“I worshipped my grandpa.” My dad began his story with these words. We were on our way back from shopping for an apple tree to plant in the mini orchard at my parents’ country home. Our son, Joseph, and I had attended church with them the day before. This small group of believers has been supportive of my family from our early days serving as missionaries in East Africa. It was a warm December day, near the end of Lottie Moon season, a time when Southern Baptist churches focus on missions giving. So when the pastor asked me to share a few words, I spoke briefly and returned to my seat. “That was inspirational”, Joseph said. High praise from a 12 year old. Later that same day, my 88 year old father allowed that he had been thinking about sharing his testimony at church but had never felt compelled to do so. “But after you spoke”, he said, “I was inspired.” Because we now had this time alone in the car, it seemed a good idea to ask him about it. I love car conversations, don’t you?
My elderly father began to share, in perfect dictation about his childhood and about ancestors I do not know.
He told me that when he was young, he visited his grandfather every chance he got and followed him around constantly. Grandpa Joseph raised nearly everything they ate; vegetables, meat, honey, fruit. His grandfather was not so instrumental in his spiritual walk. But there was a houseworker there who was. Miss Eller was a passionate preacher and Dad worked hard to keep from being cornered by her. She was sure this young boy was a sinner in need of salvation. She shared in the same way Dad had heard the message in the nearby community church many times; with hellfire and damnation. It was to no avail. I am sure this dear lady spent many hours in fervent prayer for Dad.
Years passed and my dad continued to believe he was not as bad as all those preachers made him out to be. As ‘Sonny’ went off to college, he held on to this idea. One day, however, he he saw a group of students gathered on campus, talking. There was a young man who was leading the group. Dad decided to get closer and listen to find out what was going on. The young man shared the Gospel in plain speak. It was the first time our country boy had heard it proclaimed this way. It was also the first time he realized that, in fact, he wasn’t as good as he thought. It was during this moment, my dad says, that he became saved.
I had told my dad that my testimony was also his testimony. That my parents’ faithfulness and consistency in their faith walk was so influential in my own salvation and in my obedience to God’s calling. Their example of a consistent life has inspired me to continue the legacy in my children and grandchildren. I told him of my pledge to ensure his grand children and great grandchildren have the opportunity to believe, live and serve that I have had.
We weren’t successful at finding an apple tree that day. On the way home we decided to take in some antique shopping for entertainment. I purchased a couple of vintage aprons. But what I discovered while looking for apple trees is fruit that lasts forever. And the aprons are a reminder of strings that tie us from generation to generation. May the circle be unbroken.