent.
We all were.
The people who gathered under a tent, afraid not to give their money, bodies and souls to ancestral worship on that Saturday night in Lifa’s dad’s house didn’t know anything other than that tent. They didn’t know about the Father who sent His Son as the sacrifice, who stretched out His skin to tear down the tents and build a house. They didn’t know that Jesus made a place for them at eternity’s table, where the food tastes great and the talk transforms you.
Lifa’s dad knows now. Because another dad told him. And he has to do something about it.
Our family and our home has been transformed by table talk and Dad Powers. Stories are forever changed when you are willing to drive the distance and do whatever it takes to meet someone at the table and tell them they don’t have to live in a tent. It happened in our house, and now it’s going to create another safe house with a hero dad taking his place.
Next week, Chris, Lifa and I are each going to pack a bag. We are going to drive really, really far and pull up to a new table. We are moving to the southern suburbs of Cape Town, and pulling in our truck to a rental house at the foot of Table Mountain.
The tents look a lot different in the well-developed region of the city we are relocating to, but the Truth is the same. We were all made with an important place at the table and in the story of the Family of God.
We are going with 8-year old, cheesy-smiled proof that families and tables change things, not tents.
There are a lot of things that are going to look different in our life, but we are going with the limitless Dad’s powers. We are going to plant and pastor a church in Newlands, Cape Town. The table has been prepared, so we are pulling ourselves up to it.
PS: We just updated our website with the details, how people are participating from around the world, and how you can too. We’re saving you a seat.