This is a short account of a family touched by the ministry of Dallas Seminary. Its members are all ordinary people of average ability who have experienced God's grace and faithfulness through several generations. The sketch that follows is a simple illustration of that fact.
When my Dad (Frederick, ThM 1954) and my two uncles (Robert, ThM 1956, and Paul, ThM 1956) studied at Dallas Seminary in the early 1950s it was the first time three sons from the same family were at the Seminary together.
What has been true for many students now and then was true for them—their presence on campus was a testimony to the grace of God. My grandfather, Ira Lowery, was a pastor in the United Brethren Church in Pennsylvania. His father, Daniel, had been district superintendent of the east Pennsylvania region and Daniel's father, John, had been a pastor in the same district of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. My father was born in the parsonage of the United Brethren Church in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, on December 5, 1924.
My mother, Cora Jean Kling, was born in the same town four days later on December 9, 1924. Her father, Elmer, was the superintendent of the Sunday school of the same church where my dad's father was pastor at Intercourse United Brethren Church. During these years my maternal grandfather, Elmer, was traveling to hear Dr. Lewis Chafer speak in Philadelphia and nearby Bible conferences and felt that the Sunday school literature of the Unite Brethren church could be improved by switching to literature from Scripture Press (Wheaton, Illinois). When my maternal grandfather made this recommendation to the church to purchase Sunday school quarterlies from Scripture Press, my paternal grandfather vetoed it as a matter of loyalty to the literature of the denomination his father and grandfather had served. Shortly after this my maternal grandfather decided he and his family could serve—and in turn be ministered to—better in a church recently begun in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is now Calvary Church and where Dallas Seminary graduate, Johnny Miller, is the teaching pastor. So he resigned his position in the Intercourse church.
Choosing Dallas Seminary
In the midst of all this my dad, the pastor's eldest son, had been smitten by Cora Jean, Elmer and Edna's eldest daughter. In 1945 he proposed to my mother, who turned him down several times before finally agreeing to marriage in 1947. I was born in 1949. In the meantime my father had decided he should prepare for ministry by studying at Dallas Seminary. He spoke to my grandfather about this, but he wanted him to study instead at the United Brethren seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and therefore continue the family history of attendance there.
But my father was determined to go to Dallas Seminary. Eventually my grandfather gave his blessing, but only if my father agreed to return to ministry in the United Brethren conference in Pennsylvania. He was willing to do so, and subsequently pastored denominational churches in Lebanon and Lancaster counties until he was eighty years old, retiring in the summer of 2005. By so doing he opened the way for his brothers, Bob and Paul—who were not asked to make a denominational commitment—to join him in study at Dallas Seminary two years later (1952–1956). (Bob went on to pastor Faith Bible Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Paul served as a professor at SETECA in Guatemala.) It is a testimony to the continued grace of God that children (and children-in-law) of each of these brothers in the following generation came to study at Dallas Seminary (Fred and Cora: David and Daniel; Bob and June: Carol and son-in-law, Scott Anderson; Paul and Sara: son-in-law, Tony Vasquez [three daughters graduated from SETECA and married fellow students: Linda and Danny Bardeles; Brenda and Tony Vasquez; Sandra and Pat Paredes]).
I should add here that from a human point of view, I think God's grace is also due to the faithful prayer of godly mothers and grandmothers in our family. I recall my dad's testimony about his rebelliousness as a boy, continuing into his years of service in World War II. Throughout this time his mother's (Hazel's) faithful love and prayer for him continued—a fact he believed was instrumental in his change of heart and life during his college years after the war. My parents' prayer (and that of my uncles and aunts for their families) was no less faithful and became an important factor in the spiritual welfare of their children and grandchildren.
More than fifty years later God has shown His grace in the fact that my brother Dan's daughter, Stephanie (his wife, Jeanie, continues to serve with Africa Inland Mission after my brother's death in 1998) is a student at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and plans to return to ministry in Africa after graduation. My own children with my wife, Deb, and their spouses are preparing for ministry as students at Dallas Seminary: Daniel and Lauren (Reagin); John and Crystal (Stanszak); and Mary.
One professor at Dallas Seminary has taught three generations of our family: Dr. Howard Hendricks. He began teaching in 1952 and my dad and my two uncles took classes with him. I personally recall with appreciation his class on "The Christian Home" from my days as a student in the 1970s, but it was his class on Bible Study Methods that challenged each of us—and generations of other students—to a ministry devoted to preaching and teaching the Bible.
Does God continue to show His grace to ordinary people in these years of the second millennium? Absolutely! The faithful prayer of grandparents and parents continues by God's grace to reap benefits in the lives of this new generation. So let us "not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up" (Gal. 6:9).