My Direct Line and Extended Family
When I initially think “family” I immediately think about my parents and our family’s blessing of five living lines of descent–21 people in all: children (3), grandchildren (9), great-grandchildren (7), and great-great grandchildren (2). We are very fortunate that all but five of our direct blood line still reside in Maryland: three live in Central Virginia–close enough for a weekend trip; one in Chicago–a short flight away; and, one in Utah–skiing anyone? And, I would be totally remiss if I failed to include in what I consider my direct family, my sisters-, daughters- and son-in-law, and my three step grandchildren that I feel as close to as any of my blood relatives because they’ve been a part of our family since they were toddlers and preschoolers. So when we get our blended and extended families together for holidays and special events (as we usually do), it makes for a full house and sometimes a rental space.
My Local Family
But hold on. My community of family extends even further. When I think family, I also include all of those in my Chesapeake Church Community. When I think about our local community of family’s mission there, “to reach the unchurched and help them grow into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” and to give them humanitarian and spiritual aid to help their families thrive. These people then become a part of my family. My children, grandchildren, sister-in law, and other close friends as a family have been actively involved in Chesapeake Church’s community-based efforts for a period of about 10 years. Over these years we have grown closer to each other and have been graced with the opportunity to support expanded community services to include overflow rooms and Saturday services; food pantry for the underemployed, unemployed, single-parent families, and families going through stress filled times; the End Hunger Program, and other humanitarian and spiritual aid programs. We are the “all in” family.
My Family from a More Global Perspective
And, guess what–my perspective on family still doesn’t stop there. In today’s world everything has gone global. Why should our perspective of family and needs for humanitarian and spiritual aid stop at the local level. If we can take our “family” and “community” concepts of looking after and caring for each other more globally, why should we let geographic borders or miles in today’s information technology be our barriers?
Here’s my example
In 2009, Mark Howard, Chesapeake’s Youth Pastor, took about 15 high school students to Honduras for two weeks in July. The team put our words of family and community into action outside the comforts of their local homes and community. They “walked the talk” and saw and felt firsthand the joy of helping others in need; how families’ lives can be so different from what we are used to and even take for granted; and, how sharing through humanitarian deeds and spiritual aid can change people’s lives forever.
Chesapeake’s team partnered with El Ayudante and local Comayagua, Honduras community leaders to help bring about tangible change in the areas of education, medicine, construction, and training. Our teens on their own even adopted Jose, an injured man, and his family. Jose couldn’t work and earn money for his family because of an injury to his leg, and he didn’t have the money for the required surgery to help him get better.
The teens returned home that summer and within a few weeks they had raised the money so Jose could have his surgery and become productive again. When Chesapeake’s teams returned to Honduras the next two summers, they actually built Jose and his family a brand new house from scratch, replacing their former home that was made of nothing more than tarps and scrap wood. Chesapeake’s Summit Men’s Ministry began sending construction teams in 2012. They helped build a medical clinic and placed the first clean drinking water filters in homes. It takes 1 hour to install a water filter that will provide 10 years of clean water for a family. The cost is only $100 per filter. 1 hour – 10 years – $100. This is a life changing equation.
And, in January, 2013, our former Youth Pastor, Mark Howard, with his wife Tracy and their three young boys (3-year old twins and an infant) took our family beyond border barriers to expand Chesapeake Church Ministries to Comayagua, Honduras. Now, the Honduras Ministry plans to send teams of all types to El Ayudante: youth teams, construction teams, family teams, small groups, just to name a few to continue to reach the unchurched and our family community that lives in a world much different than ours but still has the same basic needs as our direct blood family who live with us or nearby. So when I think family, I remember this…God sees family as a place of safety and love as the beginning of all family.