“When the light of day has passed, I long for what will last, Oh, Lord please help me find, I long for more.”
I wrote those words years ago, and their meaning has become a reality for my father-in-law, Don Peterson. After 95 years in this life, he has gone to be in the presence of his heavenly father. We live in such a different time then when he grew up; the depression, over 5 wars, the sixties, the rise of the technological age, and the ever shrinking world connected through the airwaves have all transpired during his life.
When he and his wife, Irma, went to the mission field it took weeks by boat. They left their families for years; with the only connection through postal mail, and now we fly around the world and talk to each other on skype. But their heart and mind was focused on the one thing that never changes, the gospel. From the time they gave their lives to Christ, experienced the life changing redemption through His blood, their call was to those who had never heard. Until his last breath my father-in-law was a testimony to the grace of God, and he never took it for granted.
We are the generation of social media, and we use it for connection and information. It is interesting to read what family and friends have posted on Facebook in tribute to the life of this man, father, father-in-law, grandpa, and great-grandpa. I have listed what they wrote at the end of this blog, but the main theme running through them is legacy. Don Peterson has left a legacy of faith; children and grandchildren who are walking faithfully with the Lord, and who are teaching their children to do the same. And though the Apostle John was writing to his spiritual children, what he says apply describes the joy in Dad’s heart, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3John 4).
Walking in the truth, living for Jesus, and sharing the gospel were the heartbeat of this godly man. He would have said with the Apostle Paul, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1Cor. 9:16). Whether standing in the pulpit, in the markets of Morocco, a small fishing dock in Alaska, a nursing home in Ohio, or even at Liberty Court, he was always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within him. But it came at a cost.
The hardest decision that Don and Irma ever made was to send their children to boarding school. Yet, they did so, with the same faith that compelled them to preach the gospel. Their faith in their heavenly father’s provision bolstered their resolve, held them in their loneliness, and consoled them when their heart longed to hold their girls. We might judge their decision, but we cannot judge their heart or their faith. Nor can we judge God’s faithfulness, and He was faithful.
The long years in Morocco, and even Alaska, didn’t bear the kind of numbers that American Christianity holds up as successful. In fact, in the eyes of the world he had failed. However, the world is not our measure, our measure is Christ and Him alone. And I am sure, standing before his savior, these are the words he hears, “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ (Luke 19:17). He was faithful, he persevered, he endured, and he kept the faith.
Success is faithfulness lived in the context of integrity. We are his legacy, and as the Apostle Paul said, “[We are his] letter, written in his heart, known and read by all men; being manifested that [we] are a letter of Christ, cared for by [him], written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2,3). Don, dad, was a successful man.
Legacies are not what we take with us, but what we leave behind. Legacies are created during our life, and bequeathed to the generations to follow. The legacy left to us will not make us rich in the things of the world. Our legacy is of greater value then silver or gold. It is a legacy of faith, tenderly, patiently, persistently cultivated until it bore fruit fitting for righteousness. Faith in Christ saved him, Faith in the gospel sent them abroad, Faith in God’s provision cared for their girls, Faith in the power of God allowed them to hand over their most precious possessions to three undeserving men. I remember well their doubt in Rebecca’s decision to marry me, “Are you sure?” But once the decision was made and the vows proclaimed I was welcomed into the family without a hint of hesitancy. I think I am their favorite, embraced with the same grace given by our Lord.
I stand as a participant in Dad’s legacy, for it is living, growing, and thriving. For I, like you are continuing the legacy with our children and our grand children. When the number of my days are finished, when I slip past the veil of this life into the glorious presence of my heavenly Father, I hope that my son/daughter-in-law or grand child will stand in front of my friends and family and testify to this continuing legacy of faith.
One of my favorite hymns, as well as dad’s, is
All The Way My Savior Leads, what have I to ask besides, can I doubt His tender mercy, who thru life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell? For I know whatever befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my savior leads me; cheers each winding path I tread, gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread: though my weary steps may falter, and my soul a thirst may be, gushing from the rock before me, lo! A spring of joy I see!
All the way my Savior leads me; Oh, the fullness of His love! Perfect rest to me is promised In my Father’s house above: When my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day, this my song thru endless ages; Jesus led me all the way.”
Around 3:30 pm, Sunday, March 18, 2012, Don Peterson slipped from this life into the next. When he opened his eyes, I am sure he was met by an angel who ushered him through the gates of heaven. And as he passed through, he most likely paused, and turning said, “Thank you.” Until we meet again, dad.
Testimonies written on our hearts:
95 years later, my Grandpa is finally in the presence of His Lord. What a legacy of faith! I am privileged to have been an answer to many of the prayers of this faithful man...
My grandpa passed away yesterday at the age of 95. My own thoughts on a man who has shown faithfulness to Jesus for his entire adult life.
Holly Hilty We're praying for you all, Aunt Rebecca. Grandpa will be missed. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to know him and see that sparkle in his eye. We're giving thanks that he's with his Saviour now.