Grandma and the aunts and uncles rocked back and forth in the long swings which hung from the roof of the big porch. The three cousins, who were so happy to be together for a week of fun at Grandma’s, continued their game of hide and seek in the bushes. But they did not venture far. They kept hoping that Grandma and their aunts and uncles would start talking about all their other relatives. Eventually, they knew, Grandma would send one of them for the big family Bible. Families sometimes use a family Bible to keep a record of things like who married whom, who was born when, who moved from where to where, and important dates like weddings, and births, and deaths, and baptisms.
There was one story the cousins were waiting for. The one about the stow-away. Oh, they knew the story word for word. But listening never made them tired. It was the story about their great, great grandma. It began longer ago than they could imagine, half way around the world on another continent. Every time, they dared to hope that Grandma would resurrect one more detail in her memory, or uncover some hidden fact never before discovered in the family Bible’s records. The problem was that Grandma had pretty much remembered all that she could, even with the help of the old Bible into which her mother had written many interesting things about their family’s history. For the cousins, the story would just start getting interesting when Grandma forgot, or Great Grandma had recorded no more details.
Later, the three cousins would lie awake late into the night, talking in whispers as they stretched out beside each other with one of Grandma’s quilts pulled tight under their chins. The part about the story of their relatives that kept them awake was the part about Hannah. Poor Hannah! First off, she had three brothers-one named John, another named James, and, oh too bad, Great Grandma forgot to record the name of the third. Never mind, just being the only girl must have been bad enough. But worst of all, their parents died when they were very young, and Hannah and her brothers had to go live with their uncle who was very rich.
Now, living with a rich uncle sounded nice enough. Think of having all the money you could spend! But probably, the cousins thought, the rich uncle did not want four children, all of a sudden, very badly. They would chatter on and on about what might have been. But there was one piece of the story which they knew for sure. Hannah was not happy. So she decided to run away. Each of the cousins remembered out loud the times when they had been angry and thought about running away. Of course they had never gone far. Usually they started thinking about where they would sleep and what they would eat if they really left home.
Of course Hannah’s situation was different. She was a young woman, ready to begin supporting herself. So when she decided to leave her uncle’s home, she decided to really leave! Afraid that her uncle or her brothers would try to stop her, she slipped away after dark. As she made her way from their home in Devonshire to the English coast, her mind was racing. In her heart burned a desire to go to America and begin a new life. But how could she?
Then she got her chance! The cousins were wide-eyed just thinking about it. Carefully slipping through the darkness, Hannah crawled up the gangplank and hid herself in the hold of a big ship reported to be leaving for America the next day. She must have been very good at hiding, because no one found her until they were too far out to sea to bring her back. She was the cousins great, great grandmother, who eventually married and had five children. Their Grandpa had been born into this family down the line, and that was all they knew. The cousins would wiggle their sheets and blankets into a tangle with questions about her. But finally they would settle down and go to sleep, for it did no good to come up with more questions. Nobody knew the answers to them anyway.
Have you ever asked your mom and dad, or your grandpa and grandma and aunts and uncles about your family history? Maybe you have an old Bible in your family where some of the names of your relatives have been written down. It can be very interesting to find out who you are and where you have come from. Sometimes the stories we learn about our relatives make us proud. Other times we are embarrassed to think about who some of our relatives were and what they did. Every family has relatives of both kinds!
But the good news is we are all related through one Relative who is the best in all the world. He never did anything to make us ashamed. He will never do anything to hurt us. He just loves us. And He wants to put His love into our hearts so we can love each other in our families here at church, just like He loves us. That Relative is Jesus. Did you know that when Jesus came to earth as a baby, God made Him our brother. Well, He did! And if He’s our brother, then God is our Father, and we are His children. Aren’t you glad Jesus is in our family history?
By Karen Flowers
Source: Understanding Families: Family Ministries Planbook. Silver Spring, MD; Department of Family Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2001.