Earlier this year my beloved Uncle Don passed away. He had been a dairy farmer in Albion Park for 75 years leaving home at just 14 years of age to work alongside my great grandparents on the family farm. After his passing my family had the task of sorting through his belongings, many of which had once belonged to my great grandparents. While this was obviously an emotional time it was also largely a time of discovery for me, having the opportunity to learn so much about my ancestors through the possessions they had left behind.
Through this process there was one particular photo that took my eye, even though the frame was old and the glass covered in dust it had once been a much treasured item. The photo was of Maureen, a champion Jersey cow who once belonged to my great grandfather. And as the inscription of this photo declared; Maureen was an Australian Champion Jersey Cow back in 1938. Feeling a little sentimental I claimed the photo for myself and it now sits proudly in my office as a memory of my farming heritage.
I was showing this photo recently to one of our Junior School students who, when I explained the cow’s prize winning achievements, was suitably impressed. As he looked at the photo of Maureen, he then asked the obvious question– what did she have to do to win? I began to tell him that cows were largely judged on how they looked – their bone structure, their muscle definition and even the size of their udders – a bit like a bovine beauty pageant really. I also mentioned that sometimes cows were judged by how much milk they could produce or in the case of the Jersey cow, how creamy the milk was. He looked a little puzzled and I pointed out the udders and the teats from the photo and said; “see this is where the milk comes out”. I also told him that when I was young I used to help my uncle milk cows on our family farm and would squeeze milk into a bucket for us to drink. He was quite interested and I thought he had understood what I was saying when he claimed, quite matter of fact– “you know; you can also get milk from chicken’s eggs”.
I was actually quite taken aback by this comment. Of course I corrected him and assured him that milk most definitely does not come from eggs or chickens. I then began to wonder; “what are they teaching down there in Junior School?? How did this misconception about milk production occur? Isn’t this something all 6 year olds should know?”
As I thought more about this I realised that there was never really a time in my memory where I didn’t know this information. Unlike my young friend I never had that “aha” moment when I realised “so that’s where the milk comes from”. I recognise that while I wasn’t actually born with this knowledge, ever since I could walk and talk I have been completely immersed in the culture of the dairy farm. I grew up watching calves being born, cows being milked twice a day, seeing the milk stored in large cooling vats on our family farm and then witnessing the big tanker arrive each day to take it to the dairy co-op where it was bottled and then delivered to people’s homes. Dairy Farming is part of my family’s DNA. I have jersey cow milk pulsing through my veins.
Likewise, I can never remember a time when I did not know about Jesus. I also had the privilege of growing up totally immersed in an environment where God was honoured and the saving grace of Jesus Christ was acknowledged freely. You see, as well as being dairy farmers my family have been strong Christians for generations.
While the picture of Maureen the cow originally belonged to my great grandfather, I also inherited a simple wooden box once belonging to my great grandmother. Inside the box are little cards each with verses of scripture printed on them. These well-worn cards are representative of the importance that my great grandmother placed on reading and speaking out the truths and promises in God’s word. Not just over her own life but also over the lives of each of the members of her family. I especially love the cards that she has written on in her own hand, some even have dates and prayer requests pencilled in on the back. While I never met her in person, I know that my faith and that of my kids can be traced back to this woman of faith and her commitment to ensuring that her children and their children were brought up to know and honour the Lord.
In Deuteronomy Chapter 6 we can read that this was certainly the way God intended it to be. Moses addressed the nation of Israel before they entered the promised land with these words;
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
God intended for children to be brought up completely surrounded and immersed in the Word; to be part of a culture where His Word is taught, discussed and spoken about all the time. This passage of Scripture encourages us that from the moment we get up until it is time to go to bed at night, to use every available opportunity to talk about God and his goodness, his faithfulness and his love for us. And in doing so, we are ensuring that our faith is passed on to generations yet to come.
If you were to walk through my great grandparents’ home it would be obvious to you that there were 2 things that were of utmost importance to them – their dairy cows and their faith in God, not necessarily in that order.
My faith in God and my love of cows did not happen by accident. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents were very intentional in their commitment to pass on the things that were important to them to their children. That is exactly what we are doing here at Cedars, through every devotion we share, every prayer we pray and every worship song we sing we are showing our students that God is not only central to our lives, but we are actually providing them with real life examples of how to live a life that stems from an active relationship with Him.