A Daughter’s Tribute To Her Father

Me and Dad in the white sands desert

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.

Introducing Baby Paul | A Tribute to Dr. Paul Hiebert

On Thursday, May 16, 2013, we joyfully welcomed our son Paul into our family. What a joy to call him by name for the first time in his life. Paul is my favorite character in the Bible, but we named our son not after the great apostle, but after the late Paul Hiebert. I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to Dr. Paul Hiebert and his legacy that carries on through the many lives that he touched throughout the world, including mine. On a separate post which I’ll publish later, I’ve included a tribute written by Dr. Hiebert’s youngest daughter, Barbara, who I was privileged to meet during my time with her father. Barbara is currently a missionary serving in El Salvadore. Thank you, Barbara for sharing!

Paul, A Humble Servant of God
I first met Dr. Paul Hiebert during my first year at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while doing my masters studies. I had heard about Dr. Hiebert from others and eagerly looked for opportunities to register for his classes. I ended up taking one of his classes in my first semester at TEDS in the fall of 2005. More than his teaching, I was amazed by the man himself. He spoke with grace and taught with humility, unlike any other teacher I’ve ever had. I would come to learn later that he was the most sincere and openhearted Christian leader I have ever known.

During my first year of seminary, I lived in the graduate dormitories and was looking for a place to live for the following year. I had heard that Dr. Hiebert housed students in his home, which he called the “Ashram.” Naively, I inquired about living there after one of his classes. I didn’t realize that most of his residents were doctoral students and other leaders in the missions world. I was a simple pastor in the first year of my theological studies. To my amazement, he graciously extended an invitation for me to live in his home after I had returned from a missions trip to India that summer (the very place he had served and loved throughout his life).

DrHiebertThe few months that I spent with Dr. Hiebert and the others who lived at the Ashram were some of the most precious memories of my life. We talked about the world as we watched the BBC newscast everyday. We talked theology and missiology as we sat around the dinner table. And we talked about life and family as we shared ice cream with one another every night, exactly at 9pm. He would always have chocolate chip. There was no need to explore new flavors. He knew what he liked. In those days, I witnessed the humility of Dr. Hiebert firsthand. I saw his godliness displayed when we prayed or discussed the Scriptures together. I saw his love for neighbor expressed in daily acts of kindness. And I saw his deep affection for his family as he embraced his beautiful children. He was a servant of God. I spent many a night wondering to myself how I was so blessed to be a small part of the life of this dear man of God.

Shortly after I arrived at the Ashram, we heard news of Dr. Hiebert’s cancer. My time at the Ashram would end up being the final months of his life. O to see a faithful saint awaiting to meet his wonderful Savior! Those are the only words I can use to describe those days. He lived his life fully to the glory of God to the very end. He continued to speak with grace. He continued to act in love. He continued to pray with faith.

Dr. Hiebert was one of the leading missiologists of our day; a prolific author and an amazing teacher to hundreds throughout the world. But to me, he was more than a brilliant scholar. He was even more than my teacher. He was a humble servant of God. This is his legacy in my life. And this is what I look forward to passing on to our son, Paul Roh. I’m reminded everyday of my shortcomings and how I fall short of his example. But I’m also reminded of the words of Hebrews 13:7,  “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”