“We, the Church, need to be open to being used by God, to make the time and invest in a young person’s life. We can be the surrogate big brother and sister, the absent mother and father.”
Growing up without a father is not easy. Amie Buhari shares how God filled the gap, and the role Christians can play in making fatherless young people feel loved, cared for and supported.
So, I’ve never had a dad. I mean, I have a ‘biological sperm donor’ (as my sister calls him), but I’ve never had a dad around. He and my mum split when I was a baby, and when he left, he left.
Now, maybe it’s because my siblings and I are all girls, or that we are extremely close to our mum, that I’ve never really felt a loss over not having a dad around. Maybe it’s because I received so much love from my mum and sisters that it was more than enough for me. Occasionally, I would let the thought of what it would be like to have a dad around briefly pass through my consciousness. But this would only be triggered after witnessing some interaction between a friend and their dad. Even then, I would be thinking, if he were here. would I get pocket money? Or, would he buy me a car for my eighteenth? So I’ve never really felt like I’ve missed out and, to be honest, now, with age and wisdom I can truly say I haven’t.
I can say this with confidence, because Someone took his place, and fulfilled that position much more than he could ever do; Someone who has always been and will always be there. Someone called God.
Now I know there are certain traits within my character that could have been different, possibly, if my dad had been around (and if he had been a good dad with it). For example, my sisters and I are extremely independent, which can be a barrier for relationships with the opposite sex. But thankfully, God in His wisdom is working on that. However, I have seen that for many, not having a dad around has had major, negative impacts on their lives. I think about my male cousin, who never had a dad to teach him how to be a man, and has subsequently spent his teenage and early twenties in prison working it out. I think about many of my friends, the male ones in particular, who, because there was no strong, male presence at home, have sought the bond they so desperately need in the bottle, the reefer, in crime and in gangs. I see the effects of the absent father in the young people I work with – some falling into the same trap as my friends; girls confusing the need for a fatherly love with that of a sexual love, resulting in unwanted pregnancy. I see the pangs of pain when others speak of their dads, and they brush it off as though it means nothing.
So, the question is, ‘How can we, the Church, help young people, who have no earthly father around, to become well-rounded and assured individuals? How do we make them understand that it doesn’t have to mean a life of lack, instability, shame and indifference? How do we get them to understand that God can fill that void?
Well, we firstly need to create an environment in church, where we can openly talk about absent fathers. It’s a subject I bring up with my young people, and use myself as an example. This shows our young people that we are connected by this common experience. It creates a sense of trust that they can talk about it, because it’s not a taboo subject with the stigma of shame attached.
We need to teach our young people the promises of God for their lives, and also put them in positions to exercise and stand upon those promises. When they see God evident in their lives, they will begin to trust and draw closer to their Heavenly Father more. They will begin to understand that God has their best interests at heart: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
The famous African proverb says: ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’. Well, I believe God acts on that principle too. He uses different people and circumstances to raise us, His children. God wants us in the Church to help bring up our youth; He wants to work through us to give them a future, to teach, to love. So we, the Church, need to be open to being used by God, to make the time and invest in a young person’s life. We can be the surrogate big brother and sister, the absent mother and father, the one who commits to taking Ade to football practice each week, or helping Maria with her homework. You can teach Junior about the ‘birds and the bees’; you can tell Kenisha to wait, because she is worthy of only the most excellent man, because she is a queen. We are God’s instruments on this earth, and He wants to use you to reach out to the fatherless.
It’s the Church’s responsibility to make sure that our fatherless can say with confidence and without pain or shame: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27).
Amie Buhari is a youth leader and actress.