Nearly 2 decades have passed and I’m still perplexed that dad moved to Michigan after mom passed away in 2004. Rock Valley was the town he called home his whole life, minus short stints at CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Army. He was exhausted from caregiving, yard work, shoveling snow and had grown equally weary of being a home owner after remodeling and repairing their home for 50 years.
At the time we’d been in Michigan nearly 20 years (which was just as surprising)! I thought we’d move back to Iowa in 3 years or less, yet here we remain. Dad and mom visited us frequently but it surely wasn’t home. After losing his wife of 62 years he realized at 88 not many of his friends were still around.
Dad was saved after my brother Larry was killed in 1958. From that day forward he dedicated his life to Jesus and our church (Reformed Church of America) serving as an elder, Sunday school teacher, a champion advocate/teacher/preacher/lay minister for prison inmates. All those activities came to a screeching halt when mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few years prior to her death. He was no longer able to gallivant to far parts of Iowa and South Dakota because Mom couldn’t be left alone for hours on end.
We were both apprehensive when I encouraged him to sell their old family home and move to Michigan because we’d never been close. Guess what? He agreed without fanfare. (Oh what have I done) In retrospect it was the right call and we both benefited during his last years.
I did the Michigan legwork (set up a Bible study for him to teach at the prison and a nursing home when he arrived) while he listed the Iowa house. Five months after mom’s death we rented a U-Haul and moved dad to an apartment a block from our home. There were a few awkward moments but gradually he learned his way around our small town and met some folks his age.
There were some minor cultural shocks for dad after living in a small community for 8 decades. He never came to terms that in a larger city atmosphere (40,000 versus 4,000) not everyone goes to church on Sunday morning or bows their head in prayer before eating in a restaurant. He wanted everyone to do as he did where God was concerned and felt compelled to inquire about their “you need to get right with God” or “are you saved” status.
Soon after dad settled in North Muskegon, he was back preaching and teaching Bible study to inmates at the prison and felt a great sense of worth and fulfillment again. The thorn was finding him a church home. He was drawn to Christian Reformed but that church was 6-8 miles away, plus they had services at night and I didn’t want him driving after dark. He visited the Methodist church where we belonged but was unenthusiastic. After a couple months of searching we found a Reformed Church not far away (a straight shot except turning into the parking lot).
I accompanied him to services for weeks. He noted they dressed more casual than he was used to but was pretty comfortable from the get-go. He enjoyed the sermons and started attending Sunday school. I helped him fill out a ‘newcomer’s’ card, then he waited to be contacted.
Most of us are reluctant to change and dad was no exception. His assumption was every Reformed church operates in the same manner/programs as his church from Rock Valley. Dad anticipated getting a phone call to set up an appointment between him and the senior pastor after the church office learned of his interest in joining because that’s how potential members are welcomed into the fold in Iowa. Dad attended regularly and felt a connection, but after a few weeks he’d still not heard back from clergy about getting together for ‘the talk before you join.”
I decided to call the church. The pastor took my call and asked what he could do for me? “It’s not for me but my dad is eager to join church and has been wondering when the two of you can get together to discuss it.” “Ah, there’s not much to talk about really. We know Rich wants to be part of our congregation because of the paperwork. We’ll just set a date and welcome him on a certain Sunday, ok?” “Well no not really. He wants a one-on-one conversation with you. Dad needs to be wooed.” “I don’t woo.” (And there lies the rub)
“Dad’s kinda old school and has served in the consistory many times as an elder and they routinely visited members. But the senior pastor always visits potential members. Dad assumes every Reformed Church does the same. Could you make a point to stop and see him for a half hour before you set his date for his membership?”
The pastor finally agreed it would go a long way to visit with dad for a few minutes. (Dang). Dad never realized I advocated on his behalf before he and the pastor met for coffee one afternoon. They got along famously-after dad was sufficiently wooed…
3 thoughts on “Reluctantly wooing Rich…”
I’m glad that you were able to have your Dad close after you lost your Mom. And it was really good of you to get him settled in his new church. 💞
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Me too, though I was stressed the closer his move to Michigan got at the time. It all worked out and him living close was good for both of us…
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I am glad it worked out! 💞