Providential Fathers, Victorious Daughters
A Report on the 2006 Father Daughter Retreat
“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” Proverbs 31:29
Something wonderful is happening in our day. In families and homes across the nation, the Lord is turning the hearts of fathers to their daughters and the hearts of girls to their daddies. Nowhere was this more evident than in Pine Mountain, Georgia during the weekend of March 31-April 2 as nearly five hundred fathers and daughters gathered for Vision Forum Ministries’ 2006 Father and Daughter Retreat.
The lovely scenery of Callaway Gardens was a perfect complement to the beautiful picture of providential fatherhood and virtuous daughterhood displayed throughout the weekend. Even the other guests at the Mountain Creek Inn noticed something extraordinary about the abundance of loving fathers and doting daughters, and many inquired as to the cause of this cultural phenomenon.
“Hearts turned toward one another is evidence of Christ: it is a sign of the gospel,” said VFM board member and father of three daughters, Scott Brown, regarding the sovereign and gracious work of God described in Malachi 4:5-6. “This passage is extremely encouraging. It means that God will do something in the hearts of His people that is not happening in other hearts.”
This message of changed hearts was cultivated throughout the retreat as fathers and daughters began their time together outdoors with enjoyable activities designed to strengthen the unity and trust between them. In one competition, pairs of dads and daughters developed skills to work as a team by each using only one hand to tie and untie knots together. In another contest, the fathers and daughters learned to coordinate their steps as they ran together in stride in a three-legged race. The last activity was a living lesson for the daughters of the incredible importance of listening to their father’s voice and obeying his commands as he directed them blindfolded through an obstacle course.
After the unity games, everyone enjoyed a delicious picnic dinner on the grand lawn of the inn, complete with picnic baskets and red-and-white-checked blankets. Families continued to fellowship together for dessert during an irresistible ice cream social indoors.
After the meal, the opening session of the retreat began in the convention center of the inn. Scott Brown led fathers and daughters in memorizing Proverbs 24:3-4, laying the foundational principles of wisdom, through which houses are built; understanding, by which they are established; and knowledge, by which they are filled. Doug Phillips, VFM president and father of three daughters, then introduced the men and girls to a self-conscious, deliberate view of fatherhood and daughterhood, forged on the anvil of biblical living. Men were exhorted to be Psalm 127, 128, and 78 fathers, and daughters were encouraged to be Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 ladies, with the particular aspiration of verse 29 of Proverbs 31: to be virtuous, set apart daughters that “excel them all.”
The night continued with rejoicing in the wonderful aspects of the father/daughter relationship, as sets of volunteers were called to the stage to participate in different tests. The first contest demonstrated the practice of fathers wooing and winning the hearts of their daughters. The second game was to test how much they knew about each other. The third activity was designed to aid in training daughters to serve their fathers.
The first evening of the retreat ended with a Christian love story for fathers and daughters entitled The Princess and the Kiss, read by Doug Phillips. The simple yet profoundly important message was that it is a sacred and holy mission of fathers to protect the purity of their daughters until marriage.
Saturday was a particularly meaningful day for the fathers and daughters as they were encouraged by several keynote addresses, testimonies from young ladies, and a special high tea and time to explore the gardens together. The morning began after breakfast with a message from Scott Brown regarding ways that fathers turn their hearts toward their daughters. This is accomplished by helping them nurture holy affections, rather than a desire for the trivial entertainment of the world; helping them protect their purity; helping them fulfill a biblical calling; and helping them find husbands.
“Fathers need to prepare their daughters to be wives who are under submission, helpers to their husbands, mothers, keepers at home, and domestic entrepreneurs,” exhorted Scott Brown. “There is a real danger in raising picky, un-pleasable daughters who are unable to follow an imperfect man. We have no business raising wimpy ‘prima donna’ daughters.”
The next session was entitled “A Vision of Victory for Fathers and Daughters,” in which Doug Phillips expounded on the necessity of fathers having a multigenerational purpose in their families and fulfilling their roles as leaders, protectors, and visionaries. “The vision of a godly man sees four generations down the road,” explained Doug Phillips. “What I do—the choices I make—will affect my great-grandchildren. Life isn’t about me—it’s about Christ. None of us is given the luxury of comfort.”
The morning was concluded by heartfelt messages from fathers and daughters who shared the ways the Lord had worked to unite their hearts together. Father of three daughters and VFM board member Jim Zes spoke briefly about his journey as a father consumed with his business to a father who turned his heart to his family. His middle daughter, Rebekah, 25, then shared with the daughters the story of how her heart had been drawn away from her father’s house and how the Lord restored it back, with the blessing of peace. She warned the girls that they are all vulnerable, and pleaded with them not to repeat her mistakes but to learn from them. If they are careful to guard their hearts from selfishness, pride, and discontentment, and to encourage right relationships in their families, the result will be a God-ordered, peaceful life, she said.
“Oh, be careful what seeds are being sown in your young heart, for seeds will soon grow into plants. Do not foster a weed-bed of vice and feminism, but cultivate a flower-garden of virtue and womanly excellence. Where is your heart? Is there peace in your father’s house Are you, as a daughter, bringing glory to God?”
Jim Zes’s youngest daughter, Hannah, 22, then spoke to the girls about what life as a daughter in her twenties at home looks like. She gave examples of ways in which she and her sisters serve their father, and encouraged the girls to love being at home. “We as daughters have the privilege of bringing beauty and order into our father’s house. The attitude of your heart will have such a great influence on those in your home.
“Many girls think that the only way they can have an impact on society is to go out of the home and witness to the lost. Well, let me tell you: the greatest impact you will ever have on society will happen right from within your father’s home. It is there where you will be doing greater warfare against the wickedness of our culture than anywhere else, and that is because the very action of a daughter dwelling contentedly in her father’s house is a strike against the lies of feminism. It is there where you have the wonderful privilege to serve your father and make him great.”
The final speakers of the morning were Scott Brown and his daughter Kelly, 21, who related the ways in which he had prepared her for marriage. With a grateful heart, Kelly shared how her father had shepherded, guided, encouraged, and invested in her important truths. These lessons included that no one gets a perfect father, yet daughters are still called to submission; the importance of guarding a daughter’s heart; the security of her father’s love; and the cultivation of thankfulness for every season and contented trust in the sovereignty of God. Kelly encouraged the daughters to embrace their father’s protection and authority; to give their hearts to their fathers and be devoted to him; to have affections for holy and truly beautiful things, especially for God’s Word; and to see marriage as a gift—as a blessing from the Lord, which comes in His timing.
The next event of the retreat was a Victorian high tea, where fathers and daughters, in their best suits and dresses, enjoyed all the delicacies and fineries of this elegant tradition. After the satisfying and enjoyable time together over tea, the fathers and daughters then had several hours of free time to walk through gardens at Callaway and fellowship with other families, many taking the opportunity to visit the renowned Butterfly Conservatory.
On Saturday evening the fathers and daughters gathered together once more to hear a special message by Geoffrey Botkin and his daughters, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth. The Botkin ladies, who had delighted everyone with their skillful harp playing throughout the conference, were joined by their father on the guitar for an entertaining song to start off the session.
Anna Sofia, the elder daughter of Geoffrey Botkin, then spoke on “How to be Your Father’s Arrow, Ambassador, and Princess.” She explained to the girls their duty to bring honor to both their earthly father and heavenly Father, by their public and private example. To help girls understand the importance of this duty, she compared it to that of a princess, reintroducing the traditional definition and condemning Hollywood’s destructively shallow definition.
“A princess is a royal noblewoman, a ruler’s daughter or wife who honors all aspects of her inheritance and discharges her duties with grace and royal bearing, serving her people and leading them to positions of greater blessing. She recognizes that all thrones must be established in righteousness and that she must defend the faith and strengthen the morality of her people by her public and private example. In this generation, that is starving for examples of femininity, modesty, and true princess-like behavior, we must be the examples.
“A girl can be her father’s arrow and a cultural leader while under her father’s roof and protection, by setting an example of something which is almost a thing of the past: virtuous daughterhood.”
Elizabeth, the younger Botkin daughter, shared with the girls “How I Learned to Be Helpful to My Father.” She emphasized that daughters can be helpful to their fathers no matter what kind of fathers they have, no matter how old they are, no matter what their fathers do for a living. She urged the girls to actively search for ways to make themselves helpful, including being delightful to their father; learning to love the unique blessings and challenges which come from being their father’s daughter; and equipping themselves with the skills to help their father in his interests-ordering their priorities around the goals of their father.
“We can’t afford to sit and wait for our fathers to drop big, impressive projects into our laps. It’s also not helpful when we demand that our fathers give us something to do-instead, we should demonstrate a willingness to do whatever they ask. There’s more to helping your father than helping him in his business; sometimes helping in small ways has a greater effect.”
Geoffrey Botkin then spoke on “Providential Fathers: How to Father Victorious Daughters.” He expounded on the seven foundational elements of a godly home—a godly dynasty—upon which the victorious daughter can actively build her life and faith: 1) Confidence in a commitment to lifelong providence; 2) A comprehensive understanding of all of Scripture; 3) Evidence of a maturing father in a delightful relationship with a maturing wife; 4) Serious discussions about Christ’s Kingdom; 5) Preparation for marriage by learning to be tough, entrepreneurial, and full of faith; 6) Affectionate instruction in sensible living; and 7) A long-term vision for multigenerational family life.
“The greatest blessing you will ever give your daughter is a bequest you give her from childhood: character and wisdom used in the shepherding of souls.”
As the retreat drew to a close, the fathers and daughters were given the opportunity to share their hearts during a time of testimony and praise. Many fathers spoke of how they were encouraged, motivated, and thankful for what they had learned during the weekend, and others pledged their unfailing love and protection to their daughters. Many girls thanked their fathers for bringing them; others shared how the Lord had changed their heart toward their dads; and several daughters publicly gave their hearts to their fathers.
The 2006 Father and Daughter Retreat ended with an exhortation by Doug Phillips for fathers to righteously bless their obedient daughters, and for daughters to seek out the blessing of their fathers, as well as a reminder for daughters to walk strong with Christ and persevere in the faith; have a dynamic life purpose; be established in a godly marriage; and keep covenant with the God of their fathers.
May the Lord continue to raise up providential fathers and victorious daughters in our day!