My Dad got the most important question in life right...and he never forgot it.
faithful in a few things
By Chaplain David Trogdon
People often call me a “hero” because I wear this uniform. While I appreciate their kind words, I always feel a little uneasy. In my mind, I am no hero. Recently, I said good-bye to a real hero—my Dad. He wasn’t perfect, and he couldn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he was a hero in the eyes of his family and—more important—in the eyes of God. He was a true hero of the faith. Because I was in Iraq, I was unable to be with Dad when he died. But it is more important that I was there when he lived.
My memories of my dad begin six years before my birth. Obviously, I wasn’t there, but I have heard him tell the story time and again. In February of 1955, a drunk, “so low even the dogs wouldn’t even bark at him,” walked down the aisle of a little Free Will Baptist church in the mountains of West Virginia and was “born again.” Just as the Apostle Paul shared the testimony of his conversion with everyone he met, my dad openly shared his testimony about how he met Jesus; how Jesus saved his soul and his marriage; and how Jesus called him to preach the gospel. On that night, 24-year-old coal miner Donald Trogdon met Jesus, and his life was changed forever. A hero was born.
For the next 53 years, Dad served the Lord faithfully. He led my mother to Christ, and eventually all three children became Christians. While Dad never attended Bible college and was not a nationally recognized pastor or well-known evangelist, he faithfully pastored several small churches in West Virginia and Indiana.
As I watched my Dad work full time, pastor full time, and serve God full time through good days and bad, he taught me far more about Christian life ministry than I ever learned in Bible college or seminary. Dad taught me by his life and his example.
He set an example of unconditional love for his family, especially my mom. One of most difficult moments of watching both parents losing their battles with Alzheimer’s disease is the day when they wake up and don’t know who you are, or—even worse—don’t know each other. For the last year or so, Dad and Mom lived as strangers.
When I came home on leave from Iraq, I learned that Dad had stopped eating, had lost over 45 pounds, and was extremely weak. Yet to my surprise, he asked, “Where is Lulu?” I walked with him to the other side of the nursing home and watched him give his beloved Lulu a goodbye kiss. As I wheeled him back to his room, I knew I had just witnessed a gift from God. My dad is a hero because he loved his family until the end.
Dad also loved the ministry. He worked in a factory and sold insurance so the little churches he started and served could have a “full-time” pastor. He sacrificed much, including precious time with his family, because he loved being a pastor to God’s people. I watched him love people who hated him and love people who used him. He loved people because He knew that Jesus first loved him.
We won’t know how many souls accepted Christ as a result of Dad’s influence until we get to Heaven, but I know for sure that he led his wife, three children, grandchildren, and great grandchild (my two-year-old grandson “Big Nate”) to the Lord. Every person God allows me to reach for Christ can be traced back to Dad—the best and most loving pastor I have ever known.
He loved the ministry so much that he never really retired. When my parents could no longer live alone, we convinced him to move into the assisted living facility by suggesting that God had provided him with a church that needed a pastor. We joked that the salary wasn’t much but did include room and board—a little “parsonage room” for him and mom. Dad was overjoyed and immediately started his new ministry.
He walked the hallways, encouraging and praying with his new “church members.” He happily recounted how he led one elderly man to the Lord, and I was amazed to watch him take over a worship service provided by a local church to lead in singing and testimony time. Dad never stopped being used by God to bless others. This was never more evident than the day the center caught fire and the residents, including dad and mom, were evacuated to an empty church across the road. Dad led all the other residents in a prayer and praise service! He was a hero because he loved the ministry and he was faithful to the end.
More than anything else, Dad was a hero because of his love for the Lord. Dad’s love for Jesus motivated him in everything he did, from preaching and singing to making a living. Dad’s love for Jesus made sure that we had a Christian home. We had no cards, no cursing, and no drinking. Instead, we went to Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening service, Wednesday night Bible Study, and any other time the church doors were open. No excuse was good enough to keep us out of God’s House! Today, I am thankful that Dad loved Jesus—not only on Sunday morning but every day of the week.
Two years ago, God gave me a precious gift. I sat in a doctor’s office and watched as a psychologist gave Dad a memory test. To my dismay, he failed every part of the test. He didn’t know the year, the month, his social security number, the President of the United States, or even where he was. It broke my heart to see him so confused. Confused, that is, until the doctor gave him one last test. He said, “Mr. Trogdon, I want you to write down one sentence on this piece of paper, anything you want to write.”
To my amazement, I watched Dad write clearly and legibly, “I love Jesus with all my heart.” The doctor was speechless, and I was blessed. What a gift God had given me! My dad had gotten the most important question of life right, and he never forgot it. My dad is my hero because he loved Jesus with all his heart and was faithful to love Jesus until the end.
The best thing about being a hero of the faith is not the promotions or medals we receive in this life, but the eternal rewards in Heaven. Today, my heart is not broken because my Dad is dead because he isn’t. He is in Heaven with all the other heroes of faith.
I can’t help but recall Paul’s parting words to Timothy. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Well done, dad! You will always be my hero.
About the Writer: Chaplain Major David Trogdon recently returned from a long tour of duty in Iraq. He pays tribute to his dad, long-time Free Will Baptist pastor and church planter. He and his family are stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama.