Dr. Campbell standing with hands outreached in regalia

Dwight L. Moody once proclaimed, “Character is what a man is in the dark.” As Dr. Donald Campbell's only daughter, I can attest to the fact that my father is not only a man of the utmost character, but he is also a man after God's own heart. On the momentous occasion of his 90th birthday, I'd like to share four lessons my dad has taught me so as to reveal just how blindingly bright this humble man shines “in the dark.”

Four Lessons My Father Taught Me

My dad has taught me how to passionately and perpetually pursue an intimate relationship with Jesus through the study of God's Word and through prayer. As a young child, I would tiptoe into my dad's office late at night and see him hovering over his beloved and tattered Bible, enthusiastically studying the Word of God. Even today when I visit, I still find him at his desk assuming this same position. His commitment to learning more about our Lord has only grown stronger with time. Studying and sharing about the Good Book brings him great joy, and his enthusiasm for Christ is contagious. He is a great scholar of the Bible because he is a devoted student of the Bible, and I'm so thankful for his faithful example.

My dad’s passion for studying the Word of God fuels his disciplined prayer life. I learned how to pray by observing his authentic, raw, and humble way of communicating with his Heavenly Father. He is a mighty prayer warrior, and his prayers—I'm convinced—have gotten my family and me through some of our most difficult life seasons. 

Second, my dad has taught me the importance of putting my faith into practice. Although my dad is an academic theologian, his faith isn't confined to the classroom. He and my mom consistently sought out opportunities to serve the least, the last, and the lost of this world, and by doing so, they instilled within me a deep understanding of and appreciation for God's abundant grace and mercy. On a weekly basis, my parents would invite DTS international students and missionaries over to our home for a warm, home-cooked meal to make them feel welcome while they lived so far away from their families and countries. The love, compassion, and genuine interest my dad showed these special visitors expanded my worldview and ignited within me a deep love for missions.

Third, my father serves as the best example I know of one who clothes himself with humility (1 Peter 5:5). My dad is a brilliant man with countless noteworthy accomplishments, yet he genuinely lives out Proverbs 27:2 (“Let someone else praise you, and not your mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”). Many years ago, my husband's parents traveled to Texas to meet my parents for the first time. When my dad opened the door to welcome them inside, my in-laws greeted him by saying “Hello, Dr. Campbell,” to which he replied, “There is no doctor living here.” His gentle and humble spirit has a way of making those around him instantly comfortable. He fits right in among some of the brightest theologians and academics of our time, yet he is perhaps most in his element in his role as “daddy” and “papa.”

Fourth, my dad has taught me how to be a loving parent and spouse. In a world in which good fathers are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, I am so thankful to God for blessing me with an earthly dad who serves as an example to me each day of how our heavenly dad loves and cherishes His children. Shepherding our family has always been one of my father's greatest joys. Throughout our formative years, he provided my three brothers and me with an abundance of love, support, and security, and he instilled within each one of us a deep love for Jesus and others. He intentionally developed a relationship with each of his children, and he encouraged us all to explore our interests and to develop our individual strengths. Today, he continues to be my wise advisor, faithful encourager and trusted counselor.

The Best Thing a Father Can Do

If Reverend Theodore Hesburgh's quote that “the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother” is true, then my brothers and I are indeed richly blessed. My dad was an affectionate, committed, and tender husband to my mom until the second she drew her last breath in 1991. I learned what a strong, healthy, and God-honoring marriage looked like by watching their example. My dad adoringly cared and advocated for my mom throughout her long, brutal battle with cancer, and he stayed by her side comforting and ceaselessly praying for her until she left this world to be with our Jesus.

Today, my dad loyally and lovingly cares for my stepmom who suffers from advanced Alzheimer's disease. Being a caretaker is one of the most challenging and thankless jobs there is, but my dad refuses to get stuck in a spiral of discouragement. Rather than complaining when asked about his current situation, he simply states our Lord has called him to a season of “divine house arrest.” Despite the difficulties life has thrust his way, he remains an incorrigible and resilient optimist who holds tight to the hope and promises of our Lord and whose mantra is “tomorrow will be a better day.”

I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for gifting me with such a wonderful father. He is a man of quiet strength and conviction and unshakeable faith, and he continues to teach and inspire me on a daily basis. 

About the Contributors

Mary Burnidge

Mary, the only daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Don Campbell, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is married to Mike (ThM, 1980), senior pastor of North Ridge Community Church in Cave Creek, Arizona. Together, they have one daughter, Hannah, and two sons, Spencer, and Jordan. Mary works as a substitute teacher and has a passion for serving the “least of these.” She spends her spare time running marathons, leading missions trips to Mexico and India, and organizing the homeless and refugee ministries at her church.