Within the first minute of speaking to Paul Guerry he set the tone by issuing a humbling reminder: “We are all sinners saved by grace.” Living in the space between awareness of his sinfulness and God’s saving grace, is Paul’s grateful, yet battle-won, heart. He knows the power of the Gospel doesn’t end with God’s sacrificial gift of His Son, but also in the way He restores our relationship with Him and makes all things new.
With that knowledge, Paul gives his life away. He is 10-year-old Ricquon’s Mentor Father – a distinguished title belonging to men who “defend the cause of the fatherless” through Fathers in the Field. Paul’s commitment to a mentoring relationship with Ricquon (shown bottom right) is an act of obedience and healing. In 2009, Paul’s is eldest son, Walton (shown as a boy, upper right), died after sustaining severe injuries in a car accident. Walton was 22 years old.
Five years after the agonizing and painful experience of losing his son, the pain remains yet the experience God has used for His glory and for Paul’s good. Paul was transformed through God, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “shouting in our pains.” The pain that Lewis calls “God’s megaphone to rouse of deaf world,” renewed the perspective and realigned the priorities not only in Paul’s life, but in the lives of other family members, friends and colleagues. His relationship with his wife became emotionally and spiritually richer. And he witnessed the body of Christ rallying around the brokenhearted.
“I had made so many mistakes with Walton. Dealing with the guilt of what I did or did not do prior to the accident was soul-crushing. As my younger son told me, I had to let that go. A few years later, I was introduced to Fathers in the Field at my church, Fairview Baptist. I knew being a Mentor Father to an abandoned boy would offer me another opportunity to speak into a boy’s life and help ‘train up a child in the way he should go.'”
“Training up” fatherless boys is foundational to the promise given in Proverbs 22:6 – “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Through these mentoring relationships, Paul understands eternity is at stake in the lives of the boys Fathers in the Field serves. “Ricquon is not a replacement for the son I lost,” added Paul, who had the honor of praying with Walton when he received Christ at age 16. “Ricquon’s a boy I don’t want to be lost. I want Ricquon to know Jesus in a personal way – to grow up and know he is forgiven, loved and worthy.”
When you face adversity like watching a son take his dying breath, you can see God in the midst of it though it’s not understood. “Persevering through the pain builds trust as you set your eyes on what’s to come. The promise of a ‘future and a hope’ given to Jeremiah came with 70 years in captivity. Even through the agony and waiting, the purposes and promises of God cannot be thwarted.”
One night during Walton’s hospital stay, Paul recalls walking down a sterile, brightly lit hospital hallway leading from the Intensive Care Unit to his hotel room. In that illuminated space, Paul was overcome by darkness. “There was a spiritual battle going on inside of me. I was grasping with the unknown. As I was plodding along putting one foot in front of the other, the aloneness and severity of loss I felt were overwhelming.”
The people positioned along Paul and his family’s path toward healing are a part of the story, especially Ricquon. The joy Ricquon exudes by going hunting, fishing or simply sitting on church pew next to his Mentor Father on Sunday mornings motivates Paul to invest more time in his Field Buddy.
“Being a Mentor Father takes dogged determination. It involves lacing up your boot straps and letting nothing get in the way,” said Paul. “Even now, I see glimpses of real manhood in Ricquon. I want to nurture that and watch him grow even though I feel unworthy to have such a gift in my life.”
Fathers in the Field applauds the hundreds of men who have stepped up and into the lives of fatherless boys across the nation. As the epidemic of fatherlessness in our country grows, so does the need for more Christ-centered mentoring relationships. Please join Paul and other Mentor Fathers in heeding the call – a call with eternal signifiance.