Dr. Phil – Well this last page of the newsletter is usually reserved for my musings about life, ministry, or some behind the scenes info regarding some article in the Update. This month I would like to take a more personal approach and pay tribute to my father, who has had a major impact upon my life. Earlier this year my father turned 100 years of age. A milestone, no doubt, and one I am sure is going to become more and more common as our western population ages. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, “. . . in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
As a bit of context, my more distant relatives responded to the invitation of Catherine the Great of Russia to help farm the Volga region in the later 1770s. They were there until my Grandma Henrietta (who could make an awesome borscht and amazing cream puffs!) returned to Germany in 1910 at the age of eighteen. My father, Rudolf, was then born in 1915 and in 1930 came over to Canada with his father. As money was available, the rest of the family joined them in Canada over the next years. My father’s mother (Henrietta) eventually came over in 1935. While on route, she passed through Berlin and visited a little Baptist church on Haupt (Main) Strasse. It was there that she made a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus.
Upon her arrival in Canada, she shared this new found faith with her family and my father (then 19) made a commitment to Christ from which he never wavered. My father lived a pretty ordinary life as a building contractor and then a shoe repair store owner/operator. I learned a lot from him, yet it was his vibrant faith passed on to me that has had the most lasting impact on my life and ministry.
In 2010 I happened to be teaching in a small city in the Volga region of Russia and realized that there had been a substantial German community in this region (the city of Samara which I was at in June of this year is in the same region). After some inquiry, I came to realize that I was in the very same region that my ancestors farmed (and helped build a Lutheran church) in the 18th century. And it was from this region that my Grandmother left in 1910, exactly 100 years before I was there in 2010.
Neither my Grandmother, nor my father, ever wrote a book, taught a seminar or travelled around the world. However, as I am engaged in training Christian leaders, I am aware that I am standing on their shoulders. God’s plans and purposes for each of our lives always spans more than one generation. The promise to Abraham took many generations working together to fulfill. Each of us are somewhere on that continuum and we have the responsibility to be faithful to run our leg of the race. We don’t have to do it all, or be “successful” by the world’s standards, we just have to be faithful stewards of what he has entrusted to us.
As I reflect on my father’s 100 years, in one way it seems like a long time. But, on the other hand, one life, even if 100, passes rather quickly. As we reflect upon our own lives may we be grateful to what has been passed on to us and then faithful pass it on to those running life’s race behind us. In this way our lives will impact generations; having an influence that extends beyond our own lifetime.