The hospital where Dad was born is now a museum. When we found out about that as teenagers we relentlessly teased him as being a product of another time and an archaic thing that should be a public curiosity. All joking aside, I truly believe he is worthy of public curiosity and praise for the many qualities I admire in him. I don't just say that glibly - it is true. Did you know that even though he performed poorly in school (much like myself, in fact!) he also would read encyclopedia's for FUN?! In this way, he gleaned and grew in knowledge in such broad areas and developed the uncanny ability to interact with almost anyone on their level - from PhD's to little children. I've watched Dad have intelligent, stimulating conversation on almost any topic - from quarks and nutrinos (these are some kind of sub-atomic unit of some sort), to economics and politics, to Russian history, to how to solve a simple math problem with a fourth grader. He had trained as a fourth grade teacher after-all, and everyone knows, fourth-grade teachers need to know just about everything to keep their students 'hooked on learning.'
One of my favourite memories is of a particular Saturday when I was about 10. We had gone on a family picnic breakfast to a secluded beach that had many rocks to climb. Many years later we found out this beach was well-known for shark attacks, so perhaps that was why it was so secluded! We decided to go rock climbing - just us kids, Dad and our dog, Chica. We got high up onto a cliff and were climbing down when Dad realised there was no way back up. We were, in fact, stuck halfway down a cliff in a little rocky inlet about 2 stories above the waves below. Unbeknownst to us, Dad was actually quite nervous. He did some quick thinking and told us, "How would you like to go swimming?"
Incredulous we asked, "But we're in our jeans and sneakers - you mean, jump from here - in our clothes? What about Chica?!"
"She'll swim too!" he said.
And he said we'd need to swim around the inlet and back to shore. We followed his lead (yes, Chica too) and thought it was an exciting adventure. Only years later did we find out the danger we had been in and Dad's ability to steer us through. If he had shown any fear or hesitation, I know I would not have willingly jumped from the cliff into the raging waves so far below.
I think Dad loves adventure - he married my Mom and life has never been boring, for sure! This year he turned 71 and I asked him about retirement. "What would I do?" he asked.
"Take it easy and enjoy the grandkids," I said.
"Nah, I'd be bored." he said. And he did have a point.
I am amazed at all he does and continues to do - even with diabetes and weakened knees. Just a couple years ago he was in a rural village in the Philippines and was so sick with dysentery that he couldn't be transported to the airport to fly home. I was very concerned for him but then I realised that in a sense, he was 'home' for 'home' to him means wherever he is serving the Lord. He visits Philippines two or three times a year where he supports in teaching and shepherding some very young churches there. You'd think one country is enough for a health-compromised man - but no, he also takes trips to two other countries to follow-up those he introduced to Christ years ago. What I admire isn't so much all his effort, dilligence, endurance and drive to travel, hike mountains where minority groups are scattered, tolerate icky food and the like. All those things are admirable, but two things stand out to me as precious character traits that I pray God will also develop in me. They are: genuine love and humility.
Dad's love for others overflows unpretentiously and without effort. I know it flows directly from his love for the Lord which is so real and obvious. Why can he manage to hike up mountains on weak knees? Because he loves God and wants those people to love Him too. Why did he faithfully take us to Church even when at times it was more than an hour away? Because he loved God and wanted us to love Him too. Why did he always sing, 'Jesus loves me' when we were sad, upset, scared or hurt? Because he loved Jesus and wanted us to know Jesus' love in our lives too.
Dad is the most humble man I know - ranking right up there with Moses as the meekest man on the face of the earth! When I was hard-hearted, sullen and glum as a teen, my parents and I had long, miserable 'talks' (you know what I mean). The kind that never seem to end and no one understands each other so you end up giving up and just praying instead! My prayer was always, "Lord, help my parents to not be so mean and let them see I'm not as bad as they think I am." With a calloused and crabby attitude I'd end my prayer with a thought of, "Take THAT Mom and Dad..." Then Dad would pray. His prayers broke my heart.
Dad would say, "Lord I have failed. I have failed you, my wife and my children. Please forgive me for not showing love, for not disciplining, for not being patient, for lacking Your wisdom. I pray you'll forgive me and help my family to forgive me. Amen." There was no preaching in his prayer. He didn't just say those things; often he would weep and pause to carry on. I could see how deeply contrite and humble his heart was and it was a glaring contrast to my own 'know-it-all' attitude and hardened heart.
Growing up in another country as an M.K. had its challenges and we had many, many struggles. Much is written nowadays to help M.K's and facilitate what they need to grow and adapt to different cultures. However, I really believe more needs to be said about the struggles parents face raising kids overseas. My parents weren't perfect, and neither was I. But I respect no man more than my Dad who demonstrated for me the two most important qualities a person can have: Love and Humility. I'm so proud of my Dad and want the world to know about him.