Letters from Dad

Nick Stroman

“If God were to take you home today, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know that they were the treasures of your life?”

As Father’s Day approaches in a few months, this is the question the New Life Christian Church in Morton is asking of fathers in its congregation and throughout Central Illinois as they launch a family outreach project at the church.

“Letters From Dad,” a program based on the book by Greg Vaughn, aims to ignite the hearts of husbands and fathers and encourage them to leave a legacy for their loved ones through the lost art of letter writing.

Tim Flynn, a New Life congregation member and one of the project organizers, said the idea came about after one of the church’s elders was transferred to Texas for Caterpillar and became friends with Vaughn through his seminars down there.

“Greg ended up coming to Illinois to visit and I got to have the spiel about the ‘Letters’ ministry concept straight from the horse’s mouth. It sounded like a good fit for us here,” Flynn said.

In the book, Vaughn tells about how he was tinkering around in his garage one day and stumbled upon his late father’s old fishing tacklebox.

In that moment, Vaughn realized it was all he had to remember his father.

“Greg’s father never said he loved him or expressed himself that way. He decided he didn’t want it to be that way for his kids and wrote them letters,” Flynn said.

Vaughn was inspired to write a book and launch the “Letters From Dad” concept as a way to help other men who need to express themselves to their children or wives in the here and now, but cannot do it very well.

Flynn has already started the program and said it was a way to break a line of generational sin.

“I personally wrote the letter to my mom because it seems like no one in my family, especially my brothers and I, ever talked or showed feelings unless there was a funeral involved. I was mad, and now I feel like I’ve broken down some barriers,” Flynn said.

Flynn said the program aims to get men into a ongoing routine of blessing their loved ones and saying things that need to be said in a permanent format.

“They encourage nice stationery and oddly enough, plagiarism too. We have a list of triggers that give the brain a great place to start and some direction,” Flynn said.

Flynn said he used the letters project for his children’s Christmas presents last year.

Flynn went to Hobby Lobby and found suitcases from around the world and decorated them, placing the letters inside.

“The program encourages you to find a unique way to deliver the letters and give the recipient a permanent place to hold them. It should always be in a format of something you will treasure,” Flynn said.

“There were more than a few tears when they opened my boxes. I took my wife to dinner to give her a letter too,” Flynn added.

Author and project founder Greg Vaughn said in the last two weeks, he has been in five different churches and after the “Letters From Dad” message is shared, an average of 75 percent of the men gathered want to participate.

“Most men are a little nervous about doing it, but the unique message I’m spreading for fathers to reconnect with their families is really strong,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he always asks the same question of the crowd of men at his seminars — “How many of you have a letter of love or blessing from your father?”

“I ask them to stand up if so, and usually it’s zero. If I find someone, I ask them the circumstances and tell them I’ll give them a $10,000 check to take it off their hands,” Vaughn said. “I’ve never had a taker yet because it’s priceless and so practical that it touches the heart in a deep way.”

Vaughn said he received a strange e-mail from Nashville, Tenn. last week from the wife of a husband who was involved in the letters project.

“He took a chainsaw to the biggest and oldest birch tree in their yard and told her it was because it didn’t belong there anymore. He was also spending all his time in the woodshop and at church,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said the husband had cut down the tree to use the planks to fashion Christmas treasure boxes for his children and grandchildren as holders for his letters.

“She said it took her two weeks to stop crying about it. It just shows how the program inspires men to do the best for their family,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he still practices what he preaches as well.

“For Valentine’s Day, I knew my wife and I would be traveling and busy, so I read her my letter on the road. I used every letter in her full name and told how it described a blessing I associated with her,” Vaughn said.

Flynn said the project is designed to be made up of four parts — wives, kids, parents and goodbye — so they will meet at New Life one Monday evening per month for four months.

There is also a possibility to start a six-month rotation and host the women’s version of the program, “Letters From The Heart.”

“We have support from Texas, where we could manage things on-line and keep finding ideas to write letters. It depends on how much support we get here from the guys,” Flynn said.

Meanwhile, Vaughn has his own long-term goals for the project.

“I always joke that I would love to put Wal-mart and Hallmark out of the card business with our letters,” Vaughn said with a laugh.

A “Letters From Dad” kickoff BBQ is this Sunday, Feb. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at New Life Christian Church, 401 W. Edgewood Court, Morton.

The BBQ dinner costs $5.

For more information and the registration brochure, drop by the church during office hours or visit www.newlifeonline.org/letters.