“He Was There”: Remembering Pastor Easaw Philip (my father-in-law)
My father-in-law, Pastor Easaw Philip/Dad (1945-2017), passed away after a long battle with cancer earlier this month. He was 72 years old. During his funeral, I had a chance to share a few thoughts on my father-in-law, which I would like to share here, with a few additions.
My father-in-law was my senior pastor growing up. I went to the church he pastored as a young person, a Pentecostal church called Zion Gospel Assembly. It consisted primarily of people from India, particularly from the state of Kerala. He pastored there for about 22 years.
Growing up, for some reason—which I didn’t realise then—but now have come to understand, I often called him “Pastor Easaw Philip Uncle.” That’s a pretty long name, I know. “Pastor” make sense, since he was the pastor of the church. But “Uncle”? He wasn’t related to me growing up (until now of course, because I am married to his daughter Joyce).
In the Indian community I belong to, calling someone “Uncle” doesn’t mean that they have to be related to you in any way. Calling someone “Uncle” or “Aunty” is typically a sign of respect, indicating that they are someone close to your family. Including the title “Uncle” for my father-in-law growing up, I think was an implicit acknowledgement that he wasn’t just some pastor who came and went into our lives. Yes, he was our pastor, but he was also someone who was genuinely “there” in our lives for a long time. That long name of “Pastor Easaw Philip Uncle” was a testimony to him genuinely being there in our lives here in Toronto.
A key trait I noticed about him over the years, is his desire to be there for others. He would make himself available to others. He wanted to be physically present for others. He was there.
When I made a public commitment to follow Jesus Christ by being water baptised, he was there. He was the one who baptised me.
When I was sick in the hospital with bronchitis, I admit that at times I was lonely and scared. My family was there. But my senior pastor was also there visiting me with his wonderful wife, who is now my mother-in-law.
When I made a commitment to full time ministry, he was there. Zion Gospel Assembly had a convention around that time, and he quickly allowed me to share my testimony. He was there for me, encouraging me in my call.
When I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Theology from Master’s College (where I now teach), he was there with my now-mother-in-law.
When I got married to Joyce, he was there. Well, of course he was there because I married his daughter! I’m obviously especially grateful that he was there for Joyce and I, supporting us in that new season for us.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen my father-in-law passionately desire to be there for so many people. When invitations came for weddings, special church conventions, Christian conferences, or if someone was in the hospital, or if a funeral sadly came up, he really, really, really wanted to be there for others. If he could attend every event in his blue hatchback or white mini van whether in Texas, California, Boston, or Montreal, he would want to be there for you. I know many people who knew him well could attest to that. When he got more sick recently, I know it bothered him that he couldn’t be physically present in others’ lives the way he did for so many years.
For all of us, whether you are in ministry or not, his desire to be there for others, in person, is something we can all learn from. The Apostle Paul showcased this approach in ministry in Romans 1:11, when he wrote the church in Rome: “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.” (NLT). Though Paul could correspond with people via letters, letters weren’t enough. Emails, facebook posts/messages, and tweets aren’t enough. There is something special about being physically present to bless others. My father-in-law was someone who truly longed to be physically present with others, to visit with others, to pray, show honor, respect, and bless others.
But Dad is no longer with us. And now, he cannot come rushing in his blue hatchback or white mini van to visit us at the birth of a child, a wedding, a graduation, a hospitalization, or funeral. It’s both sad and strange to not have him around any longer. But one day, when we too pass on, we can go to him. You see, dad is now with His Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – forever. And I know Dad well enough to know, that he would like you to seriously consider what he did too—committing to one of the greatest things you can experience in this world. When our time comes, and we too pass on, Dad will want to see you. And he would want me to tell you to come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour – just as he did. Dad wasn’t “there” for others merely because he was a “nice guy”—he had experienced the life-changing transformation that comes through relationship with Jesus Christ. You see, Dad treasured his relationship with Jesus, and made relationship with God a priority in his own life and family. For instance, getting to know the family since being married, I witnessed how every evening, the family would come together for songs of worship and prayers to God.
You should know that regardless of your past, your sins—and even what you or others think of you—Christ will forgive you of all your sin. Confess your sins to Him and He will forgive you. Turn to God with all of you. Jesus Christ loves you. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But Jesus didn’t remain dead in the grave. He defeated death, resurrecting from death. And as we live for Christ, that same power that resurrected Jesus from the grave will also be manifest in us so that we too will experience a resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15). If you make that commitment to live for God, I know that one day you too will enjoy relationship with God eternally. And of course, I know you’ll meet my father-in-law there. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss that type of decision further.
For those who may have known my father-in-law, you are welcome to share your own tributes of when he “was there” for you as well below in the comments. And of course, maybe you didn’t know my father-in-law, and you too had or have someone who “was there” for you-feel free to share your experience below.