I’m so grateful to Barbara Rowe for sharing a few words about her father. Dr. Hiebert was my teacher, mentor and friend. But to Barbara, he was dad. As I think about our son, Paul, I hope I can be a loving father to him as Dr. Hiebert was to his children.
Paul, A Loving Father
Paul Hiebert is my dad, and though you all know him as an international speaker, author, teacher and mentor, I know him as a dad. While you all know him for the intelligent and thoughtful man that he is, I know about his quirky side, his idiosyncrasies and his penchant for chocolate; and I know what an amazing man he is.
Here’s a guy who pulled coins out of our ears as children, played the guitar out of tune to make us laugh, and took us hiking in the hills of India where he had grown up as a boy. Always the teacher, he taught us percentages by counting the number of red cars for every 50 cars on the freeway, and astronomy by taking us out at night to photograph the planets. And, of course, we lived in the world of anthropology, learning about man by touching the skulls and stone tools in his office. In those days, it was not unusual to see Paul Hiebert, the professor, coming out of his office with one or two of his children in tow.
The best way to describe Paul Hiebert as dad, is to say that he included us. He included us in the grand adventure that is his life, and in the mission that he has carried out, that of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. And he taught us to value and respect people of all cultures and all stations in life: from the village beggar to the University president. My dad taught us to treat each human being as a child of God, a person to be valued, respected and loved.
Now that he has grandchildren, Dad has willingly taken on the role of “grandpa,” paying special attention to each one at every opportunity, teaching them about the wonders of nature and providing plenty of hugs along the way. For us as parents, he keeps us calm when we are fed up with our children, and gives sound counsel on the difficult job of parenting.
For my mother, my father was a loving and dedicated husband. Through the years of mission work, he helped my mother learn to reach out to a culture completely foreign to her, and to appreciate different ways of living, cooking, dressing, and interacting with others. Then during the years that my mother’s health was failing, my dad took on the difficult role of care giver and encourager. Courageously, he and mom made the decision together to discontinue her treatments when it became evident that the cancer was too widespread to be overcome, understanding that death is not the final word.
Most of all he loves us deeply, and does not hesitate to tell us so. This more than anything else, accounts for the faith that he has helped to cultivate in each of his children and grandchildren. When I contemplate the character of God, whom I cannot see or touch, I am brought closer to knowing who God is through my father, whom I can see and touch, and who gives great big bear hugs just when you need one.
A poet friend of my fiancée once described his family as “the porthole through which I experience the divine.” This is my dad’s legacy to us. We have learned about the nature of our Heavenly Father through the loving, kind and patient character of our earthly father. And that is an invaluable legacy for us to have been given as a family.