Exactly a week ago as I write this, Wyn Fountain, my dad, passed ‘through eternity’s gate’. This past week has been a rich, sometimes emotional but often joyful, farewell to our father who taught us many lessons about how to live. He taught us how to finish strongly. His last lesson was about how to die.
He had so wanted to go to his Father’s house on Father’s Day (on first Sunday in September in New Zealand), but had to wait another 10 long days.
On Monday we celebrated his life with over 600 folk in a large Auckland church building. As a family, we have been conscious of having had more than our fair share of a father and grandfather. Few last to their 93rd year in such a vital state of mental alertness. Our gratefulness and thankfulness outweighs our sense of loss, great as that is.
From the many tributes given, both spoken and written, it was clear that dad’s influence was deep and wide. Leaders from various spheres, including church, business, education, politics and society, spoke of his prophetic influence, often facing opposition as he spoke about living the kingdom-lifestyle in the ‘other hundred hours’.
A remarkable aspect of his life emerged as we broke his nine decades up into three parts: from child to father, from father to grandfather, from grandfather to great-grandfather. Clearly the last three decades of his life were the most fruitful! As he mastered the computer late in life, he developed a monthly virtual newsletter called Salt Shaker which went out to a readership which grew to 600. He finally stopped sending this just a few months ago, to the disappointment of many.
These newsletters often unpacked this ‘100 hours’ message, in which he spoke of the 168 hours in each week, less the 56 hours of sleep per week and 12 hours of church-related activity. Ignoring that church and sleep can sometimes overlap, we’re left with 100 hours per week where we live the rest of our lives. What then, my dad would ask, is the meaning of the gospel for those 100 hours when we live our actual lives?
As a family, we reminisced this week on the down-and-outs our father would reach out to and often bring home when we were still children. A Russian refugee, a Pacific Island family we took to Sunday School every week, a homosexual social outcast, ‘bodgies and widgies’ he would bring into evangelistic film evenings, and so on. (What’s a bodgie? Ask someone over 60.)
It was fitting then to open the celebration reading from Isaiah 58, verses describing true spirituality as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, visiting the prisoner… Jesus picked up this passage in Matthew 25 when he described welcoming the faithful into the Kingdom and into their inheritance.
Not that dad was perfect. Among the memories shared were the times my mother wanted to ‘wring his neck’! But he was real, he was authentic, he walked the talk. And if your children and grandchildren can say that, it’s probably true.
Within hours of Wyn’s memorial service in Auckland, one of his grandsons was in the London studios of CNN helping to launch the Freedom Project to end modern-day slavery.
Antonie, director of Stop the Traffik in Holland, was guest on the Quest Means Business show this week, to mark the tenth anniversary of unfulfilled promises made by leading chocolate makers to end child trafficking in the cocoa industry in West Africa.
Seventy per cent of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, where many farms employ children that are trafficked and forced to work in conditions akin to slavery.
In a programme called Chocolate’s ‘dark side’, host Richard Quest noted that ten years on, despite these promises, we only have a tiny amount of ‘Traffic Free’ chocolate.
Antonie told Quest that while these ten years had earned the cocoa industry €700 billion, only 0.0075% of this had been invested into improving working conditions in West Africa. The exploited children were up against powerful and rich companies, he said, and that no consequences were being faced by the industry for engaging forced child labour.
Wyn would have been proud of his grandson to be following in the footsteps of William Wilberforce, who stirred the British conscience against using sugar produced by slave labour 200 years ago.
Till next week,