He's been my father's closest friend since I was very young, and he was much like a god-father to me and my three brothers for more than 20 years. As boys we used to go exploring in the ravine behind their home in Ontario. When my parents were ministering out of the country, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylv would look after us boys. We still talk of the brownie surprise ("the surprise is...there is no brownie!"), and the chocolate chip spaghetti.
We moved to another province when I was 15, and I was just a dumb teenager, so I didn't know what I was missing. I was shocked when I did the math today and realized that Uncle Bob and I have been close friends for less than four years. It was the spring of 2006, shortly after they moved to BC, that Bethany and I started spending time with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia. They quickly became some of our dearest friends and life would not have been the same without such a friendship.
We had many a great walk along the river in Steveston, and many peaceful afternoons eating potato chips and drinking beer on the boat. But what I treasured most was their quiet wisdom and the peaceful prayer that was sure to come at the end of the day when the cards were put down and the espresso and chocolate was gone. I'm afraid of being without his wisdom. Yes, Uncle Bob's wisdom was from the Lord, and I know that God's wisdom is still available to me, but it was far more reassuring to know that it was just a phone call away.
If you're looking for Uncle Bob's influence in my life, you needn't look far. Two of my greatest passions can be directly attributed to him. It's no coincidence that I fell in love with photography at exactly the same time that he and I became friends. When Bethany and I were in the Dominican Republic with Impact Nations in January of 2006, we began spending time with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylv, and he let me borrow his point and shoot camera. He showed me a few things and something inside me came alive. The next month I bought my first point and shoot camera and he started to teach me. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After hearing the news today, I found myself browsing through my old photography blog (you might be curious to wander through the archives). My first images were laughably bad, but Uncle Bob's influence becomes apparent as the photography improves. So much so, that I mentioned him often in my writing and referred to him as The Famous Uncle Robert. He was always bugging me to turn that blog into a book. Perhaps one day I will.
He has encouraged me every step of the way in my photography; kicking my ass when I would complain about crappy weather or insufficient gear, and cheering me on when I was pushing myself creatively. He got me an early Christmas present this year—a subscription to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals—with a note that encouraged me to keep pressing forward. I can't tell you how many books he has handed me to read, and their effect has been profound. It's been a long time since I went on a photowalk with him, and I cannot express how much I regret not finding time to do that when I was with him this summer.
My other passion, of course, is the biosand water filter. Did you know that he's the one who trained me in that technology? Exactly two years ago I went to learn all about it from he and Aunt Sylvia in Manila. A few weeks after that, he was helping me build our first filter in Davao. We have since built almost 3000 filters and impacted as many as 50,000 lives. None of that would be possible if he and Aunt Sylvia hadn't imparted their passion to me.
You see, that's the thing. Uncle Bob did more than just teach me these things. He instilled a passion in me to do them to the best of my ability. Some days I was working hard in the hopes that he would be proud of me. But I know he was proud of me—he told me so. Most days I was working hard because I had caught his passion.
All this has me thinking about my dad. I count my father as one of my very best friends. He and I had a good cry together on Skype today. I told Dad that he and Uncle Bob were my go-to guys for wisdom, and now that Uncle Bob is gone, Dad is gonna have to carry more of the load. Problem is, I know Uncle Bob was one of Dad's main sources too. We could be in trouble.
It is days like this when I absolutely hate living on the other side of the world. It feels awful to grieve alone. Bethany and I have been holding on to each other throughout the day, but a hug from my dad sure would feel good right about now. A beer with Uncle Bob would feel pretty good too.
I miss him a lot. I know he's with Jesus, but fat lot of good that does me. Please be praying for Aunt Sylvia and the rest of their family.
I lost a lot of my photos of Uncle Bob during a hard drive crash a couple years ago. Those that I do have, I just put up on facebook.