Is Your Father Alive?

A Father’s Day Tribute To   Some Special Father-Figures in My Life © By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD; June 18, 2017   Last year (2016) was a particularly trying year for me. Within the span of six months (from June to December 2016), I lost my biological father and three special father-figures a...

The Land of Blessing

The Inauguration of "Dunia ya Heri" Report by Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Ph.D  On the weekend of June 9-11, 2017, I was privileged to be a special guest at the inauguration of “Dunia ya Heri”  Children's Home (or Orphanage) in a small rural village called Yale Yale Puna, in the Kigamboni District...

Formed of Steel, But Coated In Clay

[Click on Above Title Link for Clearer View]   A Tribute To Dr Raoul Dederen (1925-2016)  By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD [NOTE: Dr. Raoul Dederen (1925-2016) was my “doctorvater,” theological and spiritual mentor,  pastor, father, and role-model in research and teaching. I learned from him ...

DrPipim.org - A Biblical Look at Contemporary Issues
Is Your Father Alive? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
A Father’s Day Tribute To  
Some Special Father-Figures in My Life
© By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD; June 18, 2017
 
Last year (2016) was a particularly trying year for me. Within the span of six months (from June to December 2016), I lost my biological father and three special father-figures and/or role-models. These painful experiences of bereavement form the backdrop to this Father’s Day reflection on some very exceptional men who had been father-figures in my life.
 
The title of the present reflection (“Is Your Father Alive?”) is borrowed from a series of questions posed by the Governor of Egypt to the children of Jacob who had traveled to Egypt to purchase grain. (Unbeknownst to Jacob’s children, that Egyptian governor was none other than their own brother Joseph, whom years earlier they had sold away). That Governor of Egypt—and trusted deputy to the Pharaoh—asked the sons of Jacob:
 
“Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?... Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” (Genesis 43:7; 27). 

In the context of every Father’s Day reflection on the fathers and special men in our lives, the above questions are worthy of a thoughtful and prayerful response. I paraphrase the questions to simply read: “Is your father alive?”
 
Sadly, for me, because of the demise of my biological father (and the other father-figures in my life), the answer to the question is No. My father is not alive; he is dead. He died six months ago.  I can only say he is alive in the sense that the things I learned from him—the values and valuable lessons of life—still live on, and that by the grace of God I plan to order my life according to them. 

1. MY BIOLOGICAL FATHER
Isaac Kofi Pipim (1931-2016)
 
Father’s Day this year (2017) is the first in my life to not have with me my natural or biological father. He died last year in a tragic accident that was rather surreal. One early morning, around 5:00 am, he was knocked down by a hit-and-run vehicle, and while he lay on the road groaning in pain, he was crushed by a second hit-and-run vehicle. He died at the age of 85.
 
On that day of my father’s death, December 1, 2016, I became officially an orphan; for my mother had died a few years earlier. So, for the record, I am presently fatherless and motherless. 
 
Thus, in the context of the question posed in Genesis 43:7, 27 by Pharaoh’s deputy (Joseph)—“Is your father still alive?... Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”)— I answer: My natural father is not alive. The old man concerning whom I now speak—my African father who lived up to 85 years—is only alive in the sense that he still lives in my memory. To that extent, he is well. And I’m forever grateful for the valuable lessons I learned from him while he was yet with us. 
 
For those who did not know my father, Mr. Isaac Kofi Pipim (or Opanyin Pipim), allow me to share what my half-sister Dora recounted during our father’s funeral service in his home village of Agona-Ashanti, Ghana, on March 16, 2017. Dora was the first born of our father’s four surviving children, and what she said on that day accurately captures what I knew of and learned from our father—especially after the Lord miraculously turned his life around during the latter part of his life:
 
“Oh LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!... When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers— the moon and the stars, which You have ordained—what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” 
 
“The above words are from the eighth chapter of the Psalms of David, verses 1, 2, and 4. In fact, Psalm 8 was our father’s favorite Bible chapter. And his favorite hymn was William Clayton’s “Come, Come Ye Saints… All is well! All is well!” 
 
“With a very heavy heart and a deep sense of sorrow, I stand here on behalf of my brothers to pay this tribute to our father. My name is Dora (a.k.a “Sewaa”). And standing besides me are my younger brothers: Kwabena (that’s me, SKP), Akwasi, and Eric.
 
“During his early life, our father made lots of mistakes. But, to the glory of God, the Lord turned his life around. And during the latter years of his life, our father left behind a very rich example and legacy of caring for others. I would like to share a few with you. 
 
“Our father was a Christian gentleman. His gentle character was developed through the painful experiences of his life, as well as through his walk with God. He taught us to be kind and respectful of others, no matter how low their status is in society. 
 
“We shall fondly remember our father for the great encouragement he gave us. No matter how difficult the situation, he always had encouraging words for us. From him, we learned that, with the Lord on our side, “it will be well, even in the well.”
 
“Besides his own children, our father was always there for other people. He embraced their needs as his own and stood up for them when no one was willing to do so. He was a father to the fatherless, extending his care to all who called upon him—whether in the church, in the community, or the extended family.
 
“Our father loved the Lord and the Lord’s work. Although he was trained as a school teacher, doing missionary work was his passion and delight. Thus, wherever he was posted to work (whether as a school teacher or in some other role) he was actively involved in missionary activities. As a result, many souls were won to Christ through his efforts. And he mentored many young people to be responsible leaders.
 
“Also, throughout his life, he had a love for music, which he combined with his missionary activities. [He composed music, sang with a beautiful voice, and had a unique ability to bring music out of people] Wherever he went, if there was no Singing Band, he quickly mobilized the members and formed one. And where there was one in existence, he greatly improved upon it.
 
“Our father encouraged us to be ‘crazy for God.’ He bade us to put our whole heart into God’s work; to be so totally committed to His cause so that people may think we’re crazy. And if they do consider us that way, we should say, ‘Yes, we’re crazy for God.’ But he was also quick to constantly remind us that, in all our successes in life—whether professional or spiritual—we must give all the glory to God. Always!
 
“We shall remember our father for his humility and forgiving spirit. When at fault, he readily admitted it and made things right. When he was hurt by others, he always extended a hand of peace and reconciliation.
 
“Father, you taught us to love and to serve God. You reminded us that He is a faithful God, and that if we put our total trust in Him, He will save us. We know that, to the very end, you trusted Him with all your heart! This is why we believe that we shall see you again on the Resurrection morning.”

My sister Dora spoke for both myself and our two other siblings (Akwasi & Eric). Though our father is no longer alive, although the old man concerning whom we speak is now gone, yet the lessons from his life live on. 
 
I had just arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, for a missionary endeavor when I received the news of his sudden death. Particularly pained by the manner in which he died, I wrote this thought-nugget to encourage myself and those who were mourning their own losses:
 
THE PRIVILEGE OF SORROW:
Sorrow deserves our utmost respect and gratitude. It has mentored some of the wisest, inspired some of the noblest ideals and acts, and refined those privileged by its company. George MacDonald (1824-1905) said it best: “No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in a wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have ‘learned in suffering what they taught in song.’…Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He puts them in the fire.” Sorrow is a privilege. Cherish it! (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
 
But, as I indicated in the opening paragraph, I didn’t just lose my biological father last December 2016, I also lost three special father-figures, individuals who, in their different ways, were my role-models and/or spiritual fathers. One of them died in October, less than two months before my father’s demise; the other other two father-figures died six months earlier in June 2016.
 
Allow me to say a few words about these three special father-figures.  They were: (i) My “doctorvater,” Dr. Raoul Dederen (a theologian); (ii) My spiritual father, Elder Charles D. Brook (a pastor/evangelist); and (iii) My “unlikely” father, Muhammed Ali (a boxer). The bereavements of these three role-models inspired me to write some of my well-received thought-nuggets. 
 
2. MY “DOCTORVATER” :
Dr. Raoul Dederen (1925-2016)
 
Two months before the death of my biological father, I lost one of my spiritual and theological mentors: Belgian-born scholar Dr. Raoul Dederen (1925-2016). He died of kidney failure on October 24, 2016 at the age of 91, and his memorial service was on October 28.
 
Over the course of my life, God’s providence placed within my path some very solid, Bible-based theological role-models. Within our Church, they included such giant as Drs. Gerhard Hasel, C. Mervyn Maxwell, Willam Shea, Enock de Olivera, C. Raymond Holmes, Leroy Moore, and Raoul Dederen. Of these, Dr. Dederen was my “doctorvater.”
 
(The German word “doctorvater” is used for a student’s “doctoral advisor” or dissertation director—an experienced scholar who guides graduate students in their doctoral studies. Generally, students choose their doctoral advisors either because of their shared interests in a particular discipline or specialty, or because they desire to work closely with that particular graduate faculty who is equally willing and available to assist them. Often, the two share a unique professional and personal bond.)
 
Dr. Dederen was one of the most distinguished and influential Seventh-day Adventist theologians and educators in our time, having trained hundreds of ministers and scholars around the world. He also served as the Dean of the Church’s leading Theological Seminary at Andrews University. 
 
But, perhaps, his most lasting legacy to the Church was in his role as the editor of the monumental Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (2000). This work, which is volume 12 of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary series, carefully sets forth the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His own articles in the volume—dealing with “Christ: His Person and Work” and “The Church”—capture the depth of his theological and biblical knowledge. 
 
I chose Dr. Dederen to be my “doctorvater” because of the many roles he played in my life. 
 
· — He was one of my favorite teachers at at Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, when I arrived from Africa in 1984 to study theology for the first time. I admired him for the breadth of his theological knowledge, the organized and simple way in which he presented Bible truth, and the humility with which he carried himself.
 
· — Towards the end of my Masters of Divinity program, when, because of various reasons (and misgivings), I was seriously considering applying to Harvard Divinity School for my doctorate, he persuaded me to stay and pursue my doctoral studies at Andrews University, and he helped to secure a private scholarship for me to do so.
 
· — He influenced me to follow his footsteps by specializing in some key areas of systematic theology—namely, the “Doctrine of the Church” (or ecclesiology); the “Doctrine of the Scripture” (although, under the influence Dr. Gerhard Hasel, I moved beyond Dr. Dederen’s emphasis on revelation-inspiration to hermeneutics); the “Doctrine of Christ” (a study into the nature/person, life, and work of Christ—a fact that eventually led me to develop a personal interest in Christo-centric (or Christ-centered) ethics [since Christ is my Role-model]).
 
· — He also convinced me at that time that the major issue that the Church would face in the future was not just about the authority of Scripture (revelation-inspiration, hermeneutics), but also the Doctrine of the Church (ecclesiology). Thus, among other things, he encouraged me to pay close attention to dual issues of “the authority of the church” and “the authority in the church.” (He was right! Some 30 years later, the theological issues that are presently playing out in worldwide Church validate his prescient observation. [Perceptive readers of the last chapter of my 2015 book Courage will notice how I have analyzed some of the current issues within the church. The book is available free online at: http://drpipim.org/documents/courage.pdf.])
 
· — As my “doctorvater,” he guided me through my PhD dissertation titled, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Biblical Interpretation: A Study in the Writings of James I. Packer.” This significant work, which was under the supervision of Raoul Dederen, with Clark H. Pinnock as the external examiner, honed my skills on research and theological reasoning. 
 
· — Then, for several years, when I served as his Research Assistant, and later as his colleague in the classroom and on theological committees, I learned a great deal from his theological knowledge. From him, I learned how to reason biblically on issues facing the Church and also how to disagree with others without being disagreeable. 
 
· — Finally, in his retirement years when he came to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan (the very city where I lived and served as a Director of Public Campus Ministries at the University of Michigan) and when he attended the same local church with me, I learned from him how a Bible-based theologian places his biblical insights at the service of a local church assaulted by external theological, ideological, political and even racial agendas. From him I understood how sound biblical knowledge is vital to the life of individual members and the health of the local church as a whole. 
 
But Dr. Dederen was not just my “doctorvater” or theological mentor.  I also embraced him as my adopted father. Since he had no physical son of his own, he took me as his own, and treated me as such. And as retired ordained minister and honorary elder in our local church, he ministered personally to me as my pastor, spiritual mentor, and role-model in writing, teaching, and preaching the Word. 
 
The last time Dr. Dederen and I spoke face-to-face was after church service in our local Ann Arbor Church on Sabbath, June 18, 2016. The next day—Sunday, June 19—was Father’s Day. 
 
Though mentally and spiritually alert, he looked very frail and weak—a toll from the years of taking care of his beloved wife who had been battling with Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing his frail body, it became clear to me that our Church—both local and global—would not have Dr. Dederen much longer. Bemoaning the possibility of his imminent demise, I wrote this Father’s Day thought nugget (on June 19, 2016), which I later shared with him:
 
WHERE ARE THE MEN?
Father’s Day honors not only biological fathers, but all men who act as father-figures in our lives—stepdads, uncles, grandpas, husbands, teachers and other responsible adult males. The day isn’t for hollow hilarity, but for sober reflection and honest introspection. It’s an occasion to celebrate the real men, the ones formed of steel, though coated in clay. It’s also a day to spotlight the reality of RECKLESS men—immature, lazy, inept, selfish, arrogant, and unspiritual men—who have thereby created RESTLESS women and ZESTLESS children. A time to echo God’s haunting question from Eden: “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). And to swell the jarring refrain from today's women: “Where are the men?”
 
“Where are the men?” I searched for such Godly mentors and role-models as father-figures in my life. And in Dr. Raoul Dederen, I found one that was for keeps, one of a few who was “formed of steel, though coated in clay.”  And at a particularly difficult period in my life—and his own personal life—he taught me what it means to be a man, in the face of adversity and pain. Four months later, in October 2016, he would be laid to rest, awaiting the Resurrection.
 
During his memorial service on Friday, October 28, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was privileged to have been one of the three individuals listed on the funeral program to read a tribute in his honor (the other two were a colleague and former Dean of the Theological Seminary and one of his two granddaughters). I titled my tribute “Formed of Steel, But Coated in Clay.” 
 
The tribute I read that day did not focus on his stature as one of our Church’s most distinguished theological giants. (At the appropriate time, I will do so, and will explain why he took certain theological positions). Rather, in presenting him as a man who was “formed of steel, but coated in clay,” the tribute captures some of the very personal interactions I had with him during the last five years of his life—a particularly difficult time when we both engaged the problem of pain, whether deserved or undeserved. (Many around the world have been blessed by reading the tribute at: http://tinyurl.com/ydfkyqg4.)
 
This brings us to the question posed by the Governor of Egypt (“Is your father alive? Is he well….?”). With reference to my “doctorvater” (my theological father), I say No. Dr. Dederen is not alive. He lives only in the sense that the things he taught me are still relevant and that, by God’s grace, I seek to put them into practice.
 
I cannot overemphasize the fact that Dr. Dederen was my theological and spiritual mentor, pastor, father, and role-model in research and teaching. I learned from him humility in service, simplicity in lifestyle, and graciousness to those who hurt us. Through him I not only discovered the joy of teaching, but also the fact that teaching is, perhaps, the highest office in the ministry.
 

3. MY SPIRITUAL FATHER:
Pastor C. D. Brooks (1930-2016)
 
I cannot conclude this tribute to some father-figures in my life without mentioning two other significant role-models. They were two great fighters—literally and figuratively speaking—for the causes they believed in. One was a spiritual father who fought for the liberation of souls from the bondage of sin, and the other was an “unlikely” father who fought for the socio-political liberation of his people. 
 
The two were, respectively: Pastor Charles D Brooks, world renowned Evangelist, and Muhammad Ali, world renowned boxer. They both died during the first week of June 2016, some two weeks before that year’s Father’s Day: Pastor C. D. Brook (1930-2016) died on June 5, 2016 at the age of 85; his Memorial Service was June 12, 2016. Muhammed Ali (1942 – 2016) died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74; his memorial service was June 10, 2016. 
 
The grief from their deaths, together with the prospect of an impending death of my “doctorvater” Dr.Dederen, when I saw him face-to-face for the last time on June 18, were the factors that shaped my Father’s Day thought nugget (titled “Where Are the Men?”) on June 19, 2016.
 
More than a mere role-model, Elder CD Brooks, like Dr. Dederen, was a spiritual mentor and father to me. The first time I really got to know him at a personal level was at the Indianapolis General Conference Session in 1990. Though studying in the USA at that time, I was a delegate representing the then “Africa Indian Ocean Division.” At that time I served as that Division’s representative on the General Conference’s Biblical Research Committee (BRICOM). 
 
I met CD Brooks at a “Black Caucaus” meeting during the 1990 GC session, a meeting that brought together leading delegates from North America, Africa, and and Inter-America to compare notes on some common issues facing Black people in their respective constituencies, how these could be raised and addressed at the Session, and what kind of World leader could best advance the cause of Black people. After listening to some insightful speeches (mostly from our friends from North America), I felt that as an African, I also I needed to add my widow’s mite. I stood up and said something along the following lines: 
 
“I really appreciate the concerns that have been raised by previous speakers. But I believe I speak for a large number of Africans when I say that, for us, our number one agenda is not whether the next GC Officers to be chosen to lead our world Church were Black or White. Our first priority at this GC session is to choose leaders who take the Bible and our Bible-based message and mission seriously. For us, the black & white test ought to be faithfulness to the Word of God (the inspired Word), a whole-hearted commitment to Jesus Christ (the living Word), and an unreserved fidelity to the Truth (encapsulated Word). All other agendas should be tested by these concerns.”
 
I didn’t realize when I said those words that Elder C.D. Brooks was in the room. He was sitting quietly at the back. Immediately after the meeting, he walked to me and said:
 
“Well said, young man! Well said. We need to keep our heads straight, and stay clear from these political agendas by human beings. Stay true to the Word, young man, and you’ll never go wrong.”  
 
With those words, he shook my hands and gave me his card. Thus began our three-decade friendship. 
 
What did I learn from him? A whole lot! In dedicating my 1996 bestselling book Receiving the Word to him (he was one of five individuals to whom the book was dedicated), I stated: 
 
“Elder Charles D. Brooks of the United States, a dedicated pastor and evangelist, is a field secretary of the General Conference. At a time when it has become fashionable for preachers to turn to secular psychology, entertainment, politics, rhetoric, and all the latest fads of contemporary culture, he has set an example for Christians around the world by courageously preaching the Word.”
 
We stayed in touch regularly, sometimes our paths crossing at major speaking engagements and Church convocations. He gave counsel when needed, and offered biblical direction when the way seemed unclear. For example, at a time when we were facing some fierce opposition from some Church Administrators, Elder Brooks was one of the most prominent Church leaders to give full support to the work of the Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC is a grassroots missionary youth movement that was started by students and youth who were inspired by my training and mentorship at CAMPUS). 
 
His boldness in standing for the Truth and his faithfulness in preaching the Word inspired me to be courageous. He had a way of strengthening the hands of those who were fighting for God’s Truth. For example, when, in 2008, I wrote another of my provocative works (Not for Sale: Integrity in a Culture of Silence), Elder Brooks was gracious enough to write the preface. Here are his pregnant words of endorsement:
 
“As I read the powerful message of this book, I was not in the least disappointed. Having known the author for some time, I knew what to expect. This great defender of TRUTH and righteousness, this careful ‘scholar/seeker’ has for long carefully established with scriptural authority the parameters of faith and faithful living. His anchor is the Word of God which he holds as the voice of God to hungering souls of every tribe.
 
“One feels safe when reading Dr. Pipim because he carefully articulates truth and confirms it with other inspired witnesses. ‘Naboth’ speaks to us with power and conviction! “Ahab” is uncovered and exposed with thousands of other Ahabs even in our time.
 
“I heartily recommend this volume—especially in these awesome times.
 
Besides faithfully preaching and teaching the Word, and besides his support, mentorship, and encouragement of younger generations, perhaps the greatest impact of Eld. Brooks on my life occurred during the last five years of his life. It was the time he ministered personally to me in my hour of need, after I suffered a spiritual failure in 2011. Amidst the conflicting agendas (theological, ideological, political, personal, and even racial agendas) that were at play in the aftermath of my failure, Eld. Brooks ministered regularly to me via phone and through his personal letters. (At the appropriate time, one day, I’ll share some of his cherished handwritten letters to me during that difficult period). 
 
He wrote regularly to me, till some six months to his death—when he could no longer write.  In one of his many letters he urged me never to give up. Alluding to the failure of the apostle Peter in denying the Lord, Eld. Brooks encouraged me: 
 
“‘Go on’ Dr Sam!! Go on! The Lord is with you. After the denial you will be the spokesperson for many on the final Pentecost!!” (Emphasis, his)
.
In another one of his regular letters to me (dated, Dec 18, 2013) he wrote (emphasis are his):
 
“Nice to hear from you and see that you’re still on ‘the battlefield’ for our Lord! You know the devil doesn’t like us! He hates especially those who are blessed to proclaim the Word and will of the Lord and [who] lead men and women and youth to His fold.
 
“Satan exults when he can. God allows adjustments in our pursuits, our plans, our labours! But He is a loving Lord who doesn’t give up on us easily. A child of God has to desperately struggle to be free of Jesus and be lost… because God is determined to save us IF He can! And He can when we let Him. Because He loves with infinite love and power, we cannot easily be lost! THANK GOD for AMAZING GRACE!! STAY HUMBLE!!...
 
“Keep on praying, my friend, and trusting! Don’t lose the relationship with Christ which few can understand except you and Jesus and those who love and pray for you! Don’t be offended by critics and haters. Keep on keeping on!! We pray for you! God will use you and save you (us) after all.” 
 
Occasionally Eld. Brooks and I would talk on the phone, and He would always urge that I pray for him, even as he prayed for me. On one occasion he asked that I pray for him for strength to climb his “mountain”  to the Mountaintop (his "mountain" being his battle with pancreatic cancer). That conversation simmered in my mind until—at the news of his death on June 5, 2016, and in the context of my grieving over health challenges of Dr. Dederen, I wrote this thought nugget:
 
THE ROUGH MOUNTAINS
There are no smooth mountains. If our mountains were smooth, they would be difficult to climb. So, when God gives us mountains to climb, He leaves them rough. The bumps and rocks along the way—the obstacles and hurdles in our path—are actually stepping stones in our mountain climb. Thank God for your rough mountains—your trials and afflictions, your temptations and setbacks, your disappointments and sorrows. Without these jagged sides of life, there’ll be no maturity and growth, nor mountaintop experiences. Faith climbs rough mountains. Therefore, welcome your struggles and challenges. By faith, Caleb said: “Give me the mountain” (Joshua 14:12). May we dare to say: “Give me my ROUGH mountain.”—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
 

4. AN UNLIKELY FATHER-FIGURE:
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)
 
One other role-model (a father-figure, as it were) I need to recognize on this Father’s Day is an unlikely one: Former World Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016), a Muslim. Like CD Brooks, he also was a fighter—in his case, both literally and figuratively—albeit in another arena. His final battle was with Parkinson’s disease. He died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74, and his memorial service was June 10, 2016. 
 
Being a Bible-believing Christian, and one who is passionate for missionary work and the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s not surprising that I have the likes of Dr. Dederen and CD Brooks on my list of father-figures. But some have often inquired why I count non-Christians like Muhammad Ali & Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara, and Nelson Mandela among people I admire—especially since these individuals are sometimes perceived as controversial in certain Christian circles. 
 
I don’t think I need to spill ink in answering this question. They are not the only Black leaders I admire. In fact, foremost on my list are Christian leaders like Dr. J.E.K. Aggrey, Dr. K. A. Busia, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But I chose Muhammad Ali in much the same way as some will consider George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and even Donald Trump as role models. These individuals possessed certain qualities that are worthy of emulation. A Christian must emulate the examples of others when they’re doing right, and avoid their mistakes when they’re doing wrong.
 
For me, Muhammad Ali, was an unlikely "father-figure" because he was a fighter. I admired his excellence in sports, and his courage as a vocal campaigner for civil rights. He was bold and unashamed, standing up for what he believed. Interestingly, his death and funeral were in the same week as Elder CD Brooks’—about two weeks before that year’s Father’s Day. (Ali and Brooks were not only contemporary giants in the Black community, they knew each other—evidenced, for example, by the photo they took together; see below)
 
I had met Muhammad Ali in person only twice—both occasions on the campus of Andrews University, where I did my theological studies. He had his home in Berrien Springs, the town where Andrews University was located, and he would frequently come to campus to mingle with students. He was so affable that, despite his world renown, on two separate occasions, he invited my wife, Becky, to his private home. 
 
Though not a Christian and though a boxer (a sports I don’t watch), I count him as a role-model because he inspired me by the courage of his convictions, his perseverance in the face of adversity, and his graciousness and humility. Above all, his boldness, his fighting spirit, and his courage in daring the impossible. Those were the qualities that made him the “champion” in boxing. Following the news of his death, I wrote the following thought nugget:
 
BEING A CHAMPION
His words sting like a bee! “I’ve wrestled with alligators; I’ve tussled with a whale; I done handcuffed lightning and thrown thunder in jail….I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick… I make medicine sick.” (Muhammad Ali). Ali’s greatness went beyond beyond the boxing ring. His legacy also includes his courage of convictions, his life of service, and his empowerment of others to fight for a cause (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7). Hear some of his words: “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.” “It isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you down. It’s the pebble in your shoe.” “In a competition of love we’ll all share in the victory, no matter who comes first.” Do you want to be a champion in your sphere? Hear him: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” And, should you suffer defeat in life, “the only thing is to do it right.”—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim

5. ABBA, FATHER:
Our Everlasting Father
 
So now we now come to the questions that inspired this Father’s Day reflection on some father-figures in my life: “Is your father still alive?... Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” (Genesis 43:7; 27).
 
In the light of my discussion thus far, the answer to the above question is NO. My biological father and the other three father-figures who were in my life are no longer alive. They have all died. 
 
The truth is, world boxing champions (like Muhammad Ali) do die. World renowned preachers and evangelists (like CD Brooks) do die. So do world class theologians (like Raoul Dederen). And, Yes, ordinary Christian like my biological father (Isaac K. Pipim) also die. And when they do, they leave us fatherless and orphans. They leave us with a longing for a day when we shall see them again. Or for father-figures who cannot die. Who live forever. 
 
Thus, on on Sabbath, June 18, 2016, the day I spoke with my “doctorvater” Dr. Dederen for the last time face to face, I captured the reality of death in a thought nugget. It was my personal reflection on the notable deaths above, and their potential impact—globally—on human relations, and on discussions dealing with eternal verities.
 
From MOURNING To MORNING:
What a week it has been! The world has been mourning the deaths of some notables: Sandwiched between the funerals of three-time world boxing legend Muhammad Ali (Friday, June 10) and that of respected, international evangelist Pastor CD Brooks (Sunday, June 12), was the massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, of people from different backgrounds (Saturday night, June 11). Death has no preference. Death does not discriminate. And Death is no respecter of religion, race, nationality, status, age, gender, or sexual preference. Death alone has power to summon the expression of our basic humanness and to query us about fundamental issues of life, truth, morality, and our mortality. The Christian is comforted that THERE IS COMING A DAY when “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there’ll be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…nor pain” (Revelation 21:4, 5; cf. 1 Thessalonnians 4:16-18). Then, it will be MORNING, NOT MOURNING! What a glorious day that will be!—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
 
The Christian hope is rooted in the fact that, though our human fathers and father-figures may die, Christians are not left fatherless or orphans. We have a Father in heaven who ever lives. We have an Elder Brother who is alive. And because He lives, we also shall live. 
 
The above fact is the thought conveyed in this year’s (2017) Father’s Day thought nugget—a nugget which is twice the length of the average weekly nuggets:
 
WE ARE ADOPTED:
Our Father has many children—and still wants more!  We were all adopted. With His limitless resources and wisdom, He cares for each one of us—as though we are the only ones He has. None of us has seen our Father—the only exception being our Elder Brother who has always lived with Him and who came to live with us for a short time. Thus, our only dependable knowledge of our Father is what our senior Brother has revealed about Him. He tells us that our Father is a King, the ruler of a vast kingdom. That our family here is an extension of a larger family. Before He departed to be with Father, Big Brother said, “I go to my Father and your Father” (John 20:17). And to remind us to boldly approach Him with anything, He taught us to call Him “ABBA, Father” (Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5, 6).  This special name of endearment expresses the close, intimate relationship we have with Him. Just as a trusting child comes to "Daddy" to tell him anything, we also can tell “Abba, Father” anything that is on our hearts. Anything and everything! Our joys, our sorrows, our worries, our hurts, and our struggles. We can confidently approach Him with the things we need and the things we’re thankful for. We can share with Him our deepest thoughts and feelings, our deepest desires and longings, and our most painful and embarrassing experiences—including the sins we wrestle with. Yes, we can bring them all to our loving Father, and know that He will hear us with a sympathetic heart, a heart of love and kindness. Yes, we do have a living, loving, and eternal Heavenly Father, and we will always have His shoulders to lean on and His embrace to sustain us. Why? Because we are adopted—and He is our ABBA, Father.—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
 
Yes, our Father lives! King David, therefore, speaks for all of us when he said: “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever” (1 Chronicles 29:10 ). The prophet Isaiah adds: “You, O Lord, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name” Isaiah 63:16). 
 
And our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven… For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
 
And because our Abba, Father lives, none of us should ever feel we are fatherless or orphans. Thus, to the question that began this article, the question posed by the Egyptian Governor to the children of Jacob in Genesis 43:7, 27 (“Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?... Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”), we can respond emphatically: 
 
Yes, our Father is alive. Yes, we have another Brother: our Elder Brother Jesus Christ. Yes, our heavenly Father is well, the Ancient of Days of whom we speak. And, absolutely Yes, our Abba Father is alive.
 
And because of these facts, we, the adopted sons of God, can say without any hesitation or reservation that: Regardless of our situation in life, it will be well, even in the well.  It is for this reason that we also can join my biological father to sing his favorite hymn: “Come, Come Ye Saints… All is well! All is well!”  It’s by William Clayton, and it’s found in our  Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #622.
 
COME, COME YE SAINTS
Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labour fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you the journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
We will have a living Lord to guide,
And we can trust Him to provide;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell:
All is well! All is well!

2. We’ll find the rest which God for us prepared,
When at last He will call;
Where none will come to hurt or make afraid,
He will reign over all.
We will make the air with music ring,
Shout praise to God our Lord and King:
O how we’ll make the chorus swell:
All is well! All is well!