This morning I am reflecting on an event that occurred 100 years ago tomorrow, July 28, 1918, an event that impacted my life. Literally. My father Roy Chester Weliever was born in Montgomery County, Indiana.
Dad was a part of the what Tom Brokaw dubbed as “The Greatest Generation” who “gave so much and asked so little.” He grew up working on a farm just outside of New Ross, Indiana. Living through the Great Depression, times were tough. But his values were formed and forged by his parents Fred and Flora Weliever that would serve him well throughout his life.
After graduating from the High School and serving two years in the Army, Dad moved to Indianapolis and began working at the U.S. Rubber Company, which later became Uniroyal. There he met Mattie Katherine Key, an 18-year-old girl who had moved from Butler County, Kentucky, to find work. They married on October 26, 1946. Soon after I was born in March of 1948, they moved to the country outside of Plainfield, Indiana, and lived there until Dad and Mom retired to Florida in 1976. He passed from this life on April 25, 1994, at the age of 75.
As I reflect on my heritage I’m reminded that we are all products of both nature and nurture. While I received my physical characteristic including a tall, slender frame from my father, I realize there was much more.
My Dad was not a worldly, sophisticated man. He was a simple, no-nonsense, down to earth kind of man. He was succinct. Straightforward. And serious. (I get my sanguine personality from my mother). To borrow an expression from a past generation, “his word was his bond.” I can remember him agreeing on a business deal with local farmers with a simple handshake. They knew Dad could be trusted to keep his word.
Dad never made a lot of money, by the world’s standards. But he lived by a common belief of that era “it’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save.” He knew the value of a dollar. He lived by the ethics of thrift, frugality, fiscal responsibility. He never borrowed money except to buy a house. And even then he paid off a 15-year loan in less than 10 years.
As a result my brother, Bill and I, learned to work, not whine. We were given chores. We worked in the field, in the garden and took care of the cows and pigs we had on our few acres of land. We were taught when you produce something of value, it is rewarded. And we were reminded that “life is not always fair.”
But more importantly, Dad taught and lived by the principles of the Bible. Soon after Dad and Mom were married, he made a commitment to Christ and became a Christian. While my Mom had a strong influence on Dad’s early spiritual growth, there was no doubt who was the leader of our home. He took discipleship seriously. I can still see him sitting in his big chair, reading the Bible. No meal was ever eaten before Dad led our family in a fervent, heartfelt prayer. I can still hear the tone of reverence and respect in his voice when he prayed.
Dad encouraged me to be a Christian. Live a faithful God-centered life. And later to preach the gospel. When I began preaching on an appointment basis in central Indiana, Dad provided a car filled with gas to make those trips.
Dad was not an eloquent man, but in his own unpretentious way, taught Bible classes. Gave devotional talks. Shared the gospel. Served as a deacon in the local church. And eventually was asked to be one of the shepherds. Dad was responsible for many people obeying the Gospel through some, simple fill-in-blank Bible studies he taught. Raymond Harris once told me of a period one winter where he baptized 11 people who Dad had personally taught.
I can look back and see my Dad growing from a good follower of Christ to a humble spiritual leader. He set before us a godly example. Demonstrated the virtue of self-discipline. And practiced personal spiritual renewal. Dad held firm to his convictions and encouraged us to do the same.
There was no such thing as a “double standard” with Dad. He expected me to “practice what I preach.” While at Florida College my Sophomore year, he felt like I might be getting “off track” in my daily life, and wrote me a simple one-page letter of encouragement and admonishment. At the bottom of the letter, he just wrote the reference, Romans 12:1-2, which reads:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Another one of Dad’s favorite passages was John 14:1-3, which I recall him using as a basis for Wednesday night talks.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
As I am growing closer to the age when Dad died, I’m reminded of my own mortality. The need for spiritual renewal. The importance of persistence. And the resolve to press on toward the heavenly goal as he did.
It is my fervent prayer that the spiritual values he taught me have been properly instilled in our son, Kenny, and daughter, Rachél and will be passed on their children Miles and Katherine. And Dad’s namesake, Roy, and Fern.
As I reminisce about my father indeed “the memory of the righteous is blessed (Prov. 10:7).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman