I want to tell you a story.
What follows is an example of how the sacrificial funds invested in the Lord’s ministry called Focus on the Family manifest themselves in the lives of those who live far beyond our walls here in Colorado Springs.
I want to tell you a story about a father and his son.
The dad’s name is Dave, and his college-aged boy goes by Pete.
Dave is a great father who, along his wife, Wendy, regularly and deliberately invest in the lives of their children. As you’ll read, life in their family hasn’t been all easy sledding. Like each family, there is a long, colorful and challenging story behind the neat-and tidy-looking Christmas card portrait: Cancer. An accident. Broken dreams and broken hearts, to name just a few of the bumps in the long road.
But all along the journey, Dave and Wendy have always leaned on their Lord – and Focus on the Family. Dave recently reflected on their family’s relationship with us in an email to me, which he’s given me permission to share. For context, Dave and Wendy had recently come through a very rough stretch with Pete.
I met Dr. Dobson through you. I remember talking to him about his dad and how his dad put his career on hold to spend more time with him. One thing Dr. Dobson told me they did together was hunting in South Texas. That planted a seed. The radio broadcasts, your book, personal phone calls, meetings in San Antonio, golf retreats, your prayers all kept me “hanging in” there with Pete. Know that you guys are making a BIG difference all over this world.
What an encouragement! Dave is part owner of a highly successful real estate development firm in San Antonio, Texas. He says the reminders from Focus to maintain a healthy work/life balance helped him keep his kids close – which as you’ll see in a moment, was critical to keeping his son in the family fold.
In addition to his kind note to me, Dave passed on a heart-wrenching letter that was penned by his son as part of a school assignment. Pete recently started college. Dave shared it with me in the hope that it might influence and encourage others who find themselves in a similar circumstance.
There is so much one might say about a letter like this, of which excerpts are reprinted below, but as a Christian, husband, father and president of this organization, I am inclined to say very simply and succinctly – this is why we’re here! To help families like Dave and Wendy’s not just survive – but also thrive in Jesus Christ.
Here now is a condensed version of Pete’s letter to his father:
Over the past seventeen years, your unconditional love has impacted me immensely. Although we have experienced some difficult trials, they have made our relationship incredibly strong and close.
In the fourth grade I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Being so young, I did not understand the seriousness of the surgery I was about to undergo. When I first woke up after the operation, I could not move my limbs or even see. I was franticly crying out for you, but all I could see was darkness. The swelling from my brain surgery had irritated my optic nerve, leaving me blind for a week. Yet during that time, you held my hand and made sure that I knew you were there.
The surgery also severed some connections from my brain to the muscles in my left leg and arm. Even though the doctors promised I would see and run normally again, my left leg was permanently affected with weakness and drop foot. My eyesight returned, but the weakness on my left side lasted for years.
The frustrations and anger I experienced over those years took a massive toll on me. Having to watch my friends play football without me was torture, because I would do anything to be out there with them. You stood by me, loving me when I was down. You reminded me that although I could not play football, I could still have a relationship with my friends in other ways.
The process of recovery was long, but in time I was able to compete again in most of the things I loved. Once again you were there for me; you became my baseball coach and hunting partner almost every weekend. The surgery made me appreciate you, and it also made me realize the magnitude of the bond that we share.
Pete went on to describe in gripping detail news of an off-road accident involving him and his father. During a hunting trip together the brakes of an old jeep his dad was driving failed and Pete was pinned beneath the wheels, breaking both legs:
I can still see the look on your ashen face; neither of us had ever been in that amount of pain before. I know you were horrified…but I also know the accident was not your fault. After they airlifted me to San Antonio, I spent eleven painful days in the hospital. At home I was in bed for three more months, rehabilitating with grueling physical therapy. Nevertheless, you were constantly by my side…
Even though I knew it was an accident, I just couldn’t deal with the effects. Later that year I had three more surgeries…I had learned how to compensate for my drop foot injury, but I knew I would never be as successful at sports like I had dreamed of before. All that time, you continued to love me despite my acrimony.
You absorbed my sharp looks and cruel words. Over time I began to realize that there is more to life than high school sports.
It must have been hard for you to deal with the pain of the accident, as well as the wrath of my bitterness. Again you showed me unconditional love, even when I didn’t deserve it. It was your unstoppable love that finally allowed me to break free. I now realize that there are positive things that can come out of tragic events, but we have to be willing to move beyond the pain and the bitterness that can separate us. I realize that everything happens for a reason, and although sometimes things may seem dismal, we can learn and grow stronger from those times.
Throughout the past seventeen years, the hardships we experienced together have ultimately strengthened us, and our relationship. Your influence has showed me how fortunate I am to have a consistent and loving father in my life. You have taught me how to love someone, even when he might not deserve it. You were the father that held my hand when I was afraid, in pain, and unforgiving, and you will be the father whose hand I will confidently shake when I walk into my college dormitory for the first time.
Thank you, Dad, for your lessons of love, and I can only hope to be as good of a father to my kids, as you have been to me.
Your Loving Son,
I am grateful we were there for Dave and Wendy; I pray we might be there for you and your family, too.
To God be the glory!