I was born into the home of new believers. My mother found Christ first and spent a full year praying for my father. He had once said he would go to church but he would never want a Christian in his home. He never did find God. God found him. He found him in his room searching the scriptures for the UFO’s his older brother swore were in there. He found my father wrestling through the Old Testament exclaiming he could believe in Him, it was this crazy Jesus he couldn’t swallow. He found him considering conversion to Judaism. Then He showed my father who He was in the Gospel of John.
When I was two, my father heard a man speak of the original texts in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. He looked at his American Bible and said well why not. He packed up his family of four, my little sister was only 6 months, and we left the beaches of Florida for the dusty books of Dallas Theological Seminary. For the next five years my father enveloped himself in Scriptures, studies and work. He wore ear plugs to allow his children to play while he studied (for years my sister thought it was because he did not like to hear us). But most days he came home after we were asleep and left before we awoke.
I have four strong memories of my father during that time. Playing hide and seek in the halls of his school, eating pancakes before church one Sunday because we forgot to spring forward, a birthday party, and the night he prayed with me. I was only three. I know this because my mother took the time to record it in my baby book.
It was November, dad had just tucked me in. He was standing in the doorway of my room when I asked. Suddenly, he was sitting beside me and we prayed. I prayed that God would come live in my heart, I told God I believed in Jesus that He died for my sins and rose again, that I knew I was a sinner and could He please forgive me. And then I prayed that God give me a hundred Bibles so I could take them to Africa.
Years later we packed our car, left the comfortable poverty of Seminary life, and headed to Sebring, FL where my father would apply his studies for the first time as an Associate Pastor. I was in third grade and eager to be a part of everything. Occasionally, after school I would go to the church and have a devotional and a bag of Doritos with dad. Everything felt perfect.
Over time and maturity I learned it was not. Church work can be dirty. People can be cruel. But as I watched my father over the years I learned that it is not about man’s approval, it’s about God. Watching him love on and minister to others in the various churches he has pastored, I have learned the art of service, of turning the other cheek, and of loving despite the unlovable. I am still learning. I have a long way to go.
In college I went to work for my father part time as an Administrative Assistant for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I learned the joys and struggles of para-church ministry and I loved it. Much later, after 8 years of school and becoming a Military Spouse, my father and I found ourselves in the same city and the same church in El Paso, TX. He accepted the position of Pastor and I followed as the Ministry Director at Sunrise Baptist. We had the rare experience of serving together, father and daughter, as we discovered the joys and struggles of ministering to the military community at Ft. Bliss.
Though we did not always agree on the methods or ministries we should focus on we had a strong desire to minister and love on others, to introduce them to Christ and to meet them where they were at. I loved the four years I was able to work alongside my dad. I was able to see his passion as well as his struggles in ministry. He was accessible to me daily and a great source of strength and wisdom when we faced my husband’s two deployments and through my daughter’s cancer treatments.
The greatest gift my father ever gave me was the freedom to explore my own faith, to sit in my doubt, to discuss it with me and allow me to work through it without judgment or condemnation.