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How My Dad Shows Me Jesus

I’ve been going to the same church in South Florida since my forever family started the adoption process when I was 2 years old. I grew up around incredibly godly people. But the person who’s had the greatest influence on my spiritual life is my dad, Leland Herring. He’s the best embodiment of faith I’ve ever encountered.

When I was little, I frequently had nightmares. It was my dad who came to comfort me—he’d tuck me in and read the Psalms until I fell back asleep. Usually by the time Dad got to Psalm 3:5, I’d feel comforted enough to nod off: “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the LORD sustains me” (CSB).

I didn’t truly understand what that verse meant to my dad until I was much older.

Cystic Fibrosis

Dad was born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal genetic disease that affects the respiratory, digestive, and endocrine systems. He wasn’t expected to live past the age of 13, but in April of this year, he celebrated 54 years of life and the 26th anniversary of a miraculous double-lung transplant. He’s now one of the longest-living survivors of that procedure for cystic fibrosis. He goes to sleep every night and wakes up again because God is sustaining him.

The 50-plus medications my dad has taken since the transplant have diminished his immune system, leaving him exceptionally vulnerable to illnesses that a healthy person would find mildly inconvenient. They’ve caused serious side effects and so far brought on 17 other diseases. But he has never let all this keep him from serving the Lord.

Youth for Christ

My dad regularly risks his health (and life) to ensure the lost youth in the Palm Beach County school district have a chance to hear the gospel. He has worked for the local Youth for Christ for 23 years.

The medications that sustain him have also caused serious side effects. He has never let all this keep him from serving the Lord.

Several days each week during the school year, he goes into public middle and high schools to run clubs during lunch periods, play card games, and talk with the students. You’ll often find him supporting students as they participate in school plays and sports events. He mentors students and often volunteers for the teachers.

Dad interacts with more than a thousand students and staff each week, and as a result, he’s a well-known and well-loved member of our community. We can’t go anywhere as a family without hearing a “Hey, Leland!” and listening in on conversations with parents, teachers, staff, and students.

He isn’t always happily received into the public schools, though. At times, permission to serve the school isn’t given even though my dad offers repeatedly. They know he follows Jesus. It’s discouraging, but he lets it roll off his shoulders and works on finding a teacher-sponsor at another school. My dad always says the Bible doesn’t mince words and that biblical truth is offensive to many people.

Living with Loss

The COVID-19 pandemic was tough for my dad. Since the virus was even taking the lives of healthy people, it was perilous for him. Then, in June 2020, my grandpa (my dad’s dad and his best friend) tested positive. He was hospitalized on a Sunday and taken home to be with his heavenly Father five days later.

Although my dad was devastated to lose his father here on earth, he understood that Grandpa knew the Lord. God had called him home. My dad turned to Scripture for comfort.  The truth of Philippians 1:21 carried my dad through that loss, and it brings hope amid multiple health struggles and disease diagnoses: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

We Are Not Our Own

Unlike my dad, I struggle to live as if my life isn’t truly my own. Sometimes I avoid places where I might get sick, because I don’t want the inconvenience of a cold. But Dad doesn’t shrink from going into a school where he could become deathly ill from catching a virus. He knows that the students, teachers, and staff need to encounter Jesus’s love.

I’m often critical of others’ life choices (even though I know mine aren’t always the best). But my dad doesn’t expect people who don’t follow Jesus to live like they do. Following Christ’s example, he invests time in people, asks open-ended questions, and points them to the truth. I tend to overlook my sins and instead judge others for theirs. But my dad shares his story; his struggle with sin, doubt, and anxiety; and his need for a Savior. To the lost world, this authenticity shines a beautiful light on reality. It points to the living hope found in Christ alone.

To the lost world, my dad’s authenticity shines a beautiful light on reality. It points to the living hope found in Christ alone.

I ask the Lord for a strong faith and eagerness to serve him in all circumstances, as my dad does. I pray I’ll look for ways to invest in others’ lives. I pray I’ll give up my lame, self-centered excuses and instead be more interested in others. I ask to be grateful for every morning that I wake up breathing and for every opportunity to share the gospel.

Growing up with my dad as a modern-day Job of sorts has brought lessons both beautiful and hard. I’m grateful to my heavenly Father for blessing me with a wonderful earthly father to look up to and emulate.


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