Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coming Behind, Gone Before

Today is a day of joy and of reflection for me - so many thoughts -
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6
Today was a day that brought back many memories and thoughts of ancestors and heritage and God's faithfulness. Today our oldest son, Anthony, made public profession of his Christian faith in front of our church congregation.As I sat there witnessing his profession it seemed to me like his baptism had been only weeks ago! It was a powerful thing to see the promise of baptism blossom.Then I thought back further than his baptism. I thought back to the generations that have gone before him on both sides of both sides of his family. It made me think of a cord that has been being woven together for centuries that is stitched through the fabric of our lives -- through the fabric of Anthony's life.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Psalm 90:1
On my side of the family he has Dutch Protestant and Portuguese Catholic heritage going back for a very long time.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home!

O God, die droeg onsvoorgeslacht
In nacht en storm gebruis,
Bewijs ook ons Uw trouw en macht,
Wees eeuwig ons tehuis!

On the Dutch side, his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, living in Groningen in the Netherlands, braved financial hardship and political danger, risking his own life and that of his son, to follow his faith. He sent his son Wibbo Hommens (aka Homerus Wigboldus)to Heidelberg University in 1593 to learn the Calvinistic teaching and become a minister. This was at a time when the current Spanish governor was taking over cities in the area and persecuting protestants - a time in which several ministers, members of the nobility and others in positions of influence in Groningen were forced to flee and live for some time in another country. Below is the ministerial stamp of Homerus Wigboldus made in 1601 when he began his ministry in Midwolde, Netherlands.On the Portuguese side too stories of faith have been handed down. Anthony's great-great grandparents came from the Azore Islands to California. They immigrated before the Panama Canal was built (before 1914). As they came around Cape Horn there was a terrible storm, a storm so fierce that it broke the mast of the ship. There was great fear that the ship would sink. Anna and Manuel prayed and made a "promesa" to God that if He spared them and brought them to California that once they were established they would return to their village on the island of Terceira and feed all the people of the village. God did protect their lives and bring them safely to California, and they fulfilled their promesa, returning to their village in early 1930.

Their faith heritage has continued and is embraced in the current generation as well:On Anthony's dad's side of the family there is a reunion every three years for all the descendants of his great-great-great grandparents. The theme of the reunion is always "Find Us Faithful," a song which was sung during the service today in honor of that heritage.The theme comes from the song whose chorus is:

May the ones who come behind us find us faithful;
May the fire of our devotion light their way;
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.

Here is a picture of our branch of the family from the reunion in 1998:

In 2007 the reunion took place on what would have been Anthony's great-great-great grandpa's 125th birthday, so we had a 125th birthday cake!
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... Hebrews 12:1
At Anthony's profession today I could not help thinking of the great cloud of witnesses he is surrounded by who are cheering him on and who have laid a foundation for him that stretches back generations and centuries. It is like a thread spun together over those centuries that stitches our lives together today and ties us together with the past and the future - and most of all with our faithful God of all our generations.

O God, die droeg ons voorgeslacht
In tegen spoed en kruis,
Wees ons een gids in storm en nacht
Een eeuwig ons tehuis!

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!


Anonymous said...

What a great post to read. I enjoyed all of the photos and written history. I think I even recognized someone with a green cape on...I was thinking all of the cars lining the road looked so old, but then I thought oh my that was 23 years ago, that's why the cars look old!!

The ironic part was that yesterday was Holy Family Sunday for the Catholic Church. The same liturgical Sunday we baptised Christian 6 years ago.

Heidi said...

Hi Paula!

I was hoping that would be OK with you to post the pictures - was still working on the post at 1am, so too late to call and ask!!

Thank you for sharing more of the significance of yesterday - another piece of the thread of heritage - beautiful! There is so much richness here, and it is such a gift and blessing - a "goodly heritage!"

jacker said...

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Anonymous said...

These festas em louvor ao Espirito Santo are still going on in the Central Valley every year, during the summer months. Mass,music, soupas and wine are enjoyed by thousands.
Then there's the bullfights. They are called bloodless bullfights,but the bull feels the blade of the "espadrilha," enough to chase the toureiro and to put on a show.
I like to go to check out grown man in pastel tights defying a 1000lb animal. There is something erotic about it. Also the free beer overflowing from the bar and the linguica sandwiches, or the lupini beans or the "sagres," the Portuguese beer that makes hair grow on one's chest is worth the dust and mosquitos bites.