By Jessa Chadwick, Arts Editor
Family is meant to show people what true love, God’s love, looks like.
For professor of communication arts and chair of division of communication arts Dr. Vickie Ellis’s half-sister Barbara Ann Johnson, reconnecting with her biological father’s family deepened their understanding of God’s love and care for them. Johnson and her husband Lynn came to campus Sept. 26 to share their story in Dr. Ellis’s family communication class. Although Ellis and Johnson share the same mother, they have different biological fathers; Johnson never knew hers.
“We felt like it might complicate things,” Johnson said. “You never know what you’re going open yourself up to. Fear holds us back sometimes.”
Even though Johnson was separated from Randy after her parents divorced, and was never able to know him because he had passed away, she found a connection to him through her other relatives. Her story of reconnection is a testament of God’s love.
“If we had tried to find [Barbara’s father] Randy at some other point maybe we would’ve never found him because it was a rather difficult task,” Lynn said.
They started by searching the Social Security Index, which didn’t help much, so the Johnsons left it alone.
“When my mother passed away was when I really got involved with [finding] Randy,” Barbara Ann said.
There is an ache deep in the heart of everyone which asks for community, for fellowship and for family.
Every person needs a place where they feel free to be vulnerable and to be known. Johnson found this place in her long-lost cousin, Diana.
“’Hi Diana my name is Lynn and my wife is on the speaker with us,’” Lynn said, relaying the first conversation the couple had on the phone with Diana. “’We have been trying to contact someone who is a relative of Randolph Smith’s… you may know him as Randy.’ Diana’s response was ‘Yes Randolph was my uncle.’ Then I explained, ‘Well Randolph is my wife’s dad.’ Barbara spoke up, ‘Hi I’m Barbara’ and no sooner had she said, ‘I’m Barbara,’ we heard Diana say, ‘Barbara Ann.’”
Although Randy had passed away, Johnson, at 65 years old, was still able to reconnect with his side of the family.
She was also able to honor him by marking his grave.
“On June 28th, we went to Colonial Monument in Denison and ordered a head stone for Randy’s grave,” Lynn said. “Barbara Ann already knew that the inscription should read, ‘CHRIST MAKES ALL THINGS NEW.’ We had now kept a promise that we made when we found there was not a marker on Randy’s grave. We believe God kept that opportunity open for Barbara Ann and me, so that we could give him a marker.”
When death occurs, family’s look back on the life of the deceased and evaluate how they affected those around them. Some may not have a history and are afraid to look back; yet finding the courage to do so provides context for the seeker, in this case, Johnson.
“I really didn’t understand exactly all Randy had been through in his life,” Johnson said. “When you’re young, you accept things for what is going on at the time. I had a different father [than my sisters], and I really didn’t have any memories [of Randy] because I was so young.”
Despite this, God uses stories, like Johnson’s, to carry His love to people.
“God loves you,” Johnson said. “And He knows everything. It’s not like He’s just catching up. He knows you. That’s a special feeling when you know that God is doing this for you.”
God lays a desire on a person’s heart in order to reach other people. Barbara Ann’s desire to find her father blessed her, she said.
“When God blesses you,” Barbara said, “you feel like you need to give back. I am not the kind of person who has gotten up in front of groups. I’m not going do that but when you’ve been given a gift like this and you’ve felt God’s joy, you just have to say, ‘thank you.’”
Due to the fallen nature of humanity, God is not with everyone physically. However, He uses people to show His love for each one of humanity. It is this love that brings people together and provides a community; such as with Diana and the Johnsons.
“I’m really amazed at the fact that God somehow made it possible for us to make the first contact with Diana,” Lynn said. “She has a strong faith. Her and her husband both do. It made it easier for the connection to be that stronger.”
Family does not only provide a community and a place to be vulnerable, family also provides a history.
If love is to know and be known, then family is the avenue by which that knowledge travels.
Reconnecting with Diana was the vehicle on which the Johnson’s traveled this avenue.
“Every time we get to really sit and visit with Diana we learn more about Randy,” Lynn said. “That association with her brings Barbara closer and closer to Randy. There was a direct connection with Randy and she was fairly close to him and her husband, Bobby, knew Randy.”
Reconnecting with lost family members provides people with the ability to know more about themselves. While a loved one is no longer on earth, their story continues to affect those who knew them.
“God continues the story beyond death,” Ellis said. “God knows no bounds in time and space. And you never know what’s going to happen 65 years from now.”