I grew up going fishing and hunting with my dad. He taught me how to cast a line, how to nock an arrow, and how to shoot a gun. More than that, he taught me patience, kindness, love, and a lot of other things–not with his words, but with his actions. I can’t count how many times I got my fishing line tangled, or my hook snagged. No big deal, I would simply hand the rod to my dad and fish with his. It seemed like some days, he didn’t even get to fish because he was too busy cleaning up my messes. Even still, I was always met with patience, a smile, and a lighthearted joke asking me how it’s possible to get my lure stuck on a tree branch 20 feet above the water.
I look back on these times with some embarrassment and shame. I remember complaining about having to go. I would rather hang out with my friends, watch a movie, or play basketball. I would try to get out of our fishing trips when I could, and I regret that now. My dad is 67 years old. He is getting older and so am I. Time is moving fast and there is no stopping it. There is no telling how many memories we have left to make together. I wasn’t when I was younger, but now I am so grateful for the time we got to spend together in the outdoors. My brothers and I have learned to take advantage of this time more and more in recent years. We go hunting and fishing together when we can and I feel so fortunate to have that opportunity. It is one of my greatest joys in life to be in the outdoors with my father.
I don’t know what my life would’ve been like without him. I don’t know how I would’ve turned out. I’m glad I don’t know. Not knowing the answer to these questions is a blessing, a blessing that not everyone knows.
An American Crisis
I am not naive. I recognize what a privilege it is to have the father that I have. The reality is, not everyone has a dad, and not everyone has a dad that spends time with them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “24 million children in America–one out of every three–live without their biological dad in the home.” Additionally, the Minnesota Family Institute states that, “one hundred and eighty communities exist in the United States where ninety percent of all families are without fathers.” David Blankenhorn in his book, Fatherless America, paints a picture of how serious the issue is when he says,
“Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers. Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers. Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems . . . if this trend continues; fatherlessness is likely to change the shape of our society.”
When you look at the numbers, it is clear that there is a father absence crisis in America. Sadly, there is little being done about it. However, one of the organizations that Good Deeds Mortgage supports is providing a solution by bringing fathers and their children back together in a unique way.
Family Lines is an organization that seeks to rebuild, restore, and nurture father-child relationships. They use a three-fold approach that focuses on fighting absence, choosing presence, and engaging restoration through fishing expeditions, workshops, filmmaking, rod building, and a program called “Dadvocates.” Family Lines brings fathers and their children together in an intentional way that fosters conversation, encourages healing, and mends relationships.
Family Lines mission is to,
“…fight absence in fatherhood by providing opportunity for intentional presence for the restoration of the family line. We do this by creating facilitated wilderness experiences, group curriculum and workshops that specifically target the three major areas of absence in fatherhood (physical absence, emotional absence and spiritual absence).
We believe the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18) that Christ has entrusted Family Lines is: The reconciliation of the Family through the Father. Beginning with the earthly father reconciling to God and then to his family.
When you invest with us in fathers you invest in generations. The impact goes beyond the individual and shatters the cycle of fatherlessness for their family line.”
Good Deeds Mortgage is proud to support Family Lines. In the last two years, their reach has increased by 400%. They currently have more than 250 facilitators (this number is growing weekly) in three countries that have created intentional presence opportunities and gospel powered reconciliation for more than 2,500 fathers. Additionally, Family Lines has facilitated over 20,000 hours of intentional father presence through their trips, workshops, and group video curriculums in 2019 and 2020, alone. Their impact has been great, and it is continuing to grow.
Erin Hagedorn is the wife of Family Lines founder Jon. Last July, Erin’s death sent shockwaves across the community. Everyone around Erin knew that she lived her life for others. If there was ever a need, Erin was the first to volunteer. If there was ever a father-child pair that couldn’t afford a Family Lines expedition, Erin was the first to encourage Jon and his team to give it away. Erin’s children remember her for her enthusiasm, kind personality, and joy for life. Take a moment to watch this interview of Jon and their two children talking more about Erin’s legacy.
Erin, in so many ways, was the essence of what Family Lines stands for. It is for this reason that they have created a scholarship fund in her name, called the Erin Hagedorn Legacy Fund. This fund has already received more than $29,000 in donations and they all go fully and directly to allowing father-child pairs participate in Family Lines expeditions that bring restoration and reconciliation. We encourage our readers to consider donating to this fund, if possible.
Erin’s legacy goes beyond the scholarship fund. When you speak with the guys at Family Lines, it is not hard to notice their sense of urgency. This sense of urgency is not one rooted in financial gain, career success, or to get more stuff, but it is rooted in the fact that our life is not our own. Through Erin, they have a keen awareness of how fragile life is. They have learned to pursue the people they love, because they know that there is no promise of tomorrow. Unexpected loss can strike at any moment, and when it does, what will your legacy be? Erin left behind something beautiful, something admirable, and something worth imitating. She left behind kids and a husband that loved her deeply. She lived life to the fullest by living for others.
There are a million lessons to be learned from Erin’s life and death, but the one we’re focusing on is her sense of urgency to give generously and to love well. What is your sense of urgency like? Are you a father? Do you have children who haven’t heard from you in a month, a year, ever? There is so little in life that we are actually in control of, but one of those things is the effort with which we pursue the ones we love. So, this week, we encourage fathers to make things right with their children. Send a text, make that phone call, or write that letter. Reach out to them, and don’t stop pursuing them [Hang in There]. It is this same relentless love that is offered to us by our Heavenly Father, and it has the power to mend family lines. Reconciliation is possible, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
We hope that you will consider taking a trip with Family Lines, but more than that, our hope is that you would pursue your children and your loved ones with focused intentionality. Whether it’s in Alaska with Jon, Aaron, and Jared, or in your backyard with a ball and glove, or at the movie theatre, or on a hike, or at the mall, don’t wait to make things right.