J. C. Ryle writes, “ It is the highest privilege to be the child of a godly father and mother and to be brought up in the midst of many prayers.” Between the years 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69. So today, Father’s Day 2017, I wish to pay tribute to my father who was always present in our home, in our church, and in our hearts.
My father was born in Wichita, Kansas and grew up an only child. He met my mother in South Florida and they married about 6 months later. Together, they visited a local church and God opened their eyes the the truth of the Gospel. Their lives were never the same. My mother and father both enjoyed a deep love for the Word of God and studied their Bibles daily. When I say studied, I mean serious, in depth study.
After a few years of discipleship, my father sensed the call to church planting among the Seminole Indians. He and my mother threw themselves into this work wholeheartedly and saw the blessing of God over and over again as Seminole men, woman, and children trusted in Christ. I arrived in this world during the Seminole church plant chapter of their lives and spent my early years playing with Seminole children and Seminole dolls. My brothers and I even wore Seminole clothing, which consisted of colorful patchwork and beads.
Although I have two older brothers, I inherited by father’s love for the countryside and gardening. As my brothers looked for convenience, never wanting to live more than a 15-minute drive from work, I sought out land in the country populated by trees, singing birds, and wild animals. My father desired peace, quiet, and order in his home life and bequeathed the same DNA to me.
Some of my fondest memories of my dad are those one-on-one times I spent with him. He liked to take me to lunch at his favorite restaurants or take me along on business trips. We even flew to the Bahamas together and spent a few days sight-seeing when I was in high school.
I wouldn’t want you to get the impression he was a perfect father. He enjoyed taking my brothers hunting on a large parcel of land he owned in the Everglades. My mother and I would tag along and take long walks together up and down the gravel paths. I suppose this gave my dad the idea that we needed something to do on these jaunts as well, so he started a tradition of giving me guns for Christmas. Of course, I’m talking about a B-B gun or a pellet pistol, but really, what little girl wants a gun under the tree? I did learn to shoot quite well, and I never showed my disappointment while unwrapping the gifts, but it’s a providence I’ve never quite figured out.
My father is remembered for many things by many people. He served as a Gideon, he helped start a Christian school, he enabled Seminole men to attend Bible College, he managed a large national insurance company where he taught Bible studies before the workday began, he planted several churches, he served on boards of many Christian organizations, he worked tirelessly for the Kingdom.
But the thing that stands out the most in my memory is his generosity to Christians, to ministries, to missionaries, and to the poor. He and my mother kept several bank accounts just for these causes. They deposited personal funds on a regular basis so that money would be available as needs arose. Because of this open-handed policy in our home, many missionaries stayed on the field when times were tough and it looked as if they would have to abandon their ministry. Many young Seminoles received Bible college training and entered the ministry as pastors. And many destitute men were able to stand on their feet again because my father hired them to work for him.
Near the end of his life, my family rushed down to Florida to be with him during his last few days on earth. I remember standing by his bed and holding his hand in mine. The emotion proved overwhelming and the tears flowed, but with a breaking voice I spoke my last words to him—“Dad, I love you.”
I sometimes think about or do things that remind me so much of my father. As children, we absorb our parents words, but so much more their actions. I look back now and cherish the silent lessons I learned from my father’s Christian example and feel an enormous sense of gratitude to God for my father who gave so much of himself to me.
Happy Father’s Day to all you men who are committed to bringing up your children in the love, nurture, and admonition of the Lord.