No morning alarm sounds. No beeps from an iPhone on the desk. No groggy grumbling from a face buried in a pillow. Even though the clock reads 6:15 a.m., Chris Prasad’s eyes open with ease. Lifting his tree trunk-like frame from the sleeping pad on his bedroom floor, he settles into a sitting position, ready to start his day.
“Good morning, Father,” he whispers as his eyes close.
His Father smiles.
Well, He might smile. He might not. Some scholars would debate God’s temperament. But it is hard to think He doesn’t smile when Chris awakes. Any good dad would. Chris converses with God daily and has for 30 or so years, building a very deep father-son relationship.
Chris reaches for his well-used Bible and opens it to one of the many chapters he reads it. Maybe he reads the next. Perhaps God compels Chris to read a few more, but no matter what, he always remembers to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs.
This routine is actually not routine at all. It unfolds through free flowing dialogue. Every morning, Chris and his Father converse about different things. It doesn’t last too long. Perhaps 20 minutes, sometimes 30. Then, Chris resigns to the shower and gets ready for a day filled with his second grade students. Chris ties the final knot on his simple black dress shoes, slaps at his black slacks to dispatch some dust, fastens his backpack over his button down blue dress shirt, closes the door, struts down two flights of apartment stairs, and steps onto the bustling streets of Seoul, South Korea.
Chris...is a nomad.
He grew up in Suva, Fiji, then lived in New Zealand. Later, he moved to Australia, served as a missionary in the United States for many years, headed back to Australia, then spent time in China, and now resides in Seoul.
back to Australia, then spent time in China, and now resides in Seoul.
Why? Because his Father told him to.
“I feel like everywhere I go, my role is to pass on my wisdom to the young-uh generation,” Chris says. “I feel like I am a mentor to these young guys.”
Chris talks in a low, soft voice. The hints of a Kiwi accent are sometimes audible. He says “breuh” instead of “bro”, or “dinnah” instead of “dinner”. And in most conversations, he listens while the other person talks. He doesn’t mind. God made him this way. An introvert. A man of few words.
He currently lives with two guys, just about half his age, in a simple three bedroom apartment in the thick of Seoul’s metropolitan grit. The apartment’s design fits a small family’s needs; thus, fitting Chris’s needs. His two roommates, Nathan and Ted, are his younger brothers. Not by blood, of course. His real younger brothers live back in Australia. This brotherhood relies on one simple thing: Chris loves helping people.
And this happens through small acts.
Like the time Chris bought Nathan a plain white dress shirt. Did Nathan need it? Maybe. Did he want it? Not really. But did Chris see it randomly on sale, think about Nathan’s size, and pull out his wallet? Yes. Why? Because his character defines him.
When they wake up and pop open the cereal box, Chris scampers into the kitchen and says, “Nah, breuh, I made oatmeal.”
When Chris irons clothes and one of them walks up, wrinkled shirt in hand, he simply reaches out to take it from them. They quickly object, but he quietly says, “No way, mate, I got it.”
At 43 years old, Chris fervently lives a healthy lifestyle. Dinners include a light stir-fry of vegetables, chicken, and rice.
light stir-fry of vegetables, chicken, and rice. Nights include a quick rep of 20 push-ups, 15 reps of a triceps workout, and then more push-ups. He stands oak-like with a warrior frame. Years of recreational weekend rugby matches keep him looking ready to fling a spear at some wild animal in the jungle at any moment.
“He leads by example,” Nathan says. “And it is an example that you want to follow. He really is like an older brother that you don’t want to disappoint, simply because you can see how well he lives his life. And you naturally want to do the same.”
Chris’s constant drive to do the right thing stems from a unique period of time during his high school years. Living in Suva—Fiji’s small capital of only a few hundred thousand people—Chris had few options as a 15-year-old for entertainment. So when a youth group at the local church beckoned him to play games and eat some free barbecue, he willingly joined. But that was just the first step. Soon, he attended the Sunday school, and his younger brothers and sister tagged along. They quickly became regulars at the church. At these Sunday gatherings, Chris saw other kids his age excited to worship a God he previously thought to be up very high, above in the clouds, and very much separated. But the people at this church kept explaining that God loved him, and that Jesus would always stay by his side.
This changed Chris.
He started lifting his hands with the other kids during the songs, proudly saying that he loved Jesus, too. Eventually, the younger members of the church began praying on their own. Not waiting until Sunday, but having sleepovers where they would take turns staying up and praying for two hours at a time. They called it a “prayer chain”. This type of thing became common place for a certain group of teens at the church. Chris hung out with them often. He, along with these eight other high schoolers, spent their time singing, praying, and even evangelizing.
“But they always did their homework first,” his mom, Maria, jokes.
As Chris’s body filled out early and athleticism burst from his muscular frame, he became a track star. His family had a long history in track and field. Chris’s uncles won city titles when they had raced in high school and up to that point, Chris followed suit. But after finding God, after experiencing passionate faith with a group of believers, those things became secondary.When school ended, his time at the track lessened, and he ended up running home to read the Bible. Chris couldn’t help it.
Once, in high school, a missionary prayed a very specific prayer for Chris: God would send him to many different nations to influence many different people. At the time, he simply received the prayer, not knowing how accurate the prayer would later be.
During his last year of high school, Chris became a prefect at Marist Brothers High School. This meant that he watched homeroom classes, while the teachers attended staff meetings. Essentially, Chris acted as a glorified hall monitor. But Chris took those moments as an opportunity to get a few words in. He talked about Jesus. Standing in front of 30 students, all his peers, he passionately expressed his feelings about a very real God in heaven. And, of course, some didn’t appreciate it.
“I had heckluhs,” Chris remembers, chuckling. “They would snicka’ at me and say, ‘Oh, here comes the Christian boy!’ But I didn’t care. I just kept preach’n the gospel.”
Chris shared his beliefs for one very important reason: his experience with God was so real, he felt like he had to share it.
God was so real, he felt like he had to share it.
A year before Chris met God, his dad walked out on the family. They were close, Chris and his dad. As the oldest, Chris held a special place in his dad’s heart. And Chris could feel that from a young age.
So when he left, Chris’s faith in him left, too. Chris reacted with bitterness, like most kids his age would. But he also found himself helping his mom with whatever he could. He willingly took care of his three younger siblings to fill the family’s void.
But a void in him still remained. A very big void. Chris had no father figure. Even though his dad only moved to another part of Suva, they didn’t see him.
“Remember,” his mom would say. “God is your father.”
Typically, a 14-year-old hearing this from his mom, shortly after seeing his dad walk out, would shrug it off. Yeah right. Where is He then?
But not Chris. He heard these words differently. He heard an escape. If his father really wasn’t going to come back, he felt no other choice but to accept it. Chris understood the only way to carry on was to approach God like a Father living and breathing next to him. Someone he talked to and relied on daily.
“Because the presence of my dad was absent,” Chris says. “Having God in place of him became natural. It was all I had.”
Faith in his newfound Father grew easily during those high school years. Chris and his family frequently witnessed God provide, both financially and socially. The local pastor took on the role of disciplining the kids when necessary, and friends at Maria’s work constantly prayed for the family.
But when it came to his dad, Chris buried his hurt. He discovered his Father in heaven and stopped focusing on the fact that his dad left.
Father in heaven and stopped focusing on the fact that his dad left. From age 14 to 21, Chris never saw his dad. After that, for the next 15 years, visits were sparse and phone calls were kept to just a few times a year. But that too would fade out. From 2003 to 2013, Chris and his father failed to meet face-to-face once.
But like so many times before, God spoke to Chris, and Chris listened.
In the fall of 2011, the head pastor at New Philadelphia Church, Chris’s church in Seoul, stood before the congregation and opened up about being in the middle of a 40-day fast from food to pray for his dad. He wanted to see his dad encounter Jesus. And when Chris heard this, his ears perked up. God spoke to him. I want you to pray with the same love and compassion for your dad.
Chris never hated his dad. But he held on to the facts. His dad left and remarried, leaving his mom to provide and causing the kids to work from a young age. Resentful may not be the best adjective to describe the emotions toward his dad. But rather, an emotional barrier remained. He always attempted to forgive his dad, yet, his heart still felt unsettled.
Shortly after hearing about his pastor’s effort, he made the decision to book a ticket to Auckland, New Zealand, where his dad now lived. It had been ten years since Chris last saw his dad.
For the five-night trip, unlike every other time he had visited, Chris did not book a hotel room or stay with a friend. He planned on staying in his dad’s house. This meant having to face his stepmom, his younger half-siblings, and a reality that never seemed to be for him.
“I was a bit nervous,” Chris says.
His dad picked him up from the airport and assured him that dinner was waiting at home.
waiting at home. They stuffed his bags in the car and as they buckled up, Chris felt a deep love settle in. He knew that every day of this trip provided a chance to be a son again.
“It was like going back in time,” Chris says. “I just did stuff with him. Nothing special. Just daily stuff.”
There was complete peace in the house. No anxiety or awkwardness. Only peace. They went to the store. They cooked. They laughed at little things. Chris washed the car, without being asked, of course. He spent time in the kitchen with his stepmom, curiously peering over her shoulder at how she seasoned her chicken. She giggled at his eagerness to learn, and she started giving him her kitchen secrets. He then took the time to encourage his younger half-brother to keep pursuing his goals and not let anything hold him back.
“I just felt like the walls staht’d to totally come down,” Chris says. “My stepmom even told me she wanted to come and visit me in Korea.”
On the last day of the trip, Chris’s dad took him to the airport. They sat silently on the road. Few words were spoken, just peace between a long lost father and his oldest kid. That is why when Chris got out of the car at the airport, grabbed his bags, and looked into the eyes of his dad walking over to him, his face flushed with emotion. They went in for a bear hug and embraced for a few extra seconds.
“Son, thank you for coming to visit. I have always loved you, and I always will,” his dad whispered.
When they released, tears fell from both of their faces. Those were words that Chris had longed to hear for such a long time.
They waved goodbye, and Chris had to put his sunglasses on. Even as he stood in line at the check-in counter, shades covered his watery eyes.
stood in line at the check-in counter, shades covered his watery eyes. He kept looking up and saying, “Thank you, Father.”
As Chris reflects on that time, he sees God’s hand all over it.
“God doesn’t want to leave anything unturned,” Chris says. “The idea of restoring the hearts of fathers back to their children is someth’n I prayed for many other people, but I was never able to see it in my own life. And I feel like God has allowed a grace for restoration at this time.”
Chris and his dad talk frequently these days. He has already planned his next visit.
But first, Chris will start his day tomorrow, early as always, calling upon his Father in heaven. The Father that has never left his side. Never failed him. Never forgotten about him. And because of that, Chris has been, is, and always will be...a son.
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