Much has happened since I returned to Honduras one month ago. The rainy season continued. The rainy season ended. Migraine headaches came and thankfully departed. I purchased 3 IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers) for our first aquaponics system. Here I am with the first two.
Jeremy Frye and I cut them apart and set them in place. That is Katerin beside me. She is dressed for school.
And then Nicole gave me a new name. I have spoken of Yasmin and the special relationship she and I have, but God has given me two other little girls to love. Like Yasmin, Katerin and Nicol are nine. (Nicol is on the right)
They are twins. No! That is not correct. They are “The Twins,” a term to be said with equal parts exasperation, foreboding, and helplessness. For me, there is always a smile too. Tuesday, March 18, Nicol gave me a heart made of paper. Another child tore it up, so Nicol made another. On this one, she wrote: “From Nicol, To Tio Papa.” (She didn’t know how to spell Gideon.) After I read it, I asked, “Tio Papa?” Nicol hesitated, but nodded. As she waited for my reaction, her face was full of the fear of rejection. I instantly gave her a hug and said, “Thank you, but if you call me Papa, then I get to call you daughter.” She nodded again and kissed my cheek. Her grin was brighter than the sun. I’m pretty sure mine was too.
Now, that was definitely a Kodak moment, but the next day, March 19, equaled it. March 19 is Father’s Day in Honduras. At the orphanage school, many of the kids made Father’s Day cards for “Papa Barry” Compton, the founder of Open Door Ministries. But not Nicol. No, Nicol made a Father’s Day card for me! On it she wrote, “Te amo mucho papa.” It means, “I love you lots, papa.”
Folks, I am 62 years old and Wednesday was the first time in my life I’ve ever been given a Father’s Day card. This past week, Mike Atkinson, my pastor, visited Honduras. When he left on Sunday, he hugged me and called me Big Brother. I am 62 years old and yes, that was the first time I have ever been called Big Brother. (I am the youngest of three boys.) I love Mike Atkinson. We have known each other for more than 25 years. It brought me to tears when he called me “Big Brother.” However, I don’t think Mike will be offended to learn that the highlight of my week was Nicol calling me Papa. I realize now that I was receiving a lesson about the names of God.
Names identify a person, but they do so much more. Names can define character, be used as terms of endearment, or even be used as weapons. As a child, I had a hard time with my Father. Looking back, I take equal blame for our rocky relationship, but I take full blame for using his name as a weapon. Instead of calling him Father or Daddy, I called him by his first name, Levi. It was meant to hurt him, and it did. One day he asked me why I didn’t call him Daddy. I refused to answer and I refused to call him Daddy. I know I am forgiven now, but I look forward to the day in Heaven when I can apologize and call Levi by his real name, “Daddy.”
The word God seems so impersonal. Almighty God, while one of my current favorites, makes God seem a little distant. Then there are the names for Jesus: Savior, Master, and Lamb of God. All of these are dear to me, but after reviewing God’s names, I decided “Father” is my second favorite name for God and my favorite name is “Pops.” It has been my secret name for God for years now. Until now, I was too shy, scared, and doubtful to tell anyone. To you, “Pops” may seem too familiar. It may even border on disrespect. Well, if I was using it in a disrespectful manner, then it would be plain wrong. But, I want to be God’s son as much as Nicol wants to be my daughter. I want to please Him as much as Nicol wants to please me. Now, I know this nine-year old orphan is desperate for a father, but that is the point. She is desperate and “Pops” put me in her life for a reason. (It turned out that I was pretty desperate to be called Papa.) It is an amazing miracle that “Pops” put us together. And you, the supporters of Food 4 Kids, had a large part in making the miracle come true.
So, what is your favorite name for God? Jesus called His Heavenly Father, “Abba.” (He told us to do it too.) In ancient Hebrew, Abba means Daddy. (I suspect it also means “Pops.”) Do you need someone to call Father, Daddy, or Pops? Do you fear that if you do, He might reject you? Friends, it is not going to happen. In Hebrews 4:16, “Pops” commands His kids to boldly enter His throne room when we need His mercy or grace.
I have been a Dad for only a few days now, yet if Nicol (or Yasmin or Katerin) ever needed me… well, it happened on Father’s Day. Of all things, Nicol needed me to discipline her. Do you remember Esther? I once described her as a “Daughter of Thunder.” Like Esther, Nicol’s temper runs as deep as her love and her desperation. She has been in lots of trouble lately. Wednesday I saw her smack another orphan. Not hard, but hard enough to warrant discipline. I usually don’t handle discipline for the girls. I just take them to their Tia (House Mom), but Tia Flor was out of town that day. So, on my first Father’s Day I had to decide if I loved this little girl enough to discipline her. I did. As I headed toward her, she saw me coming and ran away rather than face me. You know what I did? I took a lesson from my “Pops” and I followed her until she stopped running. We got to the far side of the orphanage before that happened. I explained that I saw what she did and I ordered her up to her room for a time out. She didn’t want to go, but she did. Later, when her time was up, I called Nicol downstairs from her bunkroom. She came down slowly, cautiously, and yes, fearfully. If she could have seen into my heart, she would have known she didn’t have any reason to worry. All I wanted to do was to give her a bear hug. Which I did. Her smile lit the room…and my heart.
I know many of you have children and have learned much about the love of our Heavenly “Pops” through your love for your kids. However, it is all new to me. I just had to tell someone, well, actually, I guess I just told everyone. At 62 years of age, I am a Papa, but more importantly, God is my “Pops.”
One more point. Nicol did not earn my love or acceptance. As a matter of fact, when I first met she and Katerin, they scared me because they were so rough and wild. They were not the girls I would have picked. Being Nicol’s friend, then her Tio, and now her Papa has been and will be a difficult task. She is wounded inside and desperate for love, but that is part of the reason I love these three girls. I see their wounds, their loneliness, and their fears. However, I also see the beautiful women of God they could become if they only had an earthly Papa to introduce them to their Heavenly “Pops.” Oh, wait, that is why I am here. And why you sent me. Or were you like me and really thought “Pops” sent me this far from home just to grow a few fish? No, He had you send me for much more. Yasmin, Katerin, Nicol, and “Pops” thank you for making His miracle come true. As do I.