There are many things that I remember about my father. Most of them were caught rather than taught. He certainly was not perfect, but I could not think of anyone that was more consistent in my life than him. He said what he meant and meant what he said. To raise five children(2 girls & 3 boys) in New York City during the 60’s and 70’s; being consistent was a rare quality that was extremely important to possess and today is in short supply.
He set a good spiritual example for us that was sincere but not fanatical. We had family worship but not every night, just on the weekends to open and close the Sabbath. As I think back now, the schedules of my parents and our family would have made daily worship impractical and burdensome. He always went to Prayer Meeting but never required or forced us to join him and over time we (his three sons) all would go with him so we could travel together on the bus.
We never owned a car, impractical and unnecessary living in Brooklyn with the extensive NYC transit system, along with the burdensome daily alternate side of the street parking. We spent a great deal of time traveling as a family on public transportation, which always was an adventure. It’s a lifestyle that one cannot understand or appreciate if you’ve lived your entire life driving from place to place. But you learned lessons of survival in the jungles of New York, constantly interacting with strangers each day. And those lessons were taught by my father. It is amazing to me now that none of us were ever lost or snatched when you consider how things are today.
He served as an elder in the church and would regularly be on the rostrum while I sat in the congregation with my friends. Often when I was playing or acting up in church, I could suddenly feel his eyes and when I looked up he would be staring at me from his seat on the rostrum. That was all I needed to see in order to straighten up and stop playing in church.
He taught an adult Sabbath School class but one year for some reason they could not find a teacher for my earliteen class. In the middle of the year our teacher left and there was no replacement. For some unknown reason, my father volunteered to be the teacher and for the rest of the year he taught our class. I never got the chance to ask him why he volunteered to do it. And while it can sometimes be awkward for your father to be your teacher, especially with your friends, he never made me feel that way.
He also led the church’s prison ministry. He led a group that regularly ministered at the Brooklyn House of Detention and presented a Bible Study. I remember one Sabbath my brother’s and I went to the prison to sing for their program before the study. We sang in a quartet. What I remember most, was what happened after the short program. When my father was teaching the class, I was amazed at how disciplined and in control he was of all the men in the class. While I was intimidated being behind bars with inmates he was not, and the men were all very respectful and followed his orders explicitly, just as we did.
A few weeks ago, as I was doing some cleaning and going through some old notes and material, I came across a letter my father wrote me while I pastored in Southeastern California. As I read it, I was reminded that at very important moments in my adult life, out of the blue, I would receive a letter from my father. This was one of those moments.
It was a handwritten letter, and in my father’s way of precision and accuracy, he placed in the top righthand corner the day, date, time and place where he wrote the letter; Mon. Aug. 22, ’94; 6:55PM (On the Job).
I will share some excerpts of the letter:
I am on my job alone and quiet…But I decided to drop you a line.
I was thinking about the racial climate in California and our world-wide church in general. It’s too bad we have to waste time; valuable time, in race wars…I wonder if the quality of your preaching has been affected by this controversy?
I’m fully aware of the injustices that the non-caucasian, especially Afro-Americans, have been subjected to, But is this struggle consuming quality time that should be devoted to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leading men and women out of darkness into this marvelous light?
I think you all should continue speaking against prejudice and injustice, but shouldn’t you also continue preaching, holding evangelistic campaigns; teaching your members to go out and do missionary work and win more souls? Shouldn’t you work on bringing your membership up? Also, combine together and build an area church school, centrally located with non-white teachers and administrators. We need more schools for our young people who are majoring in education…You won’t have to complain about your children being victims of racial slurs.
Tim, SDA’s are racist; Not All, But Many of them. It’s been like that from the very beginning. If you are not suffering financial hardship or unequal salaries, then work together to win respect.
But don’t forget to pray without ceasing and unite and never, never forget your primary job, which is preaching the gospel. Let nothing turn you aside from that job.
If the Apostle Paul could write the Philippians from prison and tell them to rejoice, then you must have something to rejoice about in sunny California. Thank God for His blessings.
The time of trouble hasn’t come yet! Work for equality, But let nothing deter you from the job that God called you to do.
Love to All, Dad”
The letter is almost as relevant today as it was close to 27 years ago. And on weekends like this, with all of the great memories I have of my father, a letter from him is what I miss the most.