Dennis Carrington’s tribute at the service

May 14, 2009

My Dad was the best Dad. I know that many of you think that your Dad was, but no, it was mine.

To many of you, my Dad was your pastor, friend, or justice of the peace. He married most of us (all the aunts, uncles, and cousins on my mom’s side), and buried most of our parents or friends – and he was MY Dad.

We moved here when I was six months old. That’s how I measure the time here in Turlock where I grew up. My brother, Fred, was with us then – he’s four years older than I. Ann was born here, and she’s four years younger than I. Fred and I always said that she was spoiled – she got to do things that we didn’t, and of course she could turn Dad’s heart with just that certain look.

But it wasn’t just about NOT doing things, it was all about doing what was right. I don’t remember Dad preaching or telling us we COULDN’T do such and such, but rather we SHOULDN’T – and here’s why – yes, the all-important why – the Bible answer man.

Dad had a scripture for everything, and not just as a convenience factor to support a certain theory or religion because for him and me – Christianity is not another religion, but a way of life – and one to be lived not just preached. It’s true, ALL of us who have been privileged to have sat under his ministry have had GOOD, SOUND, BIBLICAL teaching, but only the three of us have had the opportunity to see it in daily action. And I can tell you unequivocally, that Dad LIVED WHAT HE PREACHED.

So, he would explain what the Bible had to say about such and such, and we would be left to draw our own conclusions – hopefully the right one. And, you know, the ‘preacher’s kids’ or PKs were sometimes the worst kids in town. I didn’t usually run around with some of them because they weren’t making wise decisions. I think what made my Dad the best was that he had the ability to take care of his family first, and still be a minister to his congregation. A very big congregation at one time, I may add. Over 900 in Sunday School, knowing most people by their first name, being personal with so many, visiting them when sick, giving praise when needed, yet he was MY Dad – and I knew it!

And I was proud of my Dad. Who wouldn’t be when YOUR Dad was pastor of the biggest church in the valley. I got to rub shoulders with some pretty big names. I remember going over to Candlestick Park one afternoon (yes, in the middle of the week – skipped school) to see a Giants game. After the game we went to the player’s entrance to await the new outfield sensation, Felipe Alou – a devout Christian who was to speak at the Men’s Fellowship meeting that evening. Imagine me, 15 years old, two hours in a car with a sports hero of that magnitude.

There were dinners at our house with people like David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz, the Billy Graham team. Dad said that Dr. Graham wasn’t at our house, but I think he was, at least I remember shaking his hand. Willard Cantellon, Hal Lindsey, Gene Scott, Marvin Schmidt, do you remember others?? I don’t want to leave any BIG names out, but the point is – THEY WERE AT OUR HOUSE. Yes, I am proud of my Dad and his accomplishments, and what a great home to be brought up in.

I remember Mom’s funeral at Calvary Temple how the place was packed, and we commented then, “Wow, when Dad goes, we’ll have to rent the Coliseum!” Dad’s gone, but he outlived many of his contemporaries, and continued to have an impact on many programs and events even though he was in declining health. A lot has been written on the different things Dad had a hand in, but I think the one dearest to his heart was God’s Doorkeepers. Ted has already gone over that history, but let me give you some insight from family perspective.

The papers report some 600,000 printed to date, but that figure is more like 1,000,000 when you figure in all the different languages and the two different versions. In the beginning, the packing of those cards was done by us kids. We were actually paid by the packet. Fred even made a machine that would stuff them, greatly increasing the production time, and he and Joan probably made over 100,000 of the packets – originally the “What the Bible Says” packet – primarily aimed at teaching our denomination: Why we believe What we believe (a catechism of sorts for our Assemblies of God). For the past thirteen years, that was his motivation. Am I proud of my Dad – you bet I am!!

And what a visionary he was, from the 1st District Christ Ambassador president (he created that position you know), to the 1st Sunday School Fair. He helped “scout out” Scotts Valley and move Bethany from Glad Tidings in San Francisco. He brought the Singing Christmas Tree to the Valley, countless crusades and Evangelistic meetings, Mission boards, and College and school boards.

About a year ago I was talking with Dad about a South Korean man whom I’d met. This led to a discussion of a little incident he had had many years ago while on a mission’s board. Someone came to them with a story about a Korean man who wanted to start a church in South Korea. After listening to their story, Dad said, “Let’s give him $5,000.00 to get things going.” That was a lot of money back then, and a lot of discussion followed. Dad prevailed – he was a good convincer too – and that man he helped, Dr. David Yonggi Cho, founded (according to Wikipedia) the world’s largest Christian congregation in South Korea and THE WHOLE WORLD with over 830,000 members as of 2007. Am I proud of my Dad – you bet I am!!

Dad didn’t just begin programs – he followed them through. A unique ability not only to lay out a program, but to manage and administer it as well. One of his regrets, and one that he just got too weak in his last days to proceed with, was his concern with church planting. Ever since getting word that more churches were closed this past year than were opened, Dad began to focus on our Colleges and the equipping ministry they were doing. He saw the problem, identified the need and began a campaign. Alas, he became too weak to see it through, but I have NO DOUBT in my mind that Dad would have prevailed. – What a visionary.

Whether he was leading a congregation of 900 in singing “The Lion of Judah”, or taking a group of kids to an Indian Reservation in Nevada, or taking me fishing, Dad let you know it was personal. I was his son, and he was my Dad – the best Dad.

My Dad was ‘The Bible Answer Man”. Dad finalized most of his sermons at four in the morning. That’s when he started most of his days. I would find him on his knees if (I ever got up that early). He read and re-read the Bible, but never purported to be an expert – he was always learning, and God was always revealing things to him. You could always call Dad and ask him a Bible question. ‘What is the basis for the propitiation of sin, or why immersion over sprinkling, or my kids could ask grandpa, will there be dogs in heaven”? Dad not only had an answer, he had a good answer – with scripture backup, and none of this “I’ll get back to you” stuff – he knew, right then – I don’t know how he did it, well yes I do, we all do.

He could have been an evangelist. He was well sought after as a camp or special speaker. He could have been a missionary (2 years in Germany working with the military as a substitute – they didn’t want the regular one back, but wanted him to stay), he was recruited to be a college professor and president, and wanted desperately in offices with the General Council of the Assemblies of God. All these he turned down because in his words, “God has called me to be a pastor, to shepherd a flock. How can I do that if I’m in an office somewhere high up?” How many kids have had a Dad that could do so many things, be so personal and supportive, and just be Dad. Am I proud of my Dad, you bet I am!

Dad taught me how to throw a baseball. He said he had thrown his arm out once while pitching his third softball game of the day. True, he could throw about four balls back to you, then wham, you didn’t know where the next one would go – it was weird. We would fish and hunt, and he would often have me read him the Bible as we traveled.

Once he decided to memorize the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7.) I would follow along while he would recite it out loud, and if he missed an ‘and’ or a ‘thou.’ I would call him on it – it rarely happened. A great family story is about the Thanksgiving pheasant.

In the early days of Dad’s ministry, he received the Sunday evening’s offering. That was it, whatever came in that Sunday evening – how do you budget that? Anyway, Thanksgiving was typically a pheasant that he had shot. So he went out hunting that week, and didn’t see a thing. Very unusual for him to get skunked, and he was beside himself. Here he was riding back home from the country, talking to God about how faithful a servant he had been and how he needed to be a good provider, and what was he going to do, when all of a sudden POW, a rooster flew up from the side of the road right smack into the side of the car and knocked himself out cold. Dad slammed on the brakes, jumped out and grabbed Thanksgiving dinner. By the way, he did memorize the entire Sermon, and recited it on a memorable occasion, right here from this pulpit.

I’ve often thought what kind of legacy will I leave for my children and grandchildren. Have I served God to the best of my abilities, have I showed the love of God to the best of my abilities, has my family come FIRST in my life? Those questions will be answered at a later time, but for now, I can truly say, “Dad, you did it.”

He has been called a visionary, a pastor’s pastor, and a man’s man, but to me, he was Dad.

My Dad was the BEST Dad.