Dana looked around the room at smiling faces, some aging, and some still very young. She recalled when these events were very different. Though she and her siblings were quickly becoming the older generation in the group, she still cringed at memories of earlier Hopkins family reunions.
“But Jeffery,” she remembered hearing her mom plead, “ No alcohol, please! You know how it gets out of hand!”
“Hogwash, Lana!” Daddy scoffed, his large frame towering over her, “It’s just part of the fun.”
The "fun" always turned into Daddy’s loud voice and Uncle Jack’s in an argument. Eventually, Aunt Sarah would take the spotlight, with slurred words, touting her husband’s business success and embellishing stories of wealth. Uncle Dave, deciding to put her in her place, made remarks about questionable deals, and whether they’d really paid taxes on that much. The liquor only served to release pent-up anger and frustrations. The rest of the family kept trying to prepare meals and cover embarrassing outbursts. Finally, it would be over, and most people left with relief because the atmosphere had become unbearable
Grandpa Hopkins, Daddy’s father, had been the family disappointment of his generation, deserting Granny June and their four children when they were still young. Though they had managed to stay together, their life was difficult, and left lasting scars on them all. Their concept of God was vague and impersonal, and they struggled to make life work on their own.
Dana would never forget the day it all changed. She recalled every moment of the scene.
Her Mom, deeply loved her husband, and longed for him to know her God personally. During their courtship, she had believed him to be a Christian, since he attended church with her occasionally. Sadly, she learned later that it was just part of his design to win her for his wife. Twelve years and three children later, her Jeffery had made no move toward God, though he genuinely cared for his family. He didn’t mind her going to church, taking Dana, Jamie, and Jerrod, but it just “ wasn’t his thing,” he said. Dana saw her Mom go right on, never giving up, and praying for Daddy day after day. And then the surprise!
Daddy walked in and bellowed in his deep voice, “All of you, come here! I have an announcement!”
We gathered around, half-scared, because Daddy was high-tempered, and we wracked our brains, wondering what we’d done wrong. But as we looked at our big, broad-built father, something unexpected happened. His lips trembled, then he told us, through tears, how miserable he’d been for so long, knowing something was missing in his life, and that whatever it was, Mom seemed to have it. Then, a co-worker, at the plant where he worked, befriended him and shared his faith in a comfortable, practical way, and little by little it had drawn Daddy into the kingdom of God!
“Sam had that same look in his eye as you, Lana.” He seemed so happy and at peace and kept his cool, no matter what happened. He was the only one I ever met, besides you, who matched his "walk" with his "talk". I just couldn’t stand it anymore! I had to know your Jesus! ”
From that day forward, the Hopkins family changed! Not only were Mom and the kids affected by it, but Daddy got very busy! By phone calls, letters, and visits he told his brothers, his sister, and everyone in the family about “his Jesus.” He was so sorry that his mother and dad hadn’t known this Truth, and been able to pass it on.
The family reunion was never the same after that. Lives kept changing, though in varying degrees. Daddy was always there, encouraging, laughing, and drawing others in. His spirit was contagious, and there was so much fun that few even noticed that liquor was no longer part of their gatherings.
Today their precious Daddy was missing from the group, now in Heaven, along with Mom. Yet, the Truth he’d found was still growing in the Hopkins family. There was a great void without them , but Dana was suddenly comforted by a scripture: “ ...and the dead in Christ will rise first, after that, we who are still alive...will be caught up TOGETHER WITH THEM in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thess. 4:16,17 NIV)
Now THAT would be a reunion!
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