This morning, I am going to church to hear my Father preach. I have done this literally thousands of times in my life. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night of my childhood, I listened to him deliver a message that he had prayed over and wrestled with throughout the week. This morning, I will sit in the same plum-colored pews I sat in as a girl. I will sit with the church that has known him for longer than I have been alive. And I will listen to him deliver the last sermon that he will give as the minister of this church. Today my Father is retiring from 51 years of full-time giving of himself to this part of the body of Christ.
I love my Father. I am the youngest of his nine children. I always thank my Mama for getting me into this world. It takes a very special woman to be willing to be pregnant, go through labor, and care for a newborn nine times. I am so grateful to her for being the heart of our loving home. But it is my Father that I thank for my good name. I was born with a name that carries the dignity and respect of all who have known or heard of him. I have reaped the blessing of his hard work, his complete selflessness, and his true and humble devotion to God and the church.
A few years ago, I met a man in town who was about twenty years older than me. I told him my name. He asked me if I was David Terrell’s daughter. I said yes, and tears began to fall from his eyes. He told me that Daddy had come to the hospital to see his Mother when she was dying.
I would be willing to bet that Daddy has been through those hospital doors more than any of the medical staff over these last 51 years. He has looked into the faces of hundreds upon hundreds of people who were on the verge of surgery or recovery or passing from this life to the next.
And every time he walked through those doors, it was love.
Daddy works harder than any man I have ever known. It is not easy to be a preacher. People hold you to a different standard. They think you should be flawless yourself if you are going to stand up and tell people how they should live their own lives. But his life speaks for him. Of course he is not perfect. I know that he is flesh and blood and born into sin just like me. But he is as upright as any man I have ever known. I’ve never met anyone who knew him that didn’t respect him. And I have known many people who would consider him one of the most significant and greatest influences on their lives.
Daddy has devoted his life to God’s call on his life–raising and providing for a family, preaching the gospel, and serving the church. He has poured out his life for this purpose. The sweat of his brow has flowed like a river that has nourished and sustained our family.
Staying with one church for 50 years is nearly unheard of. Because churches are made of people and we are all a mess. I have so much respect for Daddy for staying committed to the same church family for so long, for being faithful and loyal to the work he felt God was calling him to, for making peace whenever possible, for caring about the long-term relationship over the quick fix, for laying aside his own desires for the greater good.
He is the most selfless person I know.
Daddy has a laugh that is contagious. I love it when it just takes him over and he can barely breathe. He will just about be over it, and the next wave will hit him. He has found joy in life. It comes up in unexpected places. It comes from wrestling with the hard earth until it is fertile enough to bring up flowers of every color and fragrance. It comes from wrestling with words on paper until you have a sermon that brings life and the message of the gospel of peace. It comes from struggling through relationships to find the common ground. Not walking away. Not starting over. But remaining steadfast in love, willing to be flexible and to lay your life down for your friends. This is the character of the man that I call my Father.
I could never say it eloquently enough. The path that this man set before me to walk along for my life has been a good path, like a beautiful garden. I have been blessed and covered by prayer every day of my life because of this man. My children have been blessed because his way of life has been planted deep in my heart, and I am sowing the seeds in their lives. Many souls that have heard the gospel from his lips will reap the eternal treasures of heaven and will lead others to do the same. This good work will continue on and on. The love that has been sown will continue to grow, generation after generation because of this man’s love for God, his family, and the church. It will continue to affect this world, and it will affect eternity.
Who can say how far-reaching his legacy has been and will continue to be?