I am not really sure why I did it. Once when I was a young boy, I dressed up like a waiter and decided to serve breakfast to my mom in bed. I put on dress pants, a white shirt and if I remember correctly, I even had a tie – a clip on to be sure. Ironically, I am pretty sure I didn’t know much about making breakfast, but my mom seemed to appreciate the gesture anyway. All I knew was that I loved her, appreciated everything she did for me and wanted to do something special for her. I loved her cooking so much that I even tried to get her to consider opening her own restaurant. Then I could really put that waiter uniform to good use. That never happened though because she had a higher calling and one that would have a lifelong impact on me.
Some years before this my family had moved to the West Indies to serve as missionaries. As a little child, I had no idea what a sacrifice this was or why they had made this choice. All I knew was that we lived in a hot place where most of the people did not look like me and everyone spoke with an accent. Once in those early years, my dad was getting my bath ready for me. We lived in a very small apartment with no hot water in the bathroom. Apparently this was a daily routine for my parents. He would heat up the water on the stove and bring it to the bathroom and mix it with cold water in the tub to get it to just the right temperature for us. On this particular day, things did not go as expected. My dad stumbled on the way to the bathroom and spilled scalding water down one side of his body. I never knew till much later about the third degree burns that he suffered for me.
Ironically, this was not the hardest thing my dad had to endure. During those same years in Jamaica, he learned that his sister needed a kidney transplant. Despite the radical requirements of this need and the experimental nature of the surgery, he agreed to be the donor. He still carries the scars of that surgery on his body today and yet I never heard one complaint in his entire life about making that choice. Making hard choices was what God called him to do and he obeyed.
When it came to their children, both of my parents consistently put our needs ahead of their own. In fifth grade I nearly bottomed out academically. For an inquisitive child who was an avid reader, I was doing poorly and my mom wanted to know why. After discovering that my problems centered around a teacher and her abusive treatment of me, she made a choice that would alter my life. Rather than let this continue, she volunteered to be my teacher the next year. This was a huge sacrifice as it meant that she could not be with my younger sisters who also needed her attention. In the end her teaching rekindled my love of learning and all of the other kids in that school as well. I would go on to earn an academic scholarship to college and graduate with honors. In truth all the accolades I earned were due that that choice she made in sixth grade.
A week from Monday, I get to host a party for my mom and dad. They are retiring from ministry after forty-nine years of service. For the last twenty years, I have been following in their footsteps and serving in the same organization. As a young adult, I was determined to chart my own course in life, but God had other plans. Little did I know at that time that He was calling me to a life of service and sacrifice just like them. When I did join CLC in my late twenties, I knew one thing for sure. My parents had already set an example that I wanted to follow. Very few people get to work alongside their parents for as long as I have. I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life.
As they come to this important milestone, they have set an example once again of faithful service to the end. My mother often says that they are not retired but “retreaded”. They will not stop serving the Lord until he calls them home. Whether it is in their local church, taking care of their many grandkids or trying their hands at some new ministry opportunity they will continue to set the pace for all of us who know them. I look forward to dressing up once again to serve them both at their party and maybe this time I will be able to wear a tie that I can tie myself.