My father was what I call the unlikely believer in God.
… the unlikely survivor – of a bad childhood
… the unlikely survivor of World War II
He was also the unlikely leader …
the unlikely person to help others…
And mostly, the unlikely follower of God.
For a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, that is quite the unlikely journey!
Mom and dad visited my family when we lived in Holland for a decade. They visited many times actually, often around Thanksgiving.
Frequently we invited dad to come along to activities with our community – a Christian church community. In the early years dad politely declined.
You see, dad wrestled with faith, and God, and belief - as most of us do at times. He did not want to be a hypocrite, which I respected.
“I was born a Jew, I’m going to die a Jew,” dad would tell me, believing at the time that he would have to abandon being Jewish to believe in Jesus.
Two events in Holland when they visited began to show me a shift in dad’s heart and mind. The first was when our church needed to move locations, from one school to another. There was dad at 77 years old helping the sound techs and custodians schlep chairs, sound equipment, and children’s toys onto the moving truck! All of these 25-year-old strong Dutch guys marveled at dad’s energy!
The next day I was heading to church early in the morning and there was dad ready to go with me – a very new thing for him! I asked why and he said that the sound guys and custodians were his new-found friends. Dad walked into the new school where we had just moved as if he owned the place.
The second event was when Susy and I had the privilege of baptizing mom at our church in Amsterdam. Here we were with 500 mostly young Dutch people watching as mom is baptized. Everyone cheers wildly as she comes out of the water. And there is dad right at the edge of the tub to help mom get out, hand her a towel, and carefully help her to walk back stage.
Dad was unconvinced about faith at the time, but he was open and searching. And he leaned into seeking God.
Dad had a lot to overcome to believe in a God who is good and gracious and forgives sins. It took him most of his 90 years.
He was like the man who meets Jesus one day and exclaims, “I do belief! Help me in my unbelief!”
Today we celebrate this unlikely follower of the Messiah, Y’shua.