Just a Thought | My Father’s Day Tribute

By Rick Kraft

PHOTO: Tanya Kraft | The South Pasadenan | Rick Kraft, second from left, photographed with his siblings and parents.
PHOTO: Tanya Kraft | The South Pasadenan | Rick Kraft, second from left, photographed with his siblings and parents.

My father turns 91 years old next month. Wow! That’s over nine decades of living! Tomorrow being Father’s Day, I want to share with you about my awesome father.

As amazing as it is for my father to reach 91, more amazing is that last week my mother (who is already 91) and my father celebrated 70 years of marriage. Who does that anymore? I’m proud to be the son of both my mother and my father. But today I want to tell you what is so special about my dad.

My father was called to be a missionary while he was still in high school. He grew up in Connecticut and then attended Wheaton College, a Christian college just outside Chicago. There he met my mother. They got married the day before they graduated.

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My mother knew when she said yes to my father’s proposal that she was going to be a missionary’s wife. At age 25 and 26 my parents boarded a ship with all their belongings in a few 55 gallon metal drums, they and headed across the ocean to Nigeria, planning to spend the rest of their lives spreading the gospel in Nigeria.

After a year and a half there, I came into this world and ever since have had a birth certificate issued by a small hospital in a small village in Nigeria. Circumstances changed, and after three years on the mission field, my parents moved back to the United States living in Hartford, Connecticut and in Lansing Michigan.

We went back to Nigeria when I was in third grade and I remember my time that year in Africa. My father accepted a job at UCLA. We moved west and settled in South Pasadena, California when I was in sixth grade.

My father began teaching at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena and continued to teach there until he retired  over 40 years later. He impacted countless lives during his decades of teaching missionaries in the School of World Missions.

PHOTO: Rick Kraft | The South Pasadenan | A recent photograph of the author's parents.
PHOTO: Rick Kraft | The South Pasadenan | A recent photograph of the author’s parents.

There is a book published about his life called “Four Careers.” My father has written over 30 books, has spoken to packed audiences in large arenas around the world, and he has been recognized for many accomplishments.

My parents still live in the house they bought 54 years ago when I was in sixth grade. Who does that? It’s amazing that when I visit my parents, I’m going back to the house I lived in when I was in middle school and high school.

Now, after sharing little about his history above, I want to focus on what he did as a father. My father did his best to make sure his four children had everything we needed to be a success. From providing for us financially to encouraging us to go to college, he wanted each of us to fly as high as we could in the years we had ahead after leaving the nest.

A lover of sports, my dad taught me how to play and to love baseball. He coached my Little League teams. As I grew older he came to my sporting events. We would regularly go to Dodgers and Angels baseball games. My baseball training allowed me to play semi-pro baseball for a year in college.

My father taught me how exciting traveling the world can be. We always had a summer vacation trip, often camping as a family. I have traveled on summer vacations ever since.

My father and mother taught me manners and to value the lives of others, something that remains with me today. They modeled for me how to put others first.

My father’s father had a great sense of humor. This was inherited by my father and then passed down to me. To this day I think I could win a “bad joke” contest.

My dad taught me and modeled for me how to be a husband and a father. This training is critical to every boy or young man. I am about to celebrate 39 years of marriage.

The greatest legacy my father gave his family was a deep faith in God. He committed his life to serving the Lord as a child, just as my mother did (she was the daughter of a pastor). As we grew, my parents always kept us active in our church, from attending each Sunday to participating in the youth groups. We were surrounded by others of faith.

Growing up in a Christian home equipped me for the day I left home for college (at age 17) and for my lifetime ahead.

The legacy that was passed from my father and mother has now been passed from my wife Tanya and I to our two children. My father has always been there for me in my times of need and always provides wise words when I need them.

What my father instilled in me will live in me as long as I live and will continue to live on in my children in the years they have ahead.

In these latter days of his life, he is still concerned and attentive to my life. He prays for me and my family daily and remains very interested in our continuing life journey.

My challenge to you today is twofold. First, remember your father on this special Father’s Day. If he is still alive tell him all the things you appreciate about him. The list is very long for most of us. Write him a sincere letter. Your father will read it many times.

Something could happen to either one of you and this may be your last time to celebrate Father’s Day with him. Your praises and openness will mean the world to a man who gave so much to you.

Second, regardless of where you are in your life journey, be the best father you can be to your children. Teach them life skills. Lead by example. Leave a great legacy that will live on in their lifetime ahead.

To all you fathers, Happy Father’s Day!

Just a thought…

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, a motivational speaker, a published author, and an attorney.  To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org.