Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It came calling ... seriously ... about a year ago. In fact, when it came, old age seemed to lean on the bell.  This enemy of his body came calling a half dozen years earlier, and was more of a nuisance. But this time it refused to go away and left some serious consequences.

Aging is a reality from the moment of conception. And aging seems like a pretty good friend who goes unnoticed for about 40 years.  Growing old is something else.

Old age is not friendly and is seldom kind.  And, if you live long enough it is never optional. While it doesn't affect the spirit of a person, the deterioration of the body provides an almost irresistible temptation to surrender a positive identity and live without purpose.   Last August it simply came and refused to go away.

JQ Hunter, - 92 years old - July 4, 2014
I knew him as a rugged man.  A real man's man.  His face was laced with evidence of his native American origin. Following eight older brothers, he was the last son born to his mother.  He grew up barefoot, poor, but happy.  He played basketball on his high school team. A principled man, he enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. When he signed up it wasn't because he had a dream of seeing the world. But, being a sailor took him out of Oklahoma and eventually to Wisconsin. While there,in radio school, he found his bride and the love of his life.  She was the only child of a single parent in the dairy state of Wisconsin.  After his tour of duty he never returned to live in his home state.  Instead his young family moved back to the "Cheese State" and he became a dairy farmer.

After watching an old film about the need for Christ worldwide, this man made a radical decision. He sold his cows, machinery, and land.  Equipped with a dream to take Christ to a foreign land, he left Wisconsin, with his wife and four children, for Kansas City to attend Bible School.  That dreams came true, but not until he and his wife had raised six children. In additional to effectively preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in many small communities of American, he carried the reality of Christ to several foreign countries.

I'm not sure how much of his life this old man remembers now, since death came calling his name last August. He had family come from Tennessee and Kansas while he was under hospice care. A memorial service was being planned.  But, death gave up and old age remained and continued to be a constant companion.  Today he has no memory of that week when his family was sure they would lose him.  In fact, he has forgotten many things since that battle with death. Though he had memorized chapters and whole books of the Bible, he now only remembers Psalm 23.

I left America for Uganda a month after this old man's death crisis last year.  I actually expected him to be in Heaven when I returned to Oregon five weeks ago.  But, he is here and doing well.  His heart is at peace. He is realistic about this station in life. His body is a shell of the strong man I remember.  And, I remember  him well.  I am home for a few short months and I want to get as much wisdom from him as I can.  You see, this old man was my first mentor in life.  He is my Dad.

My Dad, my first mentor and a truly great man of God
My dad was 25 years old when I was born. He was a good dad who was very intentional with his life. He wasn't the most demonstrative parent in the world, but we grew up in very different eras.  I know we are pretty different, but he helped me get the way I am.

Like most children I wanted the approval of my father more than anything.  I was never sure I had it, even after I started working in Africa. I don't remember hugs and any "I love you" words growing up, though I knew my father loved me.

I have always been grateful for the foundations Dad built into my life.  Periodically I would write him a letter on Father's Day and attempt to express my deep love and appreciation for him.  I never received any response from those letters and wondered if he approved of my life.  As an adult, soon after I began telling dad I loved him he has said if often back to me and sometimes on his own initiative and he was genuine.  The only thing he says more frequently than "I love you" these days is, "I'm praying for you," which is an expression of love to me.  Several years ago, Dad told me he was proud of me and approved of me.  He didn't use words, but the communication was unmistakable.  He wrote a check for $500 to Next Generation Ministries, signed it, and personally wrote a note that accompanied that check.  It meant the world to me.

My dad is 92 years and my mother is 93.  It is no small thing when they make a 30 minute drive out to my house, like they did last Friday on the Fourth of July.  He spoke openly to those around him about his near death experience last year.  When I asked him how would he like to be remembered, without hesitation he responded, "I don't care if anyone remembers me or not.  I'm just looking forward to being in Heaven with Jesus."  When my wife asked him if he was happy he responded positively.  When she asked him what he enjoys doing he reached over and put his hand on my mother's knee and said, "I enjoying being with my wife ... and doing the dishes ... and fixing breakfast and making the bed for her."  I then told Dad that "if this was the last time we are all together and you could only give us three pieces of advice, what would they be?"  He silently thought for a few moments and then gave us only one bit of advice.  "Listen to God.  He speaks to us, you know."  What amazing expressions of his value system.

In just a few short weeks I will again leave my father here in the States and return to an assignment in Uganda for which I feel under qualified.  I don't know if my dad will be in Heaven or here in Oregon when I return next time.

I never had plans to live half way around the world from my parents, children, and grand children ... doing something I never dreamed I would be doing.  But, I know that what my father taught me by life and by lip have served me well ... common, day to day things, like accepting personal responsibility, working hard and being diligent, loving your spouse more than you love yourself, paying your bills on time, giving yourself to your children, living with integrity and for the glory of God.

God instructed humans to honor their father and mother.  This is my attempt at publicly honoring my father. I asked and received his permission to write an open letter to him, but he added, "I probably won't read it."  That's my dad. And, I love him. And, though he doesn't care whether anyone remembers him or not ... I will never forget him.


  1. There will be many in the United States and in Africa who gratefully remember your loving fatherhood, Paul. I love you.

  2. What a great tribute you have written for your Dad!

  3. I love your dad's response to your question: "Listen to God. He speaks to us you know." I have heard those words before but the power of him saying it only seems to come from the wisdom of his years and the simplicity of his humility. Love him well Paul as I know you do.

    1. By the grace of God I will do my best Sam.

  4. Wow, i am humbled and speechless...Paul, you and your family are lucky and blessed to enjoy such rare moments with your Dad at 92 years! Glory be to God

  5. I love what you have written about your dad. And I love what your Dad responded. Haven't seen or heard from you& Pam in a while. Sounds like things are going well for you. We're battling with old age here ourselves. Blessings to you both.

    1. It is great to hear from you Sharon! We must of had some problem with our email data base if you haven't heard from us and what the Lord is doing with NGM. He is amazing us. Thanks for encouraging me with your comments. We can't escape the battle with old age so we must make the most of the time we have. Blessings.


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