Grandpa, the man who taught me to hug and bow

Growing up I (Justin) can easily split my life up into neat chapters because my family moved around and I never lived anywhere more than six years. The last chapter in my ‘growing up’ story was unique in the sense that it was the first time I’d spent any significant amount of time in the United States, the country I called home. It was also the first chapter in my life that had me living away from my parents. At the age of sixteen I moved in with my grandparents and, without really understanding what I was doing, moved my entire life into a different country and culture. I displaced myself from my parents and siblings, all my friends, and every other safety net that I could have had as a young teen. With over 4,400 miles between the Netherlands and South Dakota, I would definitely not be in Kansas anymore. 

As scary as this must have been for my parents who loved me dearly, they strategically released me into a home where they knew I would be cared for.

At the time, Roger Hunt had been a husband to his wife Sharon for almost fifty years. He’d raised three children who grew up to love Jesus dearly. He had served in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps for over twenty years and had over ten years of serving as a South Dakota representative under his belt. Surely, if Roger could care for so many people he could take care of his grandson as well.

And he did. 

Through simple things like helping him re-shingle his house and building retaining walls, he reinforced in me the need and benefits of doing a job well. He gently reminded me regularly of the urgency to serve others when, while sitting at the dinner table, he’d ask me “Justin, how have you served your country today?”

Even more valuable though, Roger created a safe space to let me fail. He patiently pressed in as I learned to drive. He didn’t complain or nag when I was wasting my time or didn’t want to bother to help around the house. (This last one is a bigger deal to me than you may think.)

Roger was humble, too. It wasn’t beneath him to ask his grandson how fix his email app or which wireless router would best suit his needs. He would often ask my opinion around tech and even a bit when it came movies and which might be worth seeing.

In many ways, my grandpa was a constant. He was always a phone call away and his diverse life experience, do-it-yourself attitude and overall knowledge gave comfort, because if you called Roger, you knew he’d be able to help.

Grandpa taught me what it looks to hug & bowRoger wasn’t perfect. No one is, but Roger modeled a life that warranted respect in a way that made you want to be a part of what he was doing.  Through his example he showed me that God is a loving Father and powerful King who wants to interact with us, both in covenant relationship and Kingdom partnership. (That’s from this book!)

Roger Wayne Hunt of Brandon, SD, passed away on, November 9, 2018, at the Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, SD after a 5 week hospitalization from a complicated surgery. (Read his full obituary here.)

I lived with Roger and Sharon (Grandpa and Grandma) for two years before going off to college. I’m thankful for those two years because of the home they created and the lives they modeled in which I could learn these things. I’ve heard plenty of stories of Missionary Kids moving back to the U.S. to start college and those first years being horribly difficult due to not having a safe space to process their transition.

Grandpa’s legacy seems huge to me. It’s one that I don’t think I could ever replicate myself. Yet, it brings me great comfort to know that Roger’s legacy was given to him by his Father and King. In the same way, as I take up Christ’s call on my life, I am able to pour into that same legacy. Praise the Lord.

2 Replies to “Grandpa, the man who taught me to hug and bow”

  1. Wow! So beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. That means a lot. A big hug to you as the empty spot he leaves…and as you rest in Jesus for His way in your life. God Bless!

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