Just as basic as water, food, and shelter, we need love. Love embodied in another over time through thick and thin. And for those in this world without fathers, there is a gaping hole of need. Today, I’m delighted (and so are Julio and Taylor) to share with you their story of becoming father and son.
Every morning at Tierra Nueva, Julio (pictured on left) leads a gospel reading in our Family Support Center. Recently after gospels I was pouring a cup of coffee and Julio mentioned his son being there earlier that morning and having coffee with him. In fact he said he does that most mornings. I was curious so I asked more, and he told me this story that I want to share with you.
“I had no idea you had a son, Julio”.
“I’m talking about Taylor (pictured on the right). Back when i was house manager for the the Trust (men’s recovery house) Taylor came. He was racist and stuff. He didn’t like anybody but white people. And I wanted to break that in him. And so I just started giving him love and telling him I’m so proud of him. So he just started liking me, and loving me, you know what I mean. He would say ‘You are always yelling at us like our dad’. And he just started calling me dad, ’cause he didn’t know who his father was. So I right away realized that he needed like a fatherfigure in his life, so that he could straighten out, ya know what I mean? Someone he could come and talk to, that he respects as an older person. So like he would come and talk to me all the time at night. He would come and sit on my bed and say, “What’s up pops? What are you watching”. And ya know he would just like to watch movies with me.
“And I started calling him ‘Baby Boy’ cause he was the youngest of our recipients. He was like 20 at the time. He liked it; he’d get all excited at the time when I called him Baby Boy. And he moved on from the Trust House and he kept coming around and calling me Dad. And I started calling him son. When he’d go to work he’d stop by. He’d leave his house a half-hour early, just so he could come by here and spend time with me, every weekday morning. And we’d just sit and drink coffee.
“So we’ve just built this relationship where we trust each other. He’ll leave money with me, so that he can save it for his rent. He trusts me like a dad. If he comes and asks me for money, I say, “You know I’m not going to give it to you til you’re rent’s due.”
” And Taylor says, “I tell everybody your my dad. And there all like ‘How’s he your dad if you’re white?” Julio is laughing as he tells me this. “He’ll bring his bosses by the apartment and say what’s up dad. And he’ll hug me. He loves when I hug him. …And you know he was really a violent individual when he got into the Trust house at first. But by me loving on him and stuff like that, and telling him about Jesus, its changed him…sometimes I read Scripture to him and talk to him about God, and I always pray for him before he leaves and goes to work.
“When he got married I signed as a witness on his wedding certificate. And I talk to him, ya know, and tell him if he’s gonna make it, he’s gotta have God in the midst of his relationship with his wife. And he tries. He sometimes has a couple blowouts with his wife. Yeah, recently he wanted to give up on the marriage, they got really upset at each other and he came straight here. And even my own real kids, they don’t come to me first when they have problems, cause they no I’m gonna correct them. But Taylor is the kind of person, that if he’s done something wrong, he knows I won’t judge him. I’ll say ‘Let’s pray and ask for forgiveness’. And he does; he’s open to prayer. He respects me because I know Jesus and teach him about Jesus.”
“So ya know its a really tender relationship we have ’cause God’s in the midst of it, ya know. And he’s learning. The seed’s being watered every time I talk to him. One day I want him to entirely surrender himself [to Jesus], but it takes time, ya know what I mean?”
“So he’s my son. Like when my mom came up from Arizona, I said, “Hey mom this is my son.” And she’s like, “Oh you’re son’s big!” Julio’s smiling. “And Taylor’s like ‘Hi grandma’. [Julio’s laughing with delight now.]
”And does Taylor have kids?” I ask.
“He does. With his wife he has two. And then he’s got another little boy.”
“I wonder how your relationship with him is impacting how he’s a father” I offer.
“Well I tell him… I tell him, when he gets in arguments with his wife, and he wants to give up, I tell him, ‘You can’t give up, you have to think of them. Remember you need to be responsible’. … He’s really responsible about going to work. He never misses work, even if he drinks the night before. …And he stopped getting drunk. Now he drinks just one or two, if he’s out with friends, and then he leaves. He listens to what I say, ’cause he knows I’m not going to guide him in the wrong direction. I tell him all the time, ‘Look son, you’re hella young. You could go to school. You could get a job with something you like. And he just sits there and listens.”
”And he was a real knucklehead when he first started here. He didn’t like listen to nobody. He was like really rebellious. He’s softened up a lot. …Yeah, it’s really cool.”
“I wonder why he was like that at the time,” I thought aloud.
“Cause he didn’t have parents around.”
“Maybe he hadn’t yet experienced the love he’s feeling from you. He didn’t know before.”
“Like me when I first met Jesus I didn’t know how to receive love or give love. It felt like awkward to me. But as I started getting Jesus into my heart I hug everybody now. You know how I am… And I can feel it. That’s what [Taylor] is going through too. He’s learning how to be loved by somebody that cares for him and prays for him. And he knows how to give love back. You know he tells me, “I love you Dad” before he leaves in the car. I tell him to have a good day at work and he’s like,” I love.. I love you Dad”.
I asked Julio where he learned to love and he talked about how when Pastor Robert (Bob Ekblad – our TN Founder) was so loving to him when he was using and involved with gangs, and how he kept persisting in loving him.
Love embodied. We all need it. It nourishes us just like food. Please continue to pray for us at Tierra Nueva as we seek to embody tough and tender love to those hungry for a meal that seems to good to be true.
Thank you for your love and support for me and for all of us at Tierra Nueva. I’m nourished and grateful. May you taste and see the Lord’s goodness today and perservere in love, for Jesus’ sake.
At Tierra Nueva —the immigrant and the incarcerated — have been the heart of our work in the Skagit Valley since 1994. We go into jails and prisons, to migrant camps, into gang networks, and alongside their fragile families, to embrace those feeling most thrown away by the world. We seek to embody the Good News in Jesus: that God adores and wants them. Our relationship-focused model–of pastoral care, inner healing, and hands-on accompaniment through complex legal and societal barriers–seeks to restore those we find in today’s deepest underground places to God, to themselves, to their families, and to their wider communities for generational change.