remembering dad

Just at the moment it might be better if you didn't talk to me about how God's timing is perfect. My much-loved father-in-law (hitherto known as 'Dad', as that is who he was for me) died on the first day of this week, the biggest week of the year in my Langham work. As today dawns, the biggest day in the biggest week, the family gathers for his burial service in Bluffton, Ohio. I'd love to be there...

Instead I am bringing Dad to mind and imagination and heart through pictures.

Here is my favourite. 15 months ago. With arms open wide, Dad welcomes someone different from him - here, it is an age difference of 90 years. This was the habit of his life. His love was deep and wide and as it was splashed on people - even in the briefest interaction - it drew forth a love from those people. Here it is his great-grandson, Micah, opening his arms to him in return. His love drew forth a love from others. It just did. I saw it happen again and again.

With Dad, I'll start where I started with him. Long before Barby and I were an item, Dad was the first pastor I ever noticed and the first preacher to whom I ever listened. He got in there first and he stayed there as the definition of the pastor-preacher for me. For more than 70 years, it was the only vocation he ever knew. For more than 30 years, I've trained pastor-preachers - hundreds, even thousands of them - and through it all Dad has sat there, as an inset in my mind and as a person perched on my shoulder, shaping my convictions. He is the default setting. It is about loving and feeding the people whom God gives you to serve.

And the love started within the family - with more open arms for his wife and his children.
With his five children at his 90th birthday celebrations

The unconditional love I experienced was the same love my children experienced. Here is a favourite photo of Dad with each one of our children, in order of age:






Can I slip in a couple more? From last year when he arrived in New Zealand for Bethany's wedding ... and then this lovely one of him oblivious to everyone else around him.

But I'm racing ahead a bit. Dad and Mom loved me as their own, right from the start.

As a 16 year old, helping her mother with the dishes at the kitchen sink, Barby (pictured here at this age - a babe!) received a gentle enquiry from her mother. "Are you interested in any boys?" An awkward little exchange followed, climaxed by Mom saying, "You know, that Paul Windsor - he's a nice boy." Such words of prophetic insight and wisdom from the future mother-in-law...

I went home from India to New Zealand, while Barby returned to the USA. We wrote letters for five years. But this letter-writing received encouragement from both sets of parents (who were great friends). In 1979 Mom and Dad took a significant detour on their way back to India from the USA, coming via NZ. There was time enough for one of my favourite photos of Dad, by the stream behind Uncle Grahame and Auntie Pat's bach in our much loved Huia outside Auckland.

my two dads - what a legacy

One thing led to another and Barby and I were married, with Dad taking the ceremony.

About this time I was starting to become so interested in Mom and Dad's past. 39 years in India, in roughly three parts: up on the border with Tibet in a place called Dharchula; then in Mussoorie as pastor of Union Church; and finally, as senior pastor of Delhi Bible Fellowship.

[added later: a shepherd shares the gospel with a shepherd]

I'll always remember a reflection shared about Dad when he and Mom finished their years in India at Delhi Bible Fellowship. "Pastor Warren showed us that the best way to love us was to pray for us." It is around this prayerfulness that love was fused with godliness. He loved to pray with people. Every opportunity. Every time. This prayerfulness was always rooted in his study and reflection in the Bible.

Praying at the dining room table - just a few weeks before he died.

Dad visited New Zealand fourteen times - taking in the beaches (often wearing a tie) and, most recently, enjoying a pie at Piha and an ice cream at Ollies.

There are even a few photos of Dad and me together...

At Huka Falls

At the Mission Conference at Ebenezer Mennonite Church in Ohio in 2008.
Dad always used to say to me that I was his favourite preacher.
Hmm - whether it was strictly true or not, I did like to hear it
... and now I will hear it no more.

At Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua last year

Maybe God's timing will make more sense in the rear-vision mirror, but in the meantime I will go on missing his love, his prayers, his encouragement - each one of them irreplaceable.

nice chatting



Heather said…
Hugs and sympathy to you in your loss. I never met your Dad, but I have often been struck by the warmth of his encouraging comments to you on this blog and your Facebook posts. Much love to you and Barby at this time.
Special love to you and Barby, Paul. I think your photographic tribute to Dad will continue to show how much he meant -and still means to you - perhaps even more than if you had been able to speak at the funeral.
Unknown said…
I have so enjoyed reading this paul and enjoying your photographs of him
and your family. I understand now what a very special relationship you had and how much you loved and respected him not only as your father in law but your friend. You were so fortunate to have all these years to make those beautiful memories together. Thinking of you all.
Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Heather - back in New Zealand now.
You made me go back and find his last messages to me on FB/blog:

Dad's last message on my blog was just six weeks ago:
"Thank you, Paul! My heart is moved not just by the heartaches of history, but by the cry to God for Jesus' Name to be honored and adored in all these people so loved by Him (John 3:16). May God continue to expand your heart and mine with His unending love. My love you, Paul, dad warren."

His last comment on my Facebook page was about the same time - when I had this comment as my status update ... This rather confident translator in our ministry gave me a good laugh: "Do not worry - nobody preaches a bad sermon when I am translating."

To which Dad responded: "Oh, that I preached more sermons with the help of an interpreter!"

How typical of him are these comments!? Thanks for having me go and find them...

Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Sheila - your words resound a lot...

Paul Windsor said…
To the writer of the third comment - thank-you.

You picked it well - this is a far greater loss than a father-in-law.

Paul Windsor said…
As the Memorial Service in the USA draws to a close, I am here in the early hours of a Sunday morning in Dunedin, a city in distant NZ's distant south. I am grateful for the opportunity to write a few words to be read by Barby at the service and mention them here as well, by way of tribute:

"I've known Dad for almost as long as I can remember.

While I can recall him at Union Church in Mussoorie, it was his years at Delhi Bible Fellowship - when I was a teenager - where I encountered the first preacher to whom I ever listened and the best pastor whom I ever knew. I ended up in that same vocation and Dad showed me how to be a shepherd. He got into my imagination and my aspiration so early - and he stayed there. I moved on to becoming a trainer of shepherds and still Dad stayed there. At one point I crafted a sentence to describe the goal of that training: 'we train people to love, feed, and lead the people God gives them to serve'. Dad was on my mind when that sentence was written.

Dad showed me how to be generous. Dad & Mom never had much, but you'd never have known that was the case. Children of the Depression, but never a hint of making sure that we knew what that was like. Their mix of contentment and generosity was a model of how to live in the world today to the glory of God. Oftentimes the generosity seemed extravagant, whether it be insisting always on paying for the groceries when he visited, or helping us with travel costs when we visited. Then there was the fact that he came to New Zealand fourteen times in order to remain a part of our lives, most recently for Bethany's wedding, when the beauty of his godliness adorned the occasion.

Dad showed me how to love. His last written message to me was in response to something I wrote (on this blog) about the troubled history of Sarajevo in Bosnia. Six weeks before he died. He finished with these words: "May God continue to expand your heart and mine with His unending love. I love you, Paul. Dad Warren." A simple sentence which says so much. He loved me as a son and I thrived in that love. There he is - so near to the time when the heart would shut down and yet still praying for a heart to expand. He remained active on facebook until a few weeks before he died because it was one way his heart could expand even as his strength did subside - and it was all possible because his own experience of God's unending love flowed so full and free.

It is not hard to figure out. The impact of his love, his generosity and his shepherding has been so deep and so wide because in each of these three Dad so closely reflected Jesus, his Saviour and Master."
Christina Edwards-Teope said…
Beautiful Paul. You will feel the gap.
Anne de Reybekill said…
This is beautiful, Paul. What a gift to have had this treasure in your life.
Ben Carswell said…
Lovely tribute Paul. Thanks for giving us an insight into his life, godliness & ministry. Much love to Barby & you at this time.
Janet and Sam Reeve said…
What a wonderful gift he was to you and Barby and the family.Thanks for sharing such an inspiring, loving and prayerful man to aspire to be like. Love and prayers for you and Barby as you miss him.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Paul a wonderful tribute .
He certainly was uncle, pastor , and friend to me
ed Dubland
Paul Windsor said…
Christina, Anne, Ben, Janet/Sam and Ed ... what a potpourri of memories those names surface!!! ... thanks for taking the time to comment.

We watched a video of the Memorial Service as a NZ family last night. Just son-in-law, Tim, was missing which was a shame. But that was a good thing to do together. Barby spoke at the service on behalf of her siblings (as the youngest!) and our three boys spoke on video with a script written by their sister, Alyssa.


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