Asiri Fernando has posted a remarkable reflection on the life of his father, Ajith Fernando, who has led Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka for three decades. Though Ajith is two years younger than I, he is one of my heroes. If you read Asiri’s tribute you will see some of the reasons.
Here is an excerpt to whet your taste. No doubt Ajith will feel awkward about this celebration of his life. But who can deny a happy son the joy of spilling over with gratitude?
Some of my closest friends growing up were the children of the poor who lived in the slums. Families of 4–5 living in tiny room-sized houses in the meanest of conditions. For their sake my parents chose to live a simple life.
For most of my growing up years my father’s monthly salary was Rs. 10,000 ($100). The millions that came in from his preaching and books was all given to YFC to educate the staff. We would eat at restaurants only if a friend of my parents specifically gave money for us to go eat. That was around 2–3 times a year. My birthday was always a much awaited day as that meant a once a year trip to Pizza hut!
We had a simple home. For example, my parents chose not to use a microwave because the poor they worked with couldn’t possibly afford one. If our house was full of fancy stuff the poor may love to come to our house, but they would feel embarrassed if we came to their simple homes. Christ made himself “nothing” and came to us (Philipians 2).
But when I think about life growing up, I could only think about the sheer joy that filled our home rather than what was lacking in it. Home was simply, a happy place.
I wrote to Asiri, “You have honored your father well. He will be awkwardly happy.” That captures what I love. A son has loved his imperfect father, and a father has seen the fruit of his faithfulness. Lord, in spite of all our flaws, make us worthy fathers and sons. And mothers and daughters.