MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky. (BP)–“Don’t make us go, Daddy!”
After a week of doing whatever they wanted — whenever they wanted — my 11-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter were less than enthusiastic about the way this second week of our summer travels was beginning.
They spent the first week swimming and fishing on the beaches of South Carolina. They would spend the second week in Richmond, Va., where I would oversee my first meeting as chairman of trustees for the International Mission Board.
We had barely unpacked our suitcases in the hotel room when the battle of wills began.
“We have to go,” I said. “Daddy has to be there and I want you to be there. Tonight we meet our heroes.”
For my son, that statement must have brought to mind some of his favorite movie superheroes. When he found out we weren’t going anywhere near a theater, the faint trace of excitement on his face quickly faded. Further protests were met with: “We’re going, no more complaining!”
They slouched in their chairs for the first half of the service — even when their father was speaking. I had to think: my oratory skills seem least appreciated by those who hear me speak most often.
When IMB President Jerry Rankin failed to get a reaction from my two preacher’s kids, I began to question my effectiveness as a spiritual leader in my own home. By the time Dr. Rankin and I were replaced on the stage by 55 retiring Southern Baptist missionaries, my children hardly seemed to notice and I began to inwardly acknowledge that I had failed as a father.
Then, one by one those emeritus missionaries began to tell their stories. Not the whole story, just tidbits and highlights — victories and sacrifices of those who had lived their lives on the mission fields of the world, some for more than 40 years.
Suddenly the two lifeless bodies beside me resurrected. Eyes once glazed began dancing with wonder. Whispered questions began to fire back and forth.
“Where is her husband now?” one asked. “Why did they kill him?”
“What did they say happened to his wife?”
“Why didn’t they bring their little boy back to America to bury him?”
“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
The questions continued on the van ride back to the hotel. Then I asked two questions of my own: “Who is glad we went to the service?”
“I am, Daddy.”
“Who wishes they had stayed at the hotel and watched cartoons?” I said.
“Not me, Daddy!”
I am grateful my children found some heroes — an old breed of hero. Plenty of flying, but always on a plane. A few stopped bullets, but bullets that did their damage. Thousands upon thousands of perilous rescues — not from blazing buildings — but from the fires of hell.
I am glad their heroes are men and women, boys and girls, who accepted the costs associated with reaching lost people. I am glad their heroes are — in the words of the old Methodist catechism — those who chose to “spend and be spent” saving souls.
Paul Chitwood is pastor of First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington, Ky., and chairman of the board of trustees for the International Mission Board.