During my last conversation with my dad, we were working on a talk I was scheduled to deliver on stress management for a gathering of priests. Three days later he experienced the unique honor of serving the Lord right up to the moment of his last breath. He was delivering the eulogy for a neighbor who had attended an in-depth course on the Bible he taught for Catholics at a nearby church. The moment he completed the eulogy, he had a massive heart attack at the foot of the altar after stepping down from the pulpit and was home with the Lord immediately thereafter.
With the passing of time, I can see more and more parallels between my dad and myself in the idiosyncrasies we share (sensory issues with clothes…my dad always wore short-sleeved dress shirts because he didn’t like fabric covering his wrists, my total and complete disdain for neckties) as well as our passions. He loved to teach and had just accepted a position as a national speaker for a Christian businessman’s group when he began to develop significant health problems. He was an innovator…he was the founder of the second radio station in the U.S. licensed to a local high school (WKTL in Struthers, Ohio).
My dad was a “techie”…I have no doubt that if he were around today, he’d be calling me up to have breakfast every time something new of significance was available at our Apple Store. He became very passionate about Christianity around the time he turned 50. He served on the Board of a ministry in his hometown that was missional way before it was cool to be missional. In his last paid position (following his “retirement”) he was directing the development of a cable television channel for his local Catholic diocese.
He was in his 60s when he died and didn’t have the opportunity to witness the development of Key Ministry, but I have no doubt that he would be one of our most enthusiastic volunteers if he were still around today. I suspect he would be leading our Front Door online church initiative to reach more families impacted by disabilities through making resources available to churches with online campuses.
I believe my dad would be very pleased with the way our family has continued the spiritual legacy he helped establish for our family. My wife served faithfully as President of Komen Northeast Ohio, enabling hundreds of poor women to have access to breast cancer screening and treatment they wouldn’t otherwise receive, and also served as President of the Junior League, as a board member of the organization supporting our CASA (court-appointed special advocates) advocates in our county, and on our school system’s Community Advisory Board. Our teenage daughters get up early on Sunday mornings to teach Sunday School to preschoolers in a church near our home. The best Father’s Day present is the privilege of seeing our girls use their gifts and talents in the service of reestablishing Jesus’ Kingdom.
While my dad wasn’t around for as long as I would have hoped, we had the opportunity to work together on activities that helped advance the Gospel. But what about families who don’t know Jesus because of the social isolation and barriers to church participation that result when one or more children in the family experience a significant disability? Fathers are called to be spiritual leaders in their homes. Their leadership is especially critical when the needs of a child with a disability result in added stressors for the family. I’d be very happy this Father’s Day to know that spiritual legacies are being established in families across the U.S. and beyond because fathers of kids with disabilities who would not have otherwise experienced the opportunity to come to faith in Christ or grow in their faith had the opportunity to do so through the ministry of a local church.
Please feel free to share this post from last year on how fathers are impacted when kids have disabilities.
Updated June 14, 2014
Welcome to Front Door…Online church from Key Ministry. Here’s what we have in store during the week of June 15th:
Online worship services at 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM Sunday and Thursday, and at 9:00 PM Monday and Wednesday (all times Eastern): Robert Emmitt will have a special Father’s Day message to share, and we’ll share a short film…Catch from former Wizards of Waverly Place star Chris Henrie, and an interview Chris did with Nils Smith. We also have helpful presentations scheduled throughout June from Jolene Philo, Dr. Cara Daily, Barb Dittrich, Shannon Dingle and Ben Conner. Check out Front Door this week and invite your friends!