Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where Love is Felt

Several weeks ago, my grandfather, Dr. Jim Phillips, was preaching at Faith Baptist Church in Bakersfield, California. Knowing that he was within ten minutes of my in-laws' house, I called him and asked if he would visit them. He had actually already planned on doing that. The only time he had ever met Linda's family was at our wedding over three years ago; but he was thrilled to see them again.

He asked me for all the names of Linda's siblings. He asked me what he should call Linda's mother and father. He wanted to make sure he was culturally prepared for the visit.

Before I go any further, let me explain something about Linda's family. Linda and her siblings have never had a grandfather. Their father's father was killed by the Khmer Rouge in the early 1970's. Their mother's father has never left Cambodia. While Linda, Dena, Dana, Vicki, and BJ were growing up in Long Beach, California, their mother's father was in Cambodia. Furthermore, in Cambodian culture, elderly people generally do not show affection to young people- even to their own grandchildren. Typically, the grandchildren are expected to serve the grandparents; but often (not always) this is done with very little affection shown by the grandchildren or the grandparents. In the minds of Linda and her siblings, this has always been their idea of what a grandparent is.

When my grandfather showed up at their doorstep on that Saturday afternoon, he completely revolutionized their idea of a grandfather. He entered the house, hugged Linda's parents, and then he did the unthinkable: he began calling Linda's siblings by name and giving them hugs. They had a wonderful visit, and my grandfather quickly found out how wonderful my wife's family is.

Toward the end of the visit, my grandfather invited them to come and hear him preach the next day. There was no pressure, no pushing; just a simple invitation.

That night I receive a phone call from Dana, Linda's 22 year old sister.

"Chad, we got to meet Grandpa- he is the sweetest man! We're gonna go hear him preach tomorrow if we can get a ride."

The next day, Dana, Vicki (Linda's 18 year old sister), Dena (Linda's 24 year old sister), and my mother-in-law went to Faith Baptist Church and heard my grandfather preach. Dena had not been to church since she rode the bus to Pacific Baptist Church when she was a little girl. Dana had been to church one time in the past ten years. I was honestly shocked to hear that they had gone to church.

On Monday, I received calls from Dena and Dana. Neither could stop talking about my grandfather being such a loving person. In fact, Dena said that when she hugged him the last time, she did not want to let go of him.

I was thinking about this whole situation. Why did my wife's family, who were not even interested in church, just suddenly decide to go hear my grandfather preach? They don't know that he is a respected preacher. They don't know what God has used him to do in the ministry over the past 50 years. They don't know the legacy he has left in the independent, fundamental Baptist movement. But they know one thing: he loves them. And that's what makes the difference.

"Where love is felt, the message is heard." -Jim Phillips

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