Grandchildren are the crowning joy of the aged, even though I don’t consider myself aged yet! It’s a mystery how Emma, Anna, and Austin have had a way of breathing life and energy into my soul…while at the same time wearing me out building forts and giving horsy-back rides to boisterous bucking broncos.
Emma was the first to call me Grandma, and it was music to my ears…my firstborn’s firstborn. There’s nothing like seeing your children produce children…watching your bloodline expand to another generation. They hold a special protective place in your heart, and Emma’s got me captured! Even though she just turned ten years old, I’m still enthralled by the beauty of her auburn hair, the sparkle of her blue green eyes, and the freckles randomly deposited like angel kisses all across her nose and cheeks. Her smile literally lights up the room! I see both her mom and dad in those adorable features. I’ve loved the times we’ve shared baking cookies and hosting tea parties for her dolls. I’ve loved watching her learn to read and help her little sister and brother understand things she’s just learning. It’s a joy to attend her basketball games, school plays and birthday celebrations. It’s so much fun playing Scrabble, Uno and Sorry with this competitive child. She knows I always want her to win! Most rewarding is watching her form a relationship with Jesus Christ herself, learning scripture verses and endeavoring to apply godly principles to her decisions. Her parents are training her up in the Lord…as they both had been taught from their parents…who had been taught by theirs. It’s been a cycle that began five generations ago on both sides of Emma’s family tree. She is a blessed child because of what’s been handed down to her…but let me tell you about another Emma, one of several ancestors in the family line who helped start it all.
It was the summer of 1903 when Emma Wikberg took her young sons by the hand to follow her husband into the steerage compartment of a massive steamship. As they awaited their departure, fear clouded Emma’s hopes of a better life in America. It had all seemed so right when they first began the plan to leave their beloved Sweden. Now the presence of dead fish, sweaty bodies and overcrowded conditions made her wonder if it was wise to uproot their young family from all they’d ever known. Shipmen shouted orders attempting to be heard above the clamor of confusion, squawking seagulls and blasting fog horns. Trembling, Emma closed her eyes for a brief moment to gain her composure. Had their resolve to move across the sea to a land of opportunity been too hasty? She shivered at the thoughts of the unknown territory lying ahead. Her limited religious background prompted her to pray, but pride and resolve caused her to push ahead on her own. Emma was a strong, determined young woman, as were most Scandinavians.
Land was a welcome sight when they finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor. It had been a test of endurance as they ate and slept among hundreds of other hopeful migrants. The reception center was their first taste of American hospitality after two weeks at sea, but they felt like cattle herded into stalls during the registration process. Impatient officials asked endless questions that would determine their future. Even as they faced the possibility of disease and disability on board the ship, they now faced the fear of the unknown as they disembarked. Where would they settle and how would they survive?
As fate would have it, or most likely divine destiny, the family settled in the windy city of Chicago. Emma’s husband found work in the building trade while Emma got the boys settled in school. Soon she found work as a “domestic,” washing and ironing clothes for the more prominent citizens on Chicago’s south side. When the boys were in their teens, daughters were born which added to the family’s financial pressures. They suffered through the Depression with rationing and limited resources. Times were tough as Emma’s husband spent most of his paycheck at the local tavern, leaving her to shoulder the heavy burden of providing for the family. Not knowing where else to turn, she finally breathed a heart-felt prayer for help. God heard her desperate cry.
And so it happened, a friend invited her to church where Emma heard the Gospel message for the first time and eventually accepted Christ into her life. It was at this lively storefront church, where she witnessed miraculous signs and wonders, that her own two daughters were also introduced to Jesus Christ. While Emma’s husband wanted nothing to do with these “holy rollers,” Emma resolved to make Jesus Christ the center of her life. She kept attending church and taught her girls about the truths of God.
“We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 78:4.
When Grandma Emma went home to be with the Lord in 1950, she left a godly legacy. My mother, Helga, who was Emma’s youngest daughter, became a mighty prayer warrior. In fact, she prayed for my father for eight years before he accepted Christ as His Savior, and continued to pray for me and my kids until the day she died. My parents raised their children in a godly home teaching them what they had learned from Emma’s example. Eventually, all of their children and grandchildren made decisions to walk with the Lord. In fact, several are in full time ministry today. Emma’s decision to follow Christ has impacted every generation since.
“He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—that they in turn might teach their children.” Psalm 78:5-6
I often wonder where we would be had it not been for the other Emma in our family line. She lived the commands of Psalm 78 and did not hide these lessons from her children. They in turn were obedient to teach them to their children, so the next generation might also know them and then teach them to their children. And so it goes.
“So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering His glorious deeds and obeying His commands.” Psalm 78:7.
My grandmother was the other Emma who five generations ago forged the way to lead our family to Jesus Christ. Though I didn’t really know her, the legacy she left for me, my children, and grandchildren is priceless. She was a history maker who made a difference in our family even today, up to and including my granddaughter, Emma, and her siblings. You probably have “Another Emma” somewhere in your generational line. If you can’t look back and name yours, let it start with you! What kind of legacy are you leaving your children and future grandchildren?
“I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands to a thousand generations.” Exodus 20:6
Be determined to tell your story to your little ones…so they can tell it to theirs…and your legacy will continue to a thousand generations. He promised.