My father was born the second son of a dairy farmer and raised on the family farm in Michigan. His name means “noble servant and protector.” Fit to his name, he grew up with a desire to be a hero- to help others- to save and protect.
I didn’t know this man until he was nearly 30 years old, when I was born, the first child in his own young family. At that point, he was not long out of seminary, a new pastor at his first church assignment in Topeka, Kansas.
I hardly remember anything about my father during the first two years at the church in Kansas. My memories with him begin after he was voted out by the church board and turned to manual labor. I like to think he took a few years off to work through things with God.
I have many memories of my dad from those years, when we lived in the little trailer park in Manhattan, Kansas. Dad was my hero. He could do anything. When I learned that Jesus was a carpenter, I imagined that He must have been much like my dad, who spent his days building houses.
A father’s job is to reflect Jesus to his family and to leave a Godly heritage for his children. Though we’re all far from perfect, to the best of his ability, my father diligently performed that task. My brothers and I grew up observing the different ways God was speaking to Dad. We watched him studying the Bible. We heard about the dreams God would give him at night. We saw him cry in prayer. We observed how he would go out of his way to serve others. We noticed that he did not discriminate between people because of their socioeconomic level, race, or nationality. He lived and breathed Bible stories. Dad consistently modeled for us a heart that sought to please God.
God called Dad back into pastoral ministry when I was almost 6 years old. When we lived in Missouri, I remember Dad gathering us kids in the hallway at night to read stories about Jesus. He tried to make everything an adventure, even cooking “mystery dinners” (that he let us kids name) when Mom was working at the hospital. He always kept a tight reign on us, reminding us what was good and what was bad. Sometimes his strict standards made me feel like I didn’t fit in with my peers, but his guidance helped my brothers and me develop discerning spirits. He made clear to us from a young age that there was a spiritual battle we faced, more real and more important than what we could see with our eyes. He spoke blessings over each of us children, affirming the gifts he saw in us and telling us that God would use us in great ways. He also taught us a lot that he likely didn’t intend to teach us – just in the way that he prayed and interacted and faced different situations. I remember him praying over me on nights when I was struggling to breathe, in the middle of asthma attacks. I remember him praying with me after I’d awoken terrified from a nightmare.
When I was 9 years old, my father told us that our family would be going to Africa as missionaries. During the following 2 years, we were blessed to be able to travel as a family, ministering in churches around the United States. Week after week, my brothers and I heard of the faithfulness of God and His guiding hand in my parents’ lives from their childhood through this point in their lives, when they were taking their marriage and young brood out into the world to make disciples. Not many children get to observe their parents so often ministering to others. I was very blessed.
From the age of 11 through the end of high school, I began to push back against my father’s influence. Although I loved to go with him into the African villages to participate in practical service, relief work, evangelism, Jesus Film showings, discipleship meetings, and the physical labor of building churches, I became very independent and tested the boundaries he’d put in place. In college, I was able to reopen a relationship that I had all but closed.
My Dad has been an exceptional father. Our heavenly Father is pleased in their relationship – in their fellowship. The Father loves the noble servant and protector that He made my dad to be, and I’m excited to see who God will yet make my dad to become in the years ahead.
I love who my dad is, too. I’m so glad to be his daughter this Father’s Day.