Right after I finished the third grade, my dad moved us from a wealthy suburban community to the inner city, where he accepted a call to pastor the Roseville Presbyterian Church in Newark, NJ. My parents chose to send me to the local school a block from our house. My fourth grade class had 44 students. I shared a deeply carved desk with another boy, and we went through four teachers that year. I was the minority, and I am not talking about my skin color here. I was the only child in my class that I knew of that was living with his father. I was also a member of my father’s church youth group of 85 boys and was the only one with a dad at home, except for the one boy whose father sold heroin. My understanding of the problem and my call to minister to “the fatherless” was birthed in those early years.
The problem is not a racial or economic issue. The main problem is fatherlessness! Fatherlessness begets fatherlessness, and poverty and crime naturally follow in its multi-generational wake. So what is our response? As God’s children, what is His call to us?
James 1:27 tells us: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Deuteronomy 10:18 adds: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.”
Psalm 68:5 states that: “He is the Father of the fatherless.”
So what is the problem that can be addressed by me as a mentor? We are not called to be a father. God is that needed father.
CS Lewis’s metaphor of a fleet of ships as mankind helps answer this question. Before a ship goes out on the seas with the fleet, it must first answer these three questions.
- Am I shipshape and seaworthy? Will I not only float but sail? (Personal morality)
- Can I keep from bumping into other ships? (Social morality)
- Why am I out there in the first place? Where am I going? (Purpose and final destination)
A fatherless child starts life without the relational structure that God designed to teach these three life-defining principals. So what can a mentor do?
A Christian mentor gets together with is or her fatherless child for 2-3 hours each week. They usually do something that they both enjoy. During these fun visits, personal and social morals are on display that are often new to the child. “Why “Why did you let that man in? Why didn’t you honk your horn and curse him out?” A mentor does not even have to try to teach lessons. Life lessons happen all the time. They are communicated:
- When returning too much change at the cash register.
- When the child notices that the mentor doesn’t use offensive language.
- When they choose positive entertainment and turn from negative options.
- When showing up at the agreed time or calling ahead if they will be late or need to cancel.
A Christian mentor exemplifies social ethics:
- When driving
- Opening doors
- Ordering at a restaurant
- Talking on the phone with his wife, children, or grandchildren
- Obeying laws, being respectful to police.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up with two good parents or with one super parent, find this self-evident. But one boy told me that when he went over to his mentor’s home for dinner, he experienced many firsts:
“We sat down at a table to eat, the whole family and me. The food was put in the middle of the table and I didn’t have to unwrap anything. The TV wasn’t even in the room. We talked and everyone was so nice to each other. I listened to how my mentor spoke to his wife and to his son and then I thought, so that is how it is supposed to happen.”
The third question, according to Lewis, that a ship must answer before sailing with the fleet, is one of purpose. The mentor’s life points to the shipbuilder and His purpose for the ship. The Christian mentor’s presence and discussions point to the Shipbuilder. The child learns new truths that many of us learn at the dock when sitting on our parent’s knee.
- There is a Shipbuilder and He loves me; therefore I am valuable.
- He has made me wonderfully and with a purpose.
- There is a destination that is beyond this world. I get there by being forgiven, not by being good.
- While I am on this journey, I have the opportunity to join the Shipbuilder in eternally valuable work.
Mentoring models God’s love, His way, and His plan for life eternal. How else will we stop this multi-generational cycle that spits out one angry generation after another? We are currently screening and training mentors so that when society reopens, we are ready to match each child on our waiting list with their own ship, who will guide them out of the harbor and onto the life the Shipbuilder has planned.
Text the word “mentor” to 90407 for more information.