My parents didn’t attend church, but their everyday faith stuck with me

Written by Dorothea Miller

As I lay in the spare bedroom, the voice from the radio filled the room. The Hour of Decision, Billy Graham’s radio show, was the only “church” my dad attended while I was growing up. Listening to the broadcast was one way I could spend time with my very busy father. My dad’s faith was nurtured through those broadcasts.

It didn’t end there either. Decision magazine arrived monthly, and on the rare occasions I saw the register of his chequebook, there was always a donation to the ministry.

My mother didn’t attend church either. My parents dropped off my siblings and me every Sunday. In the summers, we walked to church for Vacation Bible School, where, at a young age, I accepted Christ as my Saviour. I sat with my sister or friends in church and loved listening to the choir sing.

I always knew we were a Christian home because of the emphasis put on our faith. The teaching in our home was made up of prayer before dinner, well-thumbed Bibles (I often saw my mother reading hers), and Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible.

My mother read Bible stories to me and then, as I learned to read, I read them or looked at the illustrations on my own. Somehow, those illustrations and stories brought the Bible to life. Recently, I listened to the story of David and Jonathan and pictured the two out in a field with a bow and arrow, just like the illustrations in the story Bible.

I asked my father once why he didn’t attend church. He said they were deeply hurt there and would not go back. He never gave me any more information, but this experience, along with certain issues my mother developed as she got older, kept them from finding another church.

Nevertheless, my parents still wanted their children to attend. They encouraged us to develop and grow our own faiths. When I wanted to go to Camp Allegheny, a United Methodist Camp, my dad happily paid for a week every summer.

My grandmother also had a deep, well-worn faith and made it clear to the entire family that there was one way to heaven, and we had best get on it! She was not one to mince words. She was a faithful church attender and staunch teetotaler. Most of her children also followed in her footsteps, including one of my uncles, who became a pastor.

I was often impressed by the many underlines, highlights, stars, and verses in the margin of my parents’ Bibles. My father’s Bibles are some of my dearest possessions. By reading the markings I can see his struggles and his faith. They are a legacy for me and the next generation. What story does your Bible tell?

I find that my Christian faith has to be lived. Listening to a sermon is just the beginning. But living it, hour by hour, is what demonstrates my faith to others. Everything from reactions at funerals, support during crises, a helping hand, and a well-used Bible all point to faith.

My parents’ everyday examples showed me their faith and gave me a solid foundation on which to grow my own beliefs. To grow that faith, I attended church studies and gatherings and depended on Bible reading. Bible Study Fellowship, an international Bible study for men and women, has proven invaluable to me over the last nine years in challenging me to grow.

Sometimes our families encourage us, other times they discourage us. But in every life, it has to be our decision to increase our own faiths, no matter our backgrounds.