A CALL TO SERVICE
At his funeral Saturday, people praised Ken Parfitt for his faith and his works.
He believed in God, and his life demonstrated it.
One aspect of that was the generosity and service he showed others. Person after person stood in the vast church and recounted instances in which the Parfitt heart or the Parfitt wallet were opened to the benefit of others.
With his sons in tow, he wired houses and hung drywall, roofed garages and fixed appliances. All for nothing, all for the love of God. All because somebody had need and he had ability.
He wrote monthly checks to missionaries across the world, he offered his savings to a family trying to buy a home.
He believed God called him to be a servant, and that the truest way to serve God was to serve God’s children. He ministered in every way he could, and he gave everything he had.
While at home he and his wife and their eight children lived humbly and frugally.
But, like I said, his funeral was Saturday.
We met the Tuesday before that, in a blizzard on the side of the road, where he lay crumpled and dying from his last act of service.
A car had gone off the road and down an embankment and Ken and his son saw it. They were driving to work, the son reading the Bible aloud as they went, and they saw someone in need of help.
Ken pulled to the shoulder, he and the son got out into the cold, and hiked down to the disabled car. When they determined that no one was injured, and that a tow truck was on the way, they came back up the hill to their vehicle, and while the son got in the passenger door, Ken walked around to the driver’s side.
Which is when another vehicle slid on the ice and slammed into them.
Ken was struck and thrown and would never regain consciousness. He was dead 24 hours later.
And Saturday I contemplated his children and sweetheart wife. They bravely sang, they listened to the testimonies, they clung to their faith.
But there are realities, even in faith, and belief in the future does not erase the pain of today.
Nor does it put food on the table or a roof over the head.
And that’s what I thought about as I drove away from the funeral on a bright winter afternoon. The Lord doth provide, but he usually asks us to help. And just as Ken Parfitt’s labor and generosity were the answer to many other families’ prayers, so too might the generosity of other decent people now be the answer to his family’s needs.
There are eight children at home. The youngest is 6. Mom has been at home, teaching the children. The house itself is incomplete, its progress slowed by Ken’s frequent assistance to others. The family’s car was damaged the day of the accident.
There will be life insurance, and Social Security survivors’ benefits for the children, but they won’t come close to being what the family will need, especially as the years pass.
That’s what I thought of as I drove home Saturday.
It was easier to think about that. The pain in Ken’s wife’s face, the sorrow of her sobs, I can’t think about those. And I can’t help those. And neither can you.
But maybe we can do something about the other.
Maybe we can do something about providing for the family Ken left behind. Not just a quick check dashed off to salve our pain, but maybe a commitment to grow our soul.
As I drove, I thought of this passage from the Bible: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”
That would be Ken’s family.
That would be a challenge to us.
There are many charitable organizations, there are any number of funds to which people can contribute.
But what can a community do to support a family that will have minor children in the home for another 15 years? If we were to treat Ken’s family the way he treated others, what would we do, and how long would we do it? And who would do what part?
Some would need to donate money. Maybe a great many would need to donate money. And not just a check here and now – as kind and generous as that would be – but over years. For example, if 100 people donated $50 a month, that would be $60,000 a year. That, with Social Security, might be a start. It might be enough.
But it wouldn’t be for just a year.
And we haven’t been asked before to do a kindness entailing this much sacrifice over a period of years.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
And it doesn’t mean that those with greater means couldn’t commit to more, or that those who could contribute less would be any less appreciated.
People have different abilities, and could contribute in different ways. Those ways taken together could be enough to keep Ken’s family provided for.
For example, perhaps a family farmer could raise an extra hog, or split a beef. Maybe the hunters of our region could load a freezer or two or three with venison.
The truck farmers and gardeners could plant an extra row or donate a few bushels, and those who know how to can and preserve could put that bounty up, to fill the Parfitt larder.
These are simple, homespun things, but they can fill bellies and take pressure off the family purse.
A mechanic could watch over the car, a plumber could watch over the pipes, an accountant could volunteer to do the taxes. Any number of neighbors with specialized skills or ample blessings could help sustain and support this family.
Someone could donate a stove, and someone else could install it, and as families put up wood perhaps they could each cut and haul an extra cord or so for Ken’s family. Much money could be saved that way, and winter’s cold kept at bay.
A church congregation might pledge to pay the property tax one year, a service club might want to pay the electric bill one month. Businesses might try to find jobs for the older children.
All of these things are possible, and taken together they would work. But it would require commitment and sacrifice over years.
We don’t typically do charity that way, but there’s nothing that says we can’t try.
It’s natural to ask: Why this family? And what about others in need?
Those are valid questions, for which there may not be answers. We have taken this family to heart because we have glimpsed its goodness and grief. And while we can’t fix the problems of the world, we can help in this small place, and perhaps others can likewise help elsewhere.
We can’t stop the suffering of the world, but we can help this one family.
And we should.
Because just as Ken Parfitt’s life was both faith and action, his death calls us to both faith and action. Some see in it a call to embrace his faith and devotion. There is also a call to take up his spirit of selfless sacrifice and service. His example challenges us to believe as he believed, and serve as he served.
Belief is a personal matter, but service can be a joint effort.
And in the hours since that funeral on Saturday, I have wondered if you and I are called to take up that joint effort of supporting his family.
We can keep that family in its home. We can let that mother continue as her children’s teacher. We can ease the anxiety and privation of the loss of a breadwinner.
We can’t dry the teary eye. We can’t heal the broken heart. We can’t fill the lonely years or guide the growing young.
But we can put food on the table and money in the bank. Not one of us, but many of us, and not just now, but for years to come.
We can do it if we want to. It is possible.
The only question is: Do we want to?
In this Christmas week, as individuals and families, as businesses and associations, we should think and prioritize, we should ponder and pray.
And we should find out if we have it in us to perform this service, to make this sacrifice, to help this family.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2010