Garrett Pearson, World Relief North Texas Office Director, shares his reflections on how being a first time father has impacted how he views loving and welcoming the most vulnerable.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. – John 15:9.
This passage where Jesus comforts and encourages his disciples in steadfastness has steadied me throughout my life.. Knowing the deep love God has for his son extends to me from Jesus is something that has shined as a light in times of despair. And yet, over the past year, the verse took a deeper meaning with the birth of my son.
A Perspective Shift
When I saw our baby for the first time, my whole perspective shifted. I looked into the eyes of someone I would lay down my life for. Moreso, this was someone I would reorient my life for. Someone I can create a place for him to belong, grow, and create in our world. I marveled at the little things: his delight at playing in mud for the first time, the light of unfettered joy that spreads across his face when he sees a cat, or the way he reaches out to touch and feel the familiar faces of family and friends. I love my son, and these words from John 15 make me marvel anew at the love Christ has for us.
My first year as a father has also been my first year as Office Director at World Relief North Texas.
Less than a month after my son was born, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Over 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes, livelihoods, and families. Not even one year after that, Ukraine was invaded. Many of those families joined more than 100 million globally displaced from their homes. Viewing war, suffering and displacement through the lens of fatherhood has been a new experience for me.
As we play in our backyard, I think of the families whose homes were leveled by machines of war, destroyed beyond recognition.
As we introduce new foods and enjoy my son’s bewildered reactions, I think of people struggling to survive every day because they are cut off from basic necessities, like food and clean water.
As we go to the park and see all sorts of people in our community – parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, I think of the millions of people who are discriminated against and forcibly separated from their families because of their race, religion, nationality, social/political group, or sexuality.
As I hear my son’s little voice say “mama,” I think of the reality that roughly 70% of refugees are women and children.
I cannot comprehend the full extent of pain, suffering, or loss people are facing moment by moment in our world. In one sense, there’s a certain amount of the hardships of the world I shelter our son from. Yet, I’m reminded that fathers and mothers across the globe cannot simply turn off the bombings, invasion of soldiers, or pangs of hunger. They step forward into a relentless unknown. New and unfamiliar are the oppressive constants that have become facts of life.
So what do we do?
We can use the privileges, platforms, and resources we have to advocate for the most vulnerable from a place of love. The love God has for his child is the same love that Christ has for you, for our neighbors, for refugees and immigrants.
Fatherhood is a precious gift, I sincerely believe that in this first year of parenthood. It’s opened my eyes more fully to the Father’s love and the love Jesus has for all of us. And at World Relief, we believe that welcoming refugees and immigrants is an important and biblical way to embody Christ’s love for those in need. Welcoming isn’t just what we do — it’s who we are. So we invite you to join us and together let’s build a place where every father, mother and child, who has lost more than can be imagined, might find a new home to belong in that same love.