James Wells, EMMS International's Chief Executive
Like many men across the UK, I’m looking forward to Father’s Day, which falls this Sunday. I’ll be the focus of family life, and it’ll all be about me. I can’t wait to dictate to the whole family what we’ll do, what we’ll eat, and who knows, I may even be treated to breakfast in bed!
But in truth it’s not about me or my selfish ego, and what I’m actually looking forward to is spending time together as a family, having fun, talking and sharing. The notion of being the centre of attention and receiving presents fades into insignificance in comparison.
Last night I asked my oldest son what he thought made a good dad. Silence. I then asked him what makes me a good dad, “Mmm, I’ve been asking myself that for a long time dad!” After a little probing it was clear that what he meant was, “you’re just there dad, when I need you and when I don’t”. As usual, it takes a teenager to get to the core of what being a good dad is. It’s about being there when you’re needed, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, but always caring for and protecting your family, teaching them right from wrong (and if you don’t model this, your kids and other youngsters will see right through you), encouraging them to be the best that they can be, and above all, loving them unconditionally.
Sadly, we live in a world that is so often a fatherless society in desperate need great fathers. Across the world, fathers are failing in their basic duties to care for and love their families. We are all too often guilty of thinking every day is Father’s Day, where we are the centre of attention with no responsibilities. We think that the world revolves around us, and that caring for our family is our wife’s or partner’s job. Strong families make strong societies. Families are for life, not just Father’s Day.
In Malawi, 95% of men do not test for HIV during regular pregnancy screenings with their wives.
Fear of being labelled promiscuous, being stigmatised, and of HIV itself prevent men from testing.
However, one man who takes his responsibilities as a father seriously is Konica. He is involved with EMMS International’s Mziche Project in northern Malawi. He knows all too well the cost of HIV, having lost his parents and siblings to the disease.
Although he and his wife live with HIV, his children are all HIV negative. He is volunteering with the project to encourage more men to get tested alongside their wives. Knowing their HIV status means men and women can seek out the treatment they need to stay healthy, protecting their unborn children from the disease, and preventing the life-long challenges that this would bring.
“Look at me, my body doesn’t tell you I have HIV. I am strong.”
This is what Konica tells men who do not test for HIV because of fear and embarrassment. It’s important to him to be fit and able to contribute to his community. “If men are sick, who will provide? Who will build the school?” Konica is showing real courage to be so open about HIV and his own situation. He’s a blessing to his family and his community, and he’s a real inspiration me.
Our Heavenly Father, is always there, and models the way for us through Jesus. He loves us unconditionally and wants nothing more than to be in a loving relationship with us. The Bible is full of many examples of good and not so good fathers. One of the most encouraging aspects of the bible is that everyone that God uses for his purposes are flawed, ordinary people, who need his strength to do amazing things.
Every ordinary dad can do extraordinary things. Dads just like Konica. I wish him and his family a very blessed Father’s Day.
Helping fathers to play their part in stopping the spread of HIV.FIND OUT MORE