“Don’t make us go, Daddy!” We had barely unpacked our suitcases in the hotel room and the battle of wills was already beginning.
After a week of doing whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, my then eleven year old son and ten 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 beach. They would spend the second week in Richmond, Virginia, where I was overseeing my first International Mission Board meeting as the chairman. First on the schedule was a service honoring retiring missionaries.
“We have to go. Daddy has to be there and I want you to be there. Tonight we meet our heroes.”
For my son, his mother’s statement must have brought to mind the latest Spiderman movie. When he found out we weren’t going anywhere near the theaters, the faint trace of excitement on his face quickly faded. Further protests were met with, “We’re going. NO MORE COMPLAINING!”
They were slouched in their chairs for the first half of the service, even when their own father was speaking into the microphone. My oratory skills seem least appreciated by those who hear me speak most often. When the IMB President failed to get a reaction from these two preacher’s kids, I began to question my effectiveness as a spiritual leader in my home. As 55 retiring Southern Baptist missionaries took the stage, they hardly seemed to notice. I inwardly acknowledged I had failed as a father.
Then, one by one, the stories were told. Not the whole story. Just tidbits and highlights of the victories and sacrifices of those who made their careers on the mission fields of the world, some for more than forty years.
Suddenly the two lifeless bodies beside me resurrected. Eyes once glazed began dancing with wonder. Whispered questions began to fire, one after another.
“Where is her husband now? Why did they kill him?”
“Why didn’t they bring their little boy back to America to bury him?”
“Why is she in a wheelchair?”
The questions continued back at the hotel. Then I asked two 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?”
“Not me, Daddy!”
An old breed of hero. Plenty of flying but always on a plane. A few stopped bullets but the bullets did their damage. Thousands upon thousands of perilous rescues, not from blazing buildings, but from the fires of hell. They are men and women and boys and girls who accepted the costs associated with reaching lost people and, in the words of the old Methodist catechism, chose to “spend and be spent” saving souls.
I am grateful that my children have heroes.