I am beginning to have an idea of how Jacob must have felt, with respect to his family, when he decided to return from Padanaram to Canaan. When he exiled himself to the land of his uncle, Laban, because of his brother’s determination to kill him, Jacob had no one else with him; it was just him. Twenty years later his immediate family numbered 17 – he, his four wives, 11 sons and a daughter. There were also the servants and the wealth which he had carefully accumulated. What a contrast to when he made his lonely journey from Canaan to Padanaram!
Nearly 36 years ago, Mary and I journeyed from Jamaica to the United Kingdom. We weren’t running away from anyone or anything. We felt that God had called us to go to this ‘strange’ land for a reason. It was just Mary and I. We had no children at the time. Now, nearly thirty-six years later, our family has grown to 13. I must confess that it feels special at times to be the head of the McFarlane Clan.
The three newest members of the family were all born between March 2013 and January 2014. Each of my three children has had a child in the past ten months, the last one arriving on January 25. My wife has had the joy of cradling this new bundle of joy but for me it’s a pleasure delayed.
The expansion of my personal family has got me thinking about my church family, especially during this Year of Hope. The immense joy that Mary and I have experienced in having our children in the first place and now having children by them can be mirrored in my Christian experience by actively seeking to ‘produce children’ for God’s family, ensuring that it grows.
Producing additional children for God’s family is a very special experience. I still remember the very first person that I led to Christ and the sense of partnership with God that I felt. It was a high school classmate whose spirit seemed to find a resonance with my own spirit. We chatted during breaks and became friendly enough for him to invite me to his home, which was about twenty miles from our school. He wasn’t a Christian, though our school was Adventist. One day I plucked up enough courage to talk to him about Jesus and went on to ask if I could study the Bible with him. He said yes, and the rest is history! Today he is a department director in one of the conferences in Jamaica.
I want to experience again this year the thrill of adding children to God’s family. Of course, over a period of 41 years in ministry I have played a significant role in bringing thousands into the church in the role of a pastor-evangelist and church administrator. But there is a big difference between bringing new members into the church as a ‘professional’ church worker and leading one to Jesus as an ordinary member of the church, as a member of the laity, which I and all other pastors are. What I am addressing here is being able to pluck up the courage to share my faith with someone in the supermarket, on the Metro, in the streets and just about anywhere and allowing the Holy Spirit to nurture through me whatever interest develops.
There is actually no other Christian experience that I am aware of that surpasses that of bringing one to Jesus. It is perhaps the acme of our relationship with God. If you have not yet experienced it, why not consider joining me in doing so during 2014, our Year of Hope! Place yourself at God’s disposal, seize the opportunities He gives you to share your faith and allow Him to use you to add children to His family this year.