Prodigal Father: I Went to Skid Row to Find Him

I grew up in a two-parent household until I was in the 2nd grade. My father was my world. He was a business owner and entrepreneur. He had his own roofing company and took care of my mother, younger sister and I on his income.

He was a very bright man. He was highly intelligent and had an impeccable memory for things. I remember a time when he had to go to court over a contract issue with his business against a large corporation and he represented himself. Needless to say, he won the case on his own. That’s how intelligent he was.

In the early ’70s, families in the black community were falling apart. Drugs hit the scene and people were experimenting with them and getting hooked. It seems that my family was no exception. My dad had become hooked on drugs and began exhibiting behaviors of violence and instability that my mother would not accept. In her strength, she took my sister and I and fled to Los Angeles where we lived with my grandparents.

Throughout those years of my elementary school time, I had little contact with my father. He would often visit but not for long periods of time. There were times when he would show up to the house high on cocaine and PCP and would literally pull a gun out on my mother and kidnap me and take me back to his house in Inglewood. After he would come down from his high he would be regretful and take me back home to my mother.

I was traumatized by these events that happened on more than one occasion. Soon, he stopped coming by and stopped calling. I was in the 4th grade when I last had contact with him. His last words to me were “I’m going to send you money each month.”

As a kid I still believed in him. I would go to the mailbox each day as I came home from school expecting to see an envelope with an allowance inside. To my disbelief and disappointment there was never anything there. At that point, I gave up on him and moved forward with my life.

During these formative years, it had been my grandfather, uncles, and football coach who became the father figures I so desperately needed as a young black male growing up. Once I graduated from high school and entered college it was the brotherhood of my fraternity that I turned to for encouragement, validation and support. It is one the reasons I believe that I still turned out to be a pretty good guy in society. My mother played the biggest role in my life, raising my sister and I as a single parent. She sacrificed her life so that we could have a better one.

Once I got married and had children, I found myself making a commitment to be the father that my father wasn’t to me. I had to go to my Heavenly Father for guidance on how to be a good dad. I know that it was the Spirit of the Lord that has always helped me to be the best image of a loving father to my own children.
Prodigal Father
Fast forward some 30-plus years later, and I find myself in a whirlwind of emotions. I was sitting in a meeting with a few pastors. In the middle of this meeting, I received an inbox message on Facebook from one of my church members with information and a phone number for California Hospital that stated, “Call Immediately.”

I didn’t know what was happening. My mind went all over the place thinking something terrible had happened to my wife or one of my own kids. When I called the number I spoke with a social worker and nurse who asked me if my name was Peter Watts and if I pastored a church in Los Angeles. I was also asked if I was the city director of World Impact. I replied yes and she said, “Well sir I think we may have someone that you have been looking for. We have who we believe is your father whose name is Peter Watts.” I was floored! She continued and said, “We asked him if he had any next of kin and he said I have a son that pastors a church in Los Angeles.” As a result of the conversation, the staff Googled my name and found my information and reached out to me.

I was overwhelmed with emotions as I abruptly left my meeting scurrying down the 110 Freeway to get to see my father, Peter Watts Sr. I had been looking for him for years. I had last heard he was on Skid Row. I went down to Skid Row and couldn’t find him just 4 months prior to this phone call. I don’t know what God may do with this, but I am willing to walk into the uncertainty of the future.

The strange thing about all of this is the fact that I don’t care about what he did to me or my mother in the past. I don’t care about all the years that he missed. I don’t care about the Christmas gifts, birthdays, children’s births and graduations that he missed. I don’t care about the wedding that he didn’t get to attend.

At this moment, all I want him to know is that I love him and that God loves him even more.

Pete Watts oversees World Impact’s mission for all of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. Born and raised in Southern California, Pete holds a Masters in Communication and Education. After serving as an elementary school teacher, he opened the Thurgood Marshall Entrepreneurial Academy Charter Middle School in 2007. Pete has also felt God’s calling him to preach. After being ordained by Missionary Baptist Church in Compton, he and his wife Didi launched The R.O.C.K. Church in 2008.

To find out more about Peter, check out his blog.

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