In honor of Father’s Day, Jerry and I spent some time reflecting on the impact of our dads. Today I (Joan’s) share about my Father. Jerry will post his on the Luke 14 Exchange Facebook page on Saturday.
I am thankful for the forty-one years I had to spend with my Dad. My dad would have been the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect. Though one of his favorite lines was, “I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong.”
Dad had many fun and amazing qualities that I will not go into here. But one stands out. Dad’s overarching passion in life was to share the love and work of Jesus Christ with everyone he could and help others to do the same around the world. This led him to teach Sunday School classes and lead youth groups.
Within the youth group Bible Drills were a favorite (contests to see who could find a passage in Scripture fastest, and stand up and read it), complete with candy for the winner. His other Youth Group favorite was object lessons. He would either learn a magic trick (the one I remember most is him “eating” fire!) or choose some everyday type object and use it to teach a spiritual lesson. I never really put it together until just now, but perhaps that is where I got my penchant to find lessons or God sightings in my day-to-day activities.
In his later years, Dad taught adult Sunday School at church. I am thankful it was before the days of computers. I still have a dozen notebooks in which he hand-wrote every lesson. The book of John was his favorite, but he also taught on Revelation, Daniel, Luke, The Nature of God, Parables, and The Sermon on the Mount. Someday I hope to scan those so his grandchildren and great grandchildren can learn from him.
The reason Dad didn’t start teaching adult Sunday School until his later years was because he spent the previous fifteen years teaching residents at Johnstone Training Center (JTC) in Bordentown, NJ. In those years, JTC was a state institution for those with disabilities. I recall my parents getting up early on Sundays, picking up a couple other volunteers along the way, and driving about 20 miles to Bordentown. He dropped Mom off at the girls’ dorm where she taught Sunday School. Dad went to the chapel where about a hundred young men gathered for their Sunday School class. He faithfully taught them the Scriptures. Dad also invited all the students (male and female) to our home each summer for an outdoor barbecue. I can still see the old school bus parked on the side of the road and scores of people milling around our yard and enjoying Dad’s burgers and hot dogs.
Many Christmases and Easters one or two residents who did not have a family to visit would spend the day with our family.
I don’t recall ever having any discussion with Dad, or Mom about why they did this, or why were some people born with disabilities, or why weren’t these friends going to church like we do. It was just a normal part of my growing-up years.
I know Dad’s goal in doing this was to share the Gospel of Jesus and make disciples of the residents. Only God knows how many people Dad (and Mom) led to Jesus this way. Won’t it be a glorious revelation in Heaven some day?
A second blessing that came from Dad’s commitment to the people at JTC was it developed within me a love and acceptance of people with disabilities, special needs, or whatever term you want to use. I prefer to say, my friends, Doug, Andrew, Karen, Jill, and on and on. In fact, one friendship blossomed into my best friend and life partner, my husband Jerry Borton. See what you started, Dad?
On this Father’s Day, I think the song by Ray Boltz entitled Thank You for Giving to the Lord is perhaps the best tribute I can pay. My life changed because of my Dad. His influence extends to you too as you read this.