Sunday, June 21, 2009

Following my Grandfather

I've had a little question buzzing around my head for a little while now. Should I follow my grandfather and go to the Gambia? Not  permanently  but at least for a visit. Let me tell you the story.

One day, while I was at college in the late 1980's studying theology I got a 'phone call from my father. He had a question for me about my grandfather. Now I knew very little about him. I knew that he'd been a Methodist minister at some point and that he'd left the church for some reason but that was about my sum total knowledge of the man. My father's question was about his father's nickname at college. He was called Typhos, and my Dad wanted to know what it meant. Well, it's a Classical Greek word not used in the New Testament so I looked it up in my big Greek dictionary and told him it meant a small lake or pool. Fairly obvious given that the family name is "Pool". Clearly they were nothing if not inventive at the turn of the 20th century.

Having shared this information with my father, I then asked why my grandfather had a Greek nickname. It turns out he was at a Methodist training college in Birmingham (which I think later became BBI) and cut short his studies to go and serve in Africa. Sadly the yearbook that had his photograph in and a something of the story of his call and response was lost in father's later years when he was suffering from dementia.

As I recall, someone came to the college to speak and talked of the desperate need for workers in the Gambia and my grandfather dropped everything and went. Suddenly I was no longer the only member of my family that had ever shared a passion for God's mission in the world. 

And now I have the opportunity to visit the Gambia and stand in the place my grandfather stood. I wonder if he felt the pressure of living on a limb, I wonder if he felt the burden of the church in the UK that I felt when I was in Africa in the 1970's. I wonder if he prayed for more people to follow God's call into kingdom service. I wonder if I am part of the answer to a prayer my grandfather prayed.

Such wonderings make me worry that my view of his life and ministry has more in common with the little house on the prairie than it does with the reality, but I can't help feeling that there's part of my journey that somehow connects with his and that it would, at the very least, be interesting to see the land he once felt compelled to serve.

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