I lost both of my parents in September. I’m mourning deeply, of course, but I also find a deep gratitude welling up for the many gifts they gave me.
One of their greatest gifts to me was the foundation of a healthy Christian heritage.
The Foundation They Laid
My parents were part of the same Methodist church for over 60 years. It was the church where they were married, where they served in the work of the God’s kingdom, and, at the end, where their funeral services were held.
My mother taught Sunday school even while she was pregnant with me. My father sang in the church choir four days before I was born. And at their funeral service, many people spoke of my parents’ love of family, love of church, and love for Jesus.
It was through that little congregation in Oakland, California, and my parents’ commitment to it, that I discovered my historic and personal faith. For the first 23 years of my life, I regularly participated in shared life there.
Built Up by InterVarsity
I am eternally grateful for the ways Mama and Daddy loved the Lord with all their hearts and taught me to do the same. My college years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship built on that love they instilled in me, transforming my budding youthful Christianity into a more reflective, more robust, more mature faith. And this process happened through the help of some people very different from those in my African American Christian cultural experience.
It happened through an Asian American woman from San Francisco who loved and taught the Scriptures. It happened through a White Canadian woman who believed that growth was normative and that Christians should put themselves in potentially risky situations to reach out to others for the sake of God’s kingdom. It happened through a group of White, Asian, Latino, and Black college students who were trying to figure out their respective faith journeys, and who walked with me as I did the same.
This multiethnic heritage that God provided during my college years was truly a gift to me, as well as to my parents, I’m sure, who watched my faith deepen in significant ways.
Leaving a Legacy
I have two children who are at the beginning of their lives of following Jesus, and I am prayerfully working with my wife and church to instill values and practices that point them toward Jesus and give them a healthy Christian heritage.
I also pray that both of them find an exciting and missional InterVarsity group when they go to college, one that can help to transform and mature their respective faiths.
This would be a wonderful gift to a grateful dad, as I know the continued development of my faith was to my parents.
Phil Bowling-Dyer is the associate director of InterVarsity's Multiethnic Ministries.