By Jim Hukill
In the late 1960's, my father, a Texan, picked up a church magazine and read an article about the need for pastors in the poorest region of our country, the Appalachian Mountains. Those paragraphs stirred my dad's heart. So, in December 1973 our u-haul truck backed up to a small apartment attached to a small church in Richlands, VA and our family began a ministry journey that would last more than thirty years.
When in that region of the world, one can be easily captivated by the culture of the people; their music, their charming dialect, and sense of strong community. There, deep into the heart of earth, coal miners work endlessly in conditions that take their breath away at life's end and kicks up a dust that settles on everything nestled back in the deep hollows of the hills. Nothing, however, is quiet as breathtaking as those beautiful mountains. Rising above the dust, the poverty, and personal struggle of life are the most awe inspiring mountain ranges… stretching on without end.
Among all the hypnotic charms of that life, what I remember more than anything, is the strength of my father's call to that place and the people that lived there. It was among these majestic monuments of God's creativity that my parents gave of their talents, invested their relationships, and sowed their spiritual passions into the lives of people in need; the mountain folk who just needed a pastor.
There were times when my dad, brother, and friends would tie ropes on my chair to traverse terrain that was virtually impossible. I recall my dad pushing and tugging my wheelchair through brush and weeds, across rocks and terrain so steep that my chair would nearly turn over. He would exhaust himself. For what? So, we could sit together along a creek and fish, talk, experience, learn.
Amazing! There was so much to be in awe of; things that could grab one's attention for hours.
Wow, those days were so enlightening. One lesson I took from those moments: when life's struggle is overwhelming, from a mountain's summit one can rise above it all. You see, at the top of the mountain you would almost forget how hard the climb is. Through every struggle of life, I am so motivated by that life experience as a teenager. Every challenge seems to drive me toward another vista.
The power of a call. The power of a view. The power of Dad.
Recalling these experiences has never been as important to me as they are today. December 28, 2008 marks the second anniversary of my Dad's passing. Thanks Dad for giving me the power to climb.