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IT’S ALL RELATIVE

We’ll be heading for Hannibal, MO this coming Friday to attend the 2010 Ward Family Reunion. I’m excited about that! Our family reunion happens every other year, and I think I speak for most of the family – we look forward to it eagerly!

There are around 150 Wards, now, stemming from Grandpa and Grandma Ward (Harris and Gladys), and the number continues to grow every year through births and marriage and even adoption. I’ve lost track of the exact number again, but I’d say in the four generations that have followed them so far, Grandma and Grandpa have done pretty well for themselves! They are both in Heaven now, but I (the second of Generation 2) remember them both well and to this day still love and miss them. Grandpa died in 1973, and Grandma lived almost 21 years without him. My granddaughter Sara was the first of Generation 4 and she was only five months old when Grandma went home to be with the Lord. Generation 4 never knew Grandma and Grandpa, and now here we are—in a few years we will no doubt begin Generation 5. Time and their legacy march on.

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All eight of Grandma and Grandpa’s children are still alive and I so look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles at these reunions! Some of them are embarking into their eighties now. I dread the day when someone is missing from our reunion here on earth. We’ve already lost two of their spouses – my own dad and Uncle Sam. Praise God, we will have a grand reunion in Heaven, though, for most of my family knows the Lord as their Savior, and someday “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17) For now, though, I will cherish the time I get to spend with them at our reunions and treasure the memories we have of good times together.
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And then there are the cousins. I have twenty-seven first cousins among the Wards. My cousin David went home to Heaven at the young age of 44. One of the regrets of my life has been that I never really got to know David as an adult. I have wonderful, funny memories of him as a little boy and young teen, but by the time he grew up we had gone our separate ways – he in the Air Force and me with my little family out to Colorado. That time in Colorado was where God wanted us, and I am glad for the years we spent there, but I didn’t have many opportunities to keep up with my extended family being so far away. I missed many weddings and reunions and other family gatherings during that time. We had returned to Indiana when David died, though, and I suddenly realized how precious my family was to me, and I never wanted to have regrets like that again. I wanted to really know my cousins. That is when the reunions really became important to me. Our family website and message board, called the Gab, which was begun the night after David’s funeral by his brother Reid, became an invaluable tool, also, in drawing us all closer together.
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Even the younger generations look forward to our reunions! I don’t know of too many teenagers who look forward to family reunions, but our kids have always been excited to pick up right where they left off two years before and share the excitement and fun of playing jokes on each other and especially on the aunts and uncles! There have been many a TP’d car – and even a few Saran-wrapped ones! Playing tag at midnight in an old cemetery, scavenger hunts, picnics and games, variety shows we put on ourselves, lots of time in the pool – all this and more kept them coming back for more.
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Bob’s family is having a mini-reunion this afternoon out at a cousin’s house. It’s not the big three-day, organized event that the Ward’s have biannually, but I am really happy Bob is going. His family is not close at all, and Bob has not seen most of these aunts and uncles and cousins in decades, but he has fond memories from his childhood of them. I hope he has a great time. It didn’t work out for Robbie and me to go because he has to leave for it straight from church this morning, but he went armed with pictures and I am sure, knowing Bob, he’ll be bragging on his kids and grandkids!
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Marriage and family was the first of God’s institutions here on earth. The Bible tells of many different family dynamics in the stories of the Old Testament, and teaches principles for living within our families in the New Testament. We see husband/wife relationships and parent/child relationships, of course, but then there are also stories of sibling rivalries (ie. Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Leah and Rachel), in-law relationships (bad—Laban and Jacob; good—Naomi and Ruth), and intergenerational bonds (Lois, Eunice and Timothy.) We see uncles mentioned (Saul’s and David’s) and even cousins (Mordecai and Esther, and Mary and Elizabeth.)
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Family is extremely important to God. Not only was it the first of His institutions, but it also is what he uses to illustrate our relationship with Him and with one another. He is our Father. ”After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9) Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” What an amazing and awesome truth!
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As believers, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord and are to treat one another as family. “Rebuke not an elder, but treat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (I Timothy 5:1, 2) The church’s relationship with Christ is likened to a bride and her groom and a marriage. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)
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I love my big earthly family and am so glad that death does not separate us forever when we know Christ as our Savior. How awesome to be part of an even larger family – the family of God! “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Won’t that big family reunion in Heaven when we are all gathered at the marriage supper of the Lamb be wonderful! It thrills my heart here on earth to sing His praises at our little worship service at our family reunions. I can’t even imagine having all eternity to sing His praises with my brothers and sisters from every tribe and nation and people and era of this world when we are all together before His throne!

LOOKING BACK AT OUR ROOTS — WAY, WAY BACK!

I wrote this for our family reunion last year, and since it goes so well with this week’s blog LA QUINCEAÑERA I decided it to post it here. If you’ve read it before, just skip it, but perhaps there are some who would be interested.
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Have you ever wondered about our family tree beyond Grandma and Grandpa Ward? We’re going back 101 years to the year of Grandpa’s birth at this reunion, but what about the people who came before him and Grandma? We G2’s never knew our great-grandparents. Great-Grandpa Clark was the only one who lived to see any of his great-grandchildren in this family—Vicki, Cindy and Becki—and they were just babies when he died. So who were our ancestors, anyway, and how far back do our roots go?

You may have noticed our family history on our webpage, but if you’ve never stopped to read it closely, you may be surprised to find that there are some pretty amazing—even mind-boggling—facts about our genealogy there! Our roots go very deep! Brian, Diane and Aunt Judy researched and gathered facts from many sources, and Brian did a fantastic job of putting it all together for us. This is just a little summary of some of the most interesting facts and people they discovered hidden in the branches of our family tree!

The earliest ancestor mentioned was from Grandma’s maternal side of the family. John Robey was born in 1455 in Castle Donington, England. That was 553 years ago and 18 generations back from our G4’s today! Can you imagine the differences between his life back then and ours now? Do you think in his very wildest dreams he could have ever imagined that his descendants would someday fly through the air, talk to others instantly on the other side of the world, be able to travel a thousand miles or more in a single day? At that time they still thought the world was flat! And lest you think it is so cool that one of our ancestors was born in a castle, just remember—he wasn’t necessarily noble. He could have been the child of a servant, or perhaps the village blacksmith’s son and his birth was merely recorded there. We don’t know.

There were other ancestors mentioned from the end of the Middle-Ages. On Grandpa’s paternal side was Hendrick Vrooman who was born in 1526 in Valkenburg, Netherlands (16 generations back from our G4’s) and William Wilcoxson born in Derbyshire, England in 1560 (14 generations back.) Incredible to think we can trace our roots back to the Middle Ages, isn’t it?

Our ancestors came from England primarily, although there is a sizeable Dutch branch as well. They also came from Ireland, Belgium and Germany and were among the very earliest settlers in this country. Ebenezer Hill Judkins, the first of the Judkins mentioned in our genealogy, claimed that the records show that his forefathers came over on the Mayflower in 1620 and were a prominent part of the Plymouth colony. The first birth noted in our family tree on American soil, however, was Joseph Wilcoxson’s in 1635. If there truly were ancestors of ours on the Mayflower, there would have undoubtedly been births prior to his.

Our forefathers settled in New England first—New York (New Amsterdam), Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Maine and Virginia. After the Revolutionary War they eventually began to move west into Kentucky, Indiana and Wisconsin, for the most part. Some moved by wagon and others floated on flatboats down the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers just as Daniel Boone had a few years before them. Later, Henry Seth Clark joined the Gold Rush to California. Our American ancestors were true pioneers, often being among the first to settle in new frontiers.

They were patriots, as well. Abijah Ward, the first actual Ward mentioned in our genealogy charts, fought in the Revolutionary War, as did Henry Miller. According to the National Military Archives, Henry Miller was actually at Valley Forge with George Washington in 1778. Another Miller fought in the War of 1812, and Comfort Carpenter Walker fought in the Civil War. Many others have served proudly in defense of our country, as well.

In fact, the name Ward actually means “watchman or guard,” from the Old English weard. However, other names played prominently in our family heritage, as well. On Grandpa’s side there were families named Lewis, Wilcox, Borst, Burgaart, Van Valkenburg and Vrooman, among others. Grandma’s side had Walkers, Clarks, Moores, Judkins, Butlers and Smarts, to name a few. Some first names stand out as being unusual by today’s standards—Union, Comfort, Annis, Submit, Mindwell, Volney. There was also a Benjamin Franklin and Simon Bolivar. One woman was listed as only “Mohawk woman from Turtle Clan.” Our family tree is loaded with Bible names, too — many of them the usual ones we still hear today, but there’s also an Ebenezer, Joachim, Asa, Abijah, Bartholomew, and Ozial (probably a derivative of Ozias or Uzziel.) John, William, and Henry, or variations of those names, were the most common first names for men. Strange, isn’t it, that there is not a John, Henry or William among us today. Mary, or a variation, was the most popular name for women by far.

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It’s important to remember that these are not merely names, but people. People who lived and breathed, who suffered and loved, raised their children and worked very, very hard. There are several anecdotes and personal details noted in the genealogy charts that bring these people to life a bit. One of the most humorous is this one:
Henry “Tip” Moore was born 3 months after his father left for the gold fields of California. He resented his father at least for a time after he returned due to his father’s absence during the first years of the younger Henry’s childhood. A story from Calista Clark, his daughter, goes as follows: “One day when his father was working down in the well, little Tip was leaning over close to the edge. When his father ordered him back, Tip spit in his father’s face, for which he received a “licking”, whereupon, Tip’s mother cried because she thought his father didn’t like his little boy. Tippy no doubt thought that strange man had no right to boss him.”
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Five hundred and fifty-three years of history. Five hundred and fifty-three years of people who have come and gone, whose genes have been passed down through the generations to us today, whose faith has survived to become a spiritual legacy in our family. John Robey could never have imagined how the world would change, nor the thousands upon thousands who would follow him through the centuries. Five hundred and fifty-three years from now, if the Lord should tarry, the year will be 2561. Like John Robey, we cannot begin to imagine in our wildest dreams what life will be like, nor the thousands who will follow in our footsteps. It is obvious as we study our genealogy that we have a rich spiritual heritage and strong pioneer roots. Will we pass that faith and strength on to our children and grandchildren? Will their grandchildren and great-grandchildren follow in our footsteps? Will our descendants five hundred fifty-three years from now find our names hidden in their family tree and wonder about us? Will they still be praising God for the legacy that has been passed down through the generations to them?
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Though we have this heritage of faith in our family, there are no spiritual “grandchildren” with God. Each man, woman and child must come to Him through Jesus Christ on their own, and make that personal decision to accept Him as Savior or not. We can pray for our children and grandchildren and the generations that follow, though, and we can teach them. The Word of God tells us in Deuteronomy 6:5-7, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
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A song by Steve Green says, “Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful!” May each of us faithfully pass on to the following generations the legacy of family, love, strength and faith that has been the blessing of our rich heritage from those who have gone before us. And to God goes all the glory.

Written by Cynthia Sue Pratt Griffith
for the 2008 Ward Family Reunion

With many thanks to
Brian Paul Ward
Diane Christine Ward Gaffney
Julia Ann Ward Alexander

They did all the work on our genealogy.
I merely drew the highlights from it and summarized it.

Find Us Faithful

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road,
And those who’ve gone before us line the way,
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary,
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.
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Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
Let us run the race not only for the prize,
But as those who’ve gone before us,
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on through godly lives.
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Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful!
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful!
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After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone,
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind,
May the clues that they discover
And the memories they uncoverBecome the light that leads them
To the road we each must find.

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful!
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leaveLead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful!
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Words and Music by Jon Mohr