The guys with young children had attended the parenting classes that had been offered in the chapel. They had spoken with their children and gotten them approved to attend the “Fun with the Father” program which going to be held on Saturday, August 6. All the supplies had been purchased, book bags had been put together and the freezer had all the necessary hamburgers and hotdogs for the day. But outside the dorm windows on this Friday evening, the evening before the anticipated day with their children, the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down in buckets. Disappointment was in the air as the rumor spread across the camp, “I won’t be able to see my kids tomorrow because they won’t be able to have ‘Fun with the Father’ with all this rain.”
Saturday morning came and the rain had passed leaving behind a heavy fog and a wet field. Hope began to stir as the guys began to wonder if the program might actually take place despite the deluge the night before. By 7am the bouncy houses arrived at the camp and at 8am the mothers started showing up, bringing their children who were looking forward to spending the day with their father. The fears and rumors from Friday night were put aside and a day of activities and family building began to take shape. And what a day it turned out to be.
Tim and Josh came from the local YWCA and arranged the activities. They broke the volunteers and the inmates with their children into groups and the men with their children spent the morning laughing and working together as they ran under parachutes, figured out the best ways to snare the bandana tail from the other groups, demonstrated their jumping and limbo skills, threw Frisbees and worked together to walk on and move the 4×4 trollies across the field. By the time noon rolled around the fog had long since burned off, the sun was bright in the sky, and the men and their children were ready to rest and enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill.
During lunch each father had the opportunity to have their photograph taken with his children and each of the children was given a copy of that picture in their book bag at the end of the day to have as a way of helping them remember the day with their father.
The time after lunch went by quickly as the fathers and children worked together in relay races that involved lots of water and a perfect excuse for everyone to get wet on what had turned out to be a warm and sunny afternoon. Water, bouncy houses, basketball, and lots of laughter and memory making were the order of the afternoon.
Much too quickly it was time for the children to leave and the men gathered to pray and give thanks to God and the many volunteers who had made the day possible. The pain and tears that came at the end of the day stand as a witness of what a powerful and family building day it had been. Book bags were given out, hugs and “I love you” were generously shared, and they day drew to a close.
The men who had taken part later got together and wrote cards and notes of appreciation for all the people who had made is possible for them to be part of day of blessings for both the men and their families. After a night of storms, the sun and blessings of the day stood as a witness to the presence of a God who overcomes the storms of life and offers hope and healing.
-Chaplain Robert Wolfe