Our last Father's Day
This past November, my dear father died. He was 88 years old and had been telling me for the last year that he was ready to go to heaven. He was in pain and his memory was fading. I was fortunate to be in California when we realized that he didn’t have long to live. When he died, I knew that he was now free of pain and enjoying being with Jesus. But I miss him. I miss the delight in his voice whenever I called. I miss his words of encouragement and support. I miss his easy laughter and enjoyment of life. I miss his profound and heart-felt prayers, always in King James English.
My father was a soldier in World War II, stationed in Europe. His military career ended when he had to parachute out of an airplane which had engine malfunction. He escaped with a broken ankle—but most of the other crew in that plane were killed. Dad knew that God had saved his life for a special purpose, and at that point he committed his life to Jesus, to do whatever God wanted him to do. His life dream was to be a pilot. But he followed God’s voice into full-time Christian service and became a pastor—and later, a “pastor to pastors” as an Area Minister for the American Baptist Churches of the West. He exemplified servant leadership—always ready to help, never needing to take credit for deeds accomplished.
Our home was always an extension of the church. My mother never knew how many people would be at the supper table—or sleeping on the floor! My father was the president of the local chapter of the Red Cross, and was always the one to be called whenever there was a disaster—flood or earthquake (this is California, remember!). He was also the chaplain of the fire department, and found shelter for those who lost their homes, and provided comfort for those who lost family members.
And when teachers from the public schools shared with him their anger and frustration about a school administrator who was behaving prejudicially towards poor and minority children, he felt compelled to enter the election for the school board. It was not a popular thing to do. Some of the members of our church left because they didn’t think that entering into politics was “appropriate for a pastor”. But after spending much time in prayer and reflection, he knew that he could do no other. He often talked about Jesus—and how He did things that the religious people of His time thought were bad. Jesus never hesitated to heal the sick (even on the Sabbath!), feed the poor (with no money!) or minister to the outcast (even his disciples were shocked!)—Dad preached it and he lived it. He won that school board election. And the next one—and his voice of Truth and Justice for all transformed the lives of many children and their teachers.
When my father found out that I was hanging out with women in prostitution in a red-light district in Bangkok in my early years of missionary service, he didn’t scold me, or warn me of dangers or worry about my reputation, or advise me to do something else. He trusted that I was listening to God’s voice, and trying to follow Jesus’ example. And though I was clueless about what I could “do” to help the women, knowing that my dad was in the background, 13,000 km away, cheering me on, helped me to have courage to take each “baby-step” into those dark places, as I felt God leading.
On the cover of my father’s memorial service folder we wrote: “In Thanksgiving for a Life Lived in Service of God and Others”. As we worshipped and gave thanks to God for dad’s life, well-lived, I was overcome with gratitude for such a father. No, he was not perfect by any means. But he was kind, and he cared, and he loved us, and most of all, he loved Jesus.
After he died, I found a list of those elements he wanted in his funeral service. A scripture verse he requested was Micah 6:8: “He has showed you what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” He must have had that emblazoned in his heart. He lived that verse every day of his life.
When we are faced with victims of human trafficking and prostitution or their victimizers, I pray that we will remember those key words: justice, kindness, humility. May we then be unafraid to DO what is good and what the Lord has showed us. I’ll be eternally grateful for the example that God provided for me through my father.
With Gratitude For Your Prayers and Support,