The Fire and Field – a Tribute to Dads

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The Fire and Field – a Tribute to Dads


Excerpted from Basic Training for a Few Good Men by Dr. Tim Kimmel “It was June of 1976. I had just graduated from Dallas Seminary and my wife and I were back in Pennsylvania visiting my parents. The Kimmel Products Company manufactured office and school furniture. My parents’ home was across the road from it. Both stood isolated out in the beautiful rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. The factory covered several acres of ground. The fire started in the old barn that had been the original building where the Kimmel Products Company got its start. It was connected to the modern factory that surrounded it. We should have torn the barn down years before. We worried that it presented a fire risk. As it turned out, our fears had been well-founded. The fire started in the former hayloft just after noon. In a matter of minutes it had engulfed the entire barn, and within a half an hour more, the fire owned every last square foot of the factory. Ultimately, there was nothing any of us could do. We just sat back on the grass in front of our house, my mom and dad, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my brothers, sister, wife, and we watched. The firemen tried in vain. Some Amish farmers tried to help fight it but were quickly sent running from the heat. And so we sat . . . and watched as decades of sweat and determination burnt down to its foundation in a couple of hours. At dusk, there were just a few isolated flames. Finally dad stood up, helped up mom, and said, “Let’s go get cleaned up for supper. We’re going to need a good nights sleep. Because the sun is coming over that horizon tomorrow morning, just like it always has, and we’re going to be there to meet it, just like we always have.” Dad knew that the fire was not the finish line. But we weren’t going to survive if we let it become the finish line for us.”


Flash forward to June, 1986. Ten years after the fire. I was six years old, and my brother Cody had just turned two. We were visiting my grandfather, Howard Kimmel and his wife Rose. In the years that followed the fire, Grandma Kimmel had died. Who knows how long the cancer had been growing inside of her but by the time the doctors discovered it, it was too late. Pancreatic Cancer is relentless and lightning-fast. She lived just 4 months after her diagnosis. The family that bravely endured the fire that turned their dreams and determination to ashes wasn’t sure that they could endure the death of Winnie Kimmel. But they did endure. Sometimes life does the enduring for you. It’s not so much a conscious decision to wave your banner in the face of adversity as it is a daily choice to get through one more day, and then another until you have lived through a week, a month and then a year. After long enough, the pain of losing his life-long love subsided, Grandpa Howard found Rose. They got married and lived in his same house in rural Pennsylvania facing the empty field that once held the sweat equity of a generation. Their house was small and there weren’t enough beds to accommodate my parents, us kids and our babysitter, Jeanie, who’d come with us on the trip. Regardless, my grandfather wouldn’t hear of us getting a hotel, so he set up his motor home in the field across from the house so that my brother and I could “camp out” in it with our babysitter Jeanie. To us, this was a great adventure. To our parents, it probably meant the first nights of uninterrupted sleep they’d had in a while. Jeanie was a good sport about it but probably wondered how she got roped into coming on this trip. But God had plans that included her, and thank goodness she was available to answer His call. Every night of our lives we’d heard the songs, “Jesus Loves Me,” “Oh, How He Loves You and Me,” and “Silent Night” sung to us as a final serenade by one of our parents. The ritual was so streamlined that the songs ran together like a medley. Jeanie sang these songs to us as she tucked us in and prepared to say our prayers. “Jesus loves me…this I know…for the Bible tells me so…” The words to a song I’d heard a thousand times embedded themselves in my brain and wouldn’t let me go until I asked the question that was burning in my mind. “Jeanie? What does that song MEAN? It says that Jesus loves me, but I don’t understand how I know that Jesus loves me, and why?” Jeanie told me why. He loves me because before I was ever born he was thinking of me and thousands of years before anyone knew my name, He died on the cross to set me free. That night, in the field that held the ashes of my grandparent’s life’s work, the Holy Spirit came down into that motor home and tapped me on the head … … and said it was my turn. All people need redemption. But sometimes places need it too. God could have turned my heart toward Him at our home in Arizona, but there was a field in western Pennsylvania that needed to be redeemed for His Glory. Not all of us live long enough to see our suffering and endurance come full circle. And not all suffering has a purpose that we get to understand while we are on this side of eternity. But I’m glad that my grandfather decided not to toss his faith aside in the face of great loss. Who knows the effect that it might have had on his children and his grandchildren. My soul will meet his and my grandmother’s someday in Heaven because he decided to take leadership over his hurting family and face the rising sun.

To all the Dads who rise every morning to face the day: The ripples of your faithfulness will reach the shores of a generation you will not see.

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