Partnership started in Eden, and it got a big boost in the words of the wise man: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him. ... A cord of three strands cannot easily be broken" (Eccl. 4:9-12, NIV).
I belong to a partnership. It's 22 years old. From the time we were married, my wife and I have considered our lives as a sacred partnership for Christ's ministry. When children came along—four of them—each one became a full-fledged partner of this association. Together we have served; together we have suffered; together we have endured; together we have experienced love, faith, and hope. Our family is a partnership.
Right now I am serving as the supervisor of 52 churches in one of the largest Seventh-day Adventist mission districts in the Philippines. Needless to say, I find myself very busy, and at times travel and scheduling restrictions do pose embarrassments, particularly in the church in which I am the pastor. On such occasions my family partners come to my rescue in sharing the Word, arranging for a service, taking a Bible study, or meeting a visitation appointment.
Training our children for such emergencies did not happen overnight; it is a product of years of teaching at home. While our children were still in the elementary grades, we taught them simple ways to give a Bible study. In the process they have learned to love the Word as well as share their faith. Once I had to leave town on an emergency. This interrupted a series of Bible studies I was having with a business executive. Her interest in truth was at its peak, and I did not wish to have a break at that moment. I asked the lady if my children could substitute for me while I was out of town. My 12- and 14-year-old children studied the Bible with her, and led her to accept the Lord and commit herself to baptism. By allowing diem to be partners in God's service I not only made my children feel important, but I was also able to tap their potential to the fullest. A satisfying by-product: my children never complain that I don't spend enough time with them.
Part of my work involves caring for legal activities of the church. In my district only 10 percent of mission property is titled, many properties have no documents at all, and litigation against the church is a constant problem. Even in such mundane matters where only the strict application of the law may prevail, family partners can be a source of support and strength. Once a prominent citizen filed a lawsuit against one of our church-affiliated academies on the ground that he had the legal title to the land. Our position seemed weak. He had the law on his side. What should we do? At my children's urging, we made this case a matter of family prayer and intercession. There may be some weakness in the land title, but the strength and the purpose of the work that the church was engaged in for thousands of young people were beyond dispute. Was it possible for God to intervene in the case and plead with the complainant? Why not? As a family we prayed. We studied God's Word earnestly and prayed for His will to be revealed. Before long, the one who was thought an impossible complainant proposed an amicable settlement allowing the academy to continue its work. What's more, we saw an open door for gospel witness.
Family togetherness in study and prayer in this case taught me an important lesson: nothing is impossible for God, when we approach Him in prayer. The spiritual highway still remains an effective means to achieve the best in human relations. Prayer, particularly combined collective prayer of the faithful, can soften hearts, untangle difficulties, and achieve the unimaginable. Without family worship and prayer, our family could not have survived this long. The closeness to God, the closeness to one another, that comes from the power of the bended knee work wonders. Our family has made it a practice to pray with out ceasing; in times of trouble, whisper a prayer; in times of joy, send up a praise.
I am the family's finance manager. My wife is the treasurer, auditor, and budget officer. I am the head of the family, but my wife is the heart. We have no particular problem about our roles; we are re ally partners in keeping the body of the family healthy, spiritual, and strong. Soon after our marriage we decided that my wife would handle family finance, and she has done a good job. The children and I have our responsibilities, particularly when we had to live on a limited income with ever-increasing living costs. Each member of the family is involved in shaping the family budget. The family discusses and votes any expense exceeding a certain amount.
Our children, with a sense of partner ship in family budget, began making contributions from their early years. Living within their means and not making demands that cannot be met showed their early understandings of family partner ship. As they grew older, they would bring in actual cash by taking some remunerative jobs. Girls took up sewing. Boys went out colporteuring, thus supporting the family as well as sharing their faith. We taught our junior partners a promise that is very much a part of our lives together: "There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God." 1
Despite all efforts to live within a family budget, there were occasions when the month seemed longer than the money. Want and shortage are very much a part of life, but it is not a part that should be allowed to become the whole. Life is the larger picture, the beautiful canvass, the ever-expanding horizon, and it should never be measured by what we have or do not have. In our financial stewardship of our family, this lesson holds priority. My wife and I are committed to see that our children have learned this basic lesson in finance: that God shall supply all our "needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19, NIV).
The strength of a home depends on the order and the unity that mark its function. This principle is doubly applicable to a Christian home, for "a well-ordered Christian household is a powerful argument in favor of the reality of the Christian religion." 2
A family that prays together stays together. That's an old but true saying. We can reiterate its truthfulness and add that a family that works together and plays together has more fun together, and is likely to be a happy family. Our family is not very good at sports, but we enjoy doing things together. We love gardening. We walk a lot. Occasionally we play badminton. We share our household chores. Spending time together is the glue that maintains family unity.
When our children were still preschoolers we recruited them in the social side of family partnership. We gave them small household duties at first, increasing them as they grew older. On the kitchen door we pasted a work schedule that was agreed to by family members. Each person had a duty to perform, with a time frame to complete the required job. At the end of the week we evaluated the performances and helped each other with suggestions on how we could have better completed our tasks. Appreciation of a job well done was an important factor in making work a pleasure, and we varied the ways we expressed our delight to children—stars against their names on the work chart, small gifts, or just a hug. As the children grew, the work load and pattern also grew, and each took turns caring for household responsibilities under such challenging titles as floor manager (scrub the floor), sanitary engineer (clean the bathroom), chef (cook), land scape artist (yard upkeep), maid (laundry, beds), chaplain (worship leader), etc. In making the work around the house a delight to children, we have not only solved the problem of housekeeping, but also ensured lessons in family solidarity, dignity of work, accountability, and time consciousness.
As partners in a social unity, we do find ourselves occasionally in conflict with each other. As parents we try to set an example to our junior partners. At the very first sign of possible argument, we have made it a rule to pause and ask our selves: Is the argument worth it? Is there another way to solve the problem? Why not take time to think it over? Family worship and prayer always provide opportunities for bringing out the very best in family relationship and dealing with problems that hurt.
When conflicts involve children, we try to be fair and listen to each one's version and viewpoint. We want to be fair in everything family members receive or do. We make sure that what we give to the children (clothes, toys, gifts, parties) and what we expect from them (work, responsibility, accountability) do not reflect any bias or prejudice. When we are fair and when we set an example in relationship and living, children find it easy to accept guidance and move beyond interpersonal problems.
Education ranks high in our family priority. The family agreement regarding this has been crystal clear from the very beginning. The senior partners provide the support base, while the junior partners do their parts by fulfilling diligently all their requirements, particularly the academic ones.
As parents we pledged ourselves early in our married life to the shaping of our children's future. We ourselves did not have all the opportunities of a good education, but we knew that our junior partners would not be deprived of the pursuit of excellence. So we planned early the kind of program our children would have: a Christian education in which the academic and the spiritual, the now and the hereafter, would be nurtured. Our children grew up with Christian education, sustained by a strong home base, and supported by a caring church. Even in preschool days, the family provided the kids with picture books, drawing pads, a chalkboard, and musical instruments to cultivate their talents. The Sabbath school provided an educational medium too. When our children entered high school, they were already translating and teaching Sabbath school lessons. In college we encouraged them to get involved in spiritual, scientific, physical, and social activities. We applauded their triumphs; we shared their defeats; we were there when they needed us, for whatever the reason.
Christian education was costly, but worth everything we invested in it. It helped in the shaping of lives, in the molding of characters, in deciding for eternity. It helped us to experience the fulfillment of the promise made long ago: "Be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his people ... at all times" (1 Kings 8:59).
The institution of the family, like the Sabbath, had its origin in Eden. Before sin ruptured relationships and brought in the thorn and the thistle, home arrived on the earthly scene as a divine gift. The gift is forever, and like the Sabbath, the family partnership will transcend the barriers of time and find itself rooted in eternity once again. The family is a holy partnership, and by God's grace it can be forever.
My wife and I have taken this concept seriously, and tried to build a home that could go into eternity. What we do with the home today will decide what it will be tomorrow and the day after. How our children reflect the values of Christian grace today will determine the contours of their development tomorrow: "The company they keep, the principles they adopt, the habits they form, will decide the question of their usefulness here and of their future destiny."3
1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain
View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), pp.
2 ____, The Adventist Home (Nashville:
Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 36.
3 Ibid., p. 455.