PARAGOULD, Ark. (BNC) by J. Randal Matheny — After my dad’s passing on July 13, I asked my mom for one thing that belonged to him: his shoe brush, acquired while he was in the Army, into the top of which was etched what must have been Dad’s military nickname, “Jim Arkey.”
That shoe brush represents one of the memories I have of my dad. Every Sunday morning, while he watched Batsell Barrett Baxter speak on the “Herald of Truth” program, he would polish and shine his shoes with that brush. That simple act exemplifies for me the preparation he often made for spiritual efforts.
For every church meeting in the Stonewall community, in northern Greene County, we arrived 30 minutes early. Dad would turn on heaters or air conditioning, shovel snow, greet people as they streamed in. He maintained that practice all his life.
Even with his limited education, my dad did whatever was needed in church. He led singing and prayer, taught Bible class, made repairs on the building. In later years, he led devotionals and offered the invitation. At the Stonewall congregation, he served as treasurer. At Center Hill, in Paragould, he worked many years with the benevolence program.
When I was young, and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, Dad would beat me to the answer, if he was nearby. “I hope he’ll make a preacher,” he’d say without hesitation. In spite of my protests then, I wound up fulfilling his hopes.
Dad encouraged me to study. He saw my interest in books and pointed to education as a means of a better life. He desired for me opportunities that he did not have.
In spite of limited opportunities, Dad put his own mind to use. He started at the hospital as an orderly, worked up to a career as a respiratory therapist, was named head of the Pulmonary Department, and was then confirmed as department head when the Cardiology Department was joined to the former.
His work ethic was impeccable. For years Dad drove a Karmann Ghia that allowed him to trek the roads into town over snow and ice, when other vehicles slid into the ditches.
I wrote earlier this year about “The Blessings of Growing Up in a Christian Home.” My parents were active in evangelism and church planting. And when one congregation where we met embraced false doctrine and refused correction, our family left and started driving to a congregation in another town some miles away. The truth of the gospel wasn’t a mere concept or ideal, but something to be practiced and shared.
By the time I was immersed at age 14, these truths were embedded in my spiritual DNA. They have served me well for the 30 years we have worked in Brazil. I sought to pass them on to my children.
Dad’s shoe brush reminds me not only of clothes prepared for a church meeting, but of a life dedicated to serving to the best of his ability. I pray mine may be worthy of his.
Jim Matheny’s funeral obituary can be accessed here.