In 1978, only a few months after their wedding, my parents packed their lives into a couple of suitcases and moved the suitcases to Brazil. It was a big step and there were big challenges waiting for them: learn the language, learn the culture and learn how to help God’s work in Brazil. It was a missionary’s life that has spanned more than 30 years. These are 6 lessons I learned from my dad.
If you can’t fix your car, witness to your mechanic.
My dad is quite the handyman, but taking apart a car motor isn’t among his many gifts. I recall a sequence of years in the 90’s when I would tag along with Dad as he took our white Kombi to the mechanic. I loved poking around in all the car parts and tools while Dad and the mechanic discussed the fate of the dying motor. Somewhere along the conversation, Dad would inquire about his Bible reading and spiritual life. He would ask as a friend, and repeatedly invited him to the church services we held in our home. It taught me that evangelism does not necessarily have to be cold, calculated and rehearsed. It should be the expression of a heart which cares for the soul of his fellowman.
The little ministries count.
Dad’s ministry in Brazil has spanned nearly three decades and reached dozens of cities and hundreds of people. However, there is still no colossal church building or mammoth outreach ministry after all these years. Instead, the results of Dad’s ministry can be seen in the lives of specific, real people.
History has the habit of remembering the big ministries which resulted in thousands of conversions They are certainly not to be despised. But my dad showed me the small ones aren’t to be belittled either. The principle is: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might – regardless if you reach 12 disciples or 200.” He stayed busy no matter how many people were watching, or listening.
The best inheritance is a Godly one.
There is absolutely no substitute for peace, kindness and charity at home. Not one.
Every evening, before bedtime, we would all gather in the living room where Dad would read a chapter of Proverbs. This meant that every month we had read through the entire book of Proverbs, and every month we began it over again. This family habit continued for years. A cycle which built, proverb upon proverb, precept upon precept and underlined the fear of the Lord.
On the rare occasions when I got up before 7am, it was to be expected to find mom sitting at the kitchen table, in prayer. She knew how to use the quiet moments while her children were sleeping. This instilled in me and my siblings a reverance for the Lord and a desire to search out His will and stay close to His Word. It was the best thing I took with me when the time came to leave home.
Don’t be afraid of technology
In 1995, Dad bought a personal computer. It had green letters on a black screen and IBM had named it the ‘XT’. Using floppy discs and terminal commands, you had to code your way into folders and files. Regadless, Dad typed his Bible studies into the glow-green machine , and taught his children how to get around on the oversized calculator.
A couple of years later, when internet was a novelty, Dad took lessons on website creation and HTML so he could set up a page for Bible studies on Geocities. Within a year, the internet boom was taking off across the country via screetching dial-up connections. Soon his page was getting hundreds of visits. And then thousands. Folks were emailing him questions. Pastors would send him theological doubts. Dad ended up moving to his own domain, where it continues to receive thousands of hits per week. And Dad continues to update the pages himself, adding ebooks, videos and MP3 files. All for free.
Today, when I use bits and pieces of memorized HTML in my work, I can’t help but be thankful for a dad who didn’t shy away from tech.
Love one woman.
It was 2004 and I was sitting in a barbershop somewhere near Wooster, Ohio. We were back in the US for furlough and this barbershop was one of the last old timey ones still standing in America. Stepping into it was like stepping back in time. It was clean, slow and frequented by regulars, Dad and I among them.
On this particular Saturday, the fellows were shooting the breeze, trading tales about how dificult it was to live with their wives. The usual stories about marrying headstrong, outspoken women. I think Dad was reading the newspaper.
The barber spoke up. “What about you, Calvin?”
Everyone had said something about their difficult home lives & wives, except Dad. So it was naturally his turn.
“Well, I don’t think I have anything to share, really.”
The barber chuckled. “It’s ok Calvin, She’s not here.”
“No, really. She’s been a wonderful wife.”
The barber’s electric trimmer seemed to buzz extra loudly in the silence. The conversation didn’t really pick up after that. I think they started talking about the weather. And Dad went back to reading his newspaper.
Dad didn’t know it, but he was teaching me that a wife is more than a maid. She is to be cherished, protected and admired.
Sometimes, God gives us the gift of sickness.
Parkinsons Disease starts small and grows over time. It began in Dad’s life around 1999. We were at the dinner table one evening and Dad pointed out that the pinky on his right hand began to shake. Over time, this shaking was also in his right hand, arm and legs. And Dad kept driving, preaching, writing and emailing while the shaking kept spreading.
I asked Dad once about how he deals with the challenges of Parkinsons. He told me: “I’ve learned so much because of Parkinsons. If I could make it go away, I wouldn’t.”
Dad had grown up as a headstrong Texan, and God was showing him the blessing of waiting on His grace. Through this setback in his health, God had taught him to take things slower, pray more and be more patient with family.
Last year Dad started having a pain in his spine that wouldn’t go away. After insisting he was fine, he finally caved and visited the doctor. It was a tumor. It truly isn’t easy to hear that your Dad has a cancer called multiple myeloma. And it wasn’t easy for the family to watch as Dad went through doctor visits, surgery and chemotherapy.
As treatment continues, I’m reminded how these moments challenge him to practice what he preaches. Throughout his ministry, Dad had preached about God’s sovereignty. Countless preaching notes pointed to God’s amazing grace as He plans just how our lives will glorify Himself. Now Dad was living out his sermon — and not just on the Sundays.
And my father taught me that that’s the whole point of being a missionary.