Dad and his two brothers walked to the front of the church for dedication to the Lord when his parents became Christians when he was 3. Their lives were never the same after that - the two older boys became missionaries to Africa and Dad became a pastor. Dad is the one on the left in the back row.
Dad had to stay out of school for his junior year to help his dad on the farm - a tornado had gone through this Minnesota town and destroyed their place. But God does work in mysterious ways - my mom, who is three years younger, was skipped from first to third grade, therefore being in high school at the same time and just one year behind Dad. They were married when they were only 17 and 20, after three years of courtship.
He had just joined the Navy. Their honeymoon was a short one, and they moved into a tiny, not-so-nice room in a boarding house in Memphis. Mom recently told me some stories that included rats!
Here he is on their honeymoon.
At the ripe old age of 21 (mom being 18), he became my dad. He had hitchhiked from Memphis to Minneapolis in order to be there for my arrival. Unfortunately, I decided to be late! He requested an extension, but didn't get the news that it was granted until he was already back to the base. His commanding officer had a heart and sent him back home when I did arrive. That time he didn't have to hoof it with his thumb! Shortly after I was born, they headed back to Memphis, then on to Corpus Christi, Texas.
Here are the proud parents on my first Easter Sunday.
After the Navy, Dad went to Bible College in St. Paul. By that time my brother and sister had arrived (yep, three kids in three years - by the time he was 24). I love the story about the time we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa when Grandpa, who I do not remember as a jovial, joking kind of guy, said to my dad, "Well, son, you have Dawn, you have V, you have B, and now it's been two years - what happened?" My dad said, "We figured out what was causing it!" He told me years later, when I was old enough to "get it" - that wasn't far from the truth!
After Bible College, he and Mom were assigned to work with Child Evangelism in Batesville, Arkansas. We lived on a campground. Except for the very grouchy director's wife (the director himself was a delightful man), we had a wonderful time there, meeting all the kids and participating in all of the activities as if we were old enough. During the school year, Mom and Dad went to all of the little country schools in that part of Arkansas and held Bible classes - can you believe it? These very poor kids were able to earn their way to camp by learning Bible verses. My brother, sister, and I went along and sang trios at age 4, 3, and 2.
We moved to Heber Springs when I was 5, where they were to begin Child Evangelism work. We began attending a tiny little church, which had an elderly woman pastor. She was not in good health and soon Dad began helping her when she was too ill to preach. Before long Dad was involved in course work which would lead to his ordination as a pastor. I often say that when we became part of that little church, we practically doubled the membership (by this time there were 4 kids).
This was the church that was so small they didn't have an accompanist for congregational singing. When I was 7, they sacrificed and somehow came up with the money for a used piano and started me on piano lessons. I began playing for church at age 8 - my feet would not reach the pedals, nor would I have known what to do with them if they had! Dad would give my piano teacher the hymns he wanted to sing the next Sunday and my teacher incorporated them into my piano lesson. She also bought me a little "Hymns for Little Fingers" book so that I could play offertories.
This was a magical time in the lives of this financially challenged large family. We had so much fun, and had no idea we were impoverished. Mom and Dad managed a used clothing store - from which clothing we were able to find things we could wear. There was a "crick" down the way from our house and we played "Sugar Creek Gang" - anybody remember those books?? We also played missionary, Bible School, Billy Graham Crusade - are you sensing a pattern here? The Lord's work was our entire life.
When Dad was a young boy, he took the tractor apart one day just to prove he could - and that he could put it back together! He succeeded, and this was the beginning of his lifelong love of fixing things. He was able to earn some much-needed money by fixing everyone's everything in that little town. We especially loved it when he was fixing someone's t.v. set - we didn't have one yet, nor would we have one for quite some time. We always were so glad when he didn't quite finish working on a set until too late to get it back to the owner before the Saturday morning cartoons!
That led to his working on wiring the Christmas lights to the top of the town courthouse. We watched in awe and amazement, and my mom with a great deal of fear, as he hung from the dome - seemingly halfway to the sky. I considered him fearless. I thought he could do anything. (This ability to fix anything came in very handy for his kids as we grew up and had our own homes - we always had a "to-do" list for Dad when they came to visit).
That led to his working on the electrical wiring of the dam that was being built outside of Heber Springs - the Greers Ferry Dam. It would transform our sleepy little Mayberry-like town into a resort area. Years later, when I was high school, we returned for the dedication of that dam and could not believe it was the same place. It was a bit sad. The personality of that little town changed completely. Tumbling Shoals Bridge was no longer.
Those were the years when Dad literally ran everywhere he went. The doctor once told him he could actually walk sometimes and it wouldn't hurt.
We lived there until I was in 5th grade. Here is a picture of that era.
Dad's dad became quite ill, and Dad decided we needed to move back north to be closer to him and his Mom. So we headed to northernmost Minnesota. It was an adjustment - though we had been born in Minnesota and had lived there for awhile as kids, we were now southerners, and as such were the target of teasing for our accents. Dad was pastoring a very difficult church, which of course we didn't know until we had been there awhile. I was old enough to know what was going on and my heart ached for him. He had to work an outside job besides, trying to keep everyone in the church happy, prepare sermons and do all those other things that small church pastors have to do (including but not limited to - janitorial, secretarial) and feed and clothe 5 kids. He drove a school bus part of the time, and he sold for Sears. He was a very good salesman.
One of my favorite stories about Dad is around that Sears job. After several years of battling in that difficult church (isn't that sad??), we moved because his health was broken. He was only 34 at this time - hard for me to believe. He was advised by his doctor to take a year off to recuperate. It ended up being 2 years, and he was a cracker-jack salesman. In fact, he was the top salesman in 7 states the second year, and won quite a prestigious award. At that time he was offered a high position with Sears. He told the executive who was interviewing him that, as honored as he was with the offer, he could not stoop to take the position, because he was committed to working for the King of Kings.
During those two years, Dad filled pulpits around Minnesota at least half of the Sundays. We often went along with him and had a great time meeting kids all over the state. It was a tough two years for Mom, though, because he was working horrific hours and was also gone many week-ends when we didn't go with him. But he had to preach, or he would shrivel emotionally and spiritually.
I'll never forget the exciting night when Dad and Mom got the call after a Sunday evening service that the church in Omaha that was voting on us (I say us, because we were definitely a package deal), had given us a unanimous call as pastor and family of their church. I knew how much Dad had been suffering, dying to get back into the pastorate. I couldn't sleep, and knew instantly that the news was good - we were moving to a new church. I would be a P.K. again. Just then the "Hallelujah Chorus" came on the record player.
Those were good years - we had a great youth group. We had lots of fun planning our own meetings, banquets, choir tours (no, we weren't that good, but we had fun!) I was only there two years before going to college. As I shared in my "Job Saga" series, one summer I was offered a job, which turned out to be a horrendously terrible place to work. After the first night on the job, I told Dad that I could NOT go back there. He informed me that everyone in the church had been praying for me to get a job that summer, I had a job, and I was not going to quit - he did not raise quitters! The Lord honored me with a different spot in the same company the next night, and I survived the summer - barely.
Dad is a stubborn Swede. What can I say? It was not always rosey. My sister and I were annoyed and angry with him on occasion. He was strict. He was inflexible. He was/is opinionated. (some say I am alot like him - Hmmm!) But he did what he thought was best. All five of us are serving the Lord in various ways. People ask my parents how they did it - they have no answer. But they served the Lord, made us feel privileged to be preacher's kids. We had fun. We survived great odds. We all 5 made it through college with grit and determination.
My dad is very proud of his kids. You will often hear him talking to someone about one or more of us - he gets a great deal of vicarious joy out of his children's lives.
DC is a P.K. too, so when we were married, we were doubly blessed with two pastor fathers doing the honors. I had two younger brothers married before I was. According to this picture, I think Dad thought it was very serious business "giving away" his first daughter.
Dad also loves his sons- and daughters-in-law. He looks here at our wedding as if he is making sure DC gets it right on that marriage license!
Dad retired here in our town about 3 years ago. He and Mom live a bit over half a mile from me. They are very active in our church - the church Dad physically built and pastored for 6+ years, one of the churches into which he poured his soul and energy. He serves as visitation pastor and spends a lot of his time calling on people in the hospital and shut in at home - just like he did his first go-around in this church. He gets joy also out of being around many who were teens when he was their pastor, who are now pillars of this church.
Dad and Mom will celebrate their 62nd anniversary in August. These next two pictures show him doing two of his favorite things - laughing (with a magazine in his lap), and reading. He also loves to putter in his workshop - he has it quite well set up with a t.v., radio, air conditioner. He loves to work in comfort. He is always working on something.
Here they are at one of the many family weddings they've been a part of in the last few years - they have 5 children, 5 spouses, 13 grandchildren, and 19 great grands, with one more on the way. He has been privileged to be involved in most of the grandchildren's weddings, as well as dedicating several of his great grands. He is a proud proud grandpa.
When I met Diane of Partners in Prayer for our Prodigals last summer in Minnesota, she met my folks and my sister as well. Here is what she says about my dad.
As we awaited their (mom and sister's) arrival, we talked with her Dad. Oh how I wish I had taken a photo of this vibrant "young" man! The thing I remember the most about him, well there are two things.....but to the laugh! I have been known to sit on the edge of "drama," but let me honestly share....when this man
laughed out loud, it was as if the joy of the Lord was being released! I don't
know him beyond the 45 minutes in that room, but each and every time he laughed, it was like a giggle....from God! What a joy!
Secondly, if Dawn is the keeper of stories, this man is the author of all tales! What a great memory....made only more special by the fond feelings that unfolded as he shared.
It was such fun to read these words from one who had just met him for the first time.