Above, Tim Wildmon and his father Donald Wildmon
I have a joke that I believe is original with me and that is this: On Mother’s Day at church, we honor the moms with flowers, and the pastor reads Proverbs 31. But on Father’s Day, there are no gift cards to the sporting goods store handed out. No, instead the pastor usually takes the whole sermon to preach on “Seven Ways You Can Be A Better Dad.”
Why is this?
Can you imagine a Mother’s Day sermon titled “Seven Ways Mothers Can Get Their Act Together?” Now, that would be funny to see the faces of the ladies in the congregation when the pastor announced that title.
Father’s Day 2020 is June 21. Like millions of Americans I will be honoring my father on that day.
My dad is Donald Ellis Wildmon. Most people call him Brother Don. Dad was born on January 18, 1938, in Tippah County in the hills of Northeast Mississippi. Like a lot of babies in those times, he was delivered at home. He was sickly as a child, and his mom said she wondered many times if Don would survive his childhood.
Dad said he was called by the Lord to preach when he was 18 years old. He married my mom in March 1961. In 1963, I was their firstborn while Dad was serving two years in the Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Don and Lynda Wildmon would have three more children by 1971 when Dad began to fulfill that earlier calling, pastoring Methodist churches in Iuka, Tupelo, and Southaven, Mississippi.
In December 1977 Dad had a one-on-one meeting with God. God told Dad he was to leave the pulpit and birth an organization that would galvanize Christians to fight back against those pushing immorality in our country. So, Dad, not knowing exactly what he would face or exactly how to accomplish the mission, founded what was first called the National Federation for Decency and what has been known as American Family Association since 1988.
Some people are given the gift of ideas or visions but are not so gifted at making it happen. And some people have the ability to create, build, and organize. But rare are the people who can both see what needs to be done and also have the smarts to know how to get it done. And if you combine that with a heart for God, you’ve got a powerhouse for good. That was my dad. Which only confirms that God knew exactly which servant to assign this task to.
There is so, so much more to write about this story, and I will do so at a later date. But since we are celebrating Father’s Day in June, I wanted to say a few things about Brother Don, my dad.
When he was a young pastor of a newly organized church, he was a very busy man, but he always put his wife and four children first. And like most children, I looked up to my dad, and I wanted to please him. That’s how it should be.
When I was a kid, I played baseball. I always knew if my dad was in the stands because I peeked through the dugout before each game. Because of his full schedule, sometimes he didn’t make the start of my games, which bothered me some.
But one father-son memory I will always cherish was when I hit my first (and only) home run over the fence in youth baseball. As I rounded the bases and came to home plate to be swarmed by my teammates, I looked up in the bleachers hoping and praying that Dad was there to see it. And he was! Smiling from ear to ear and fist pumping for me!
I’ll never forget that moment.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
Editor's Note: Originally published in the print edition of AFA Journal June 2020 and also found online here.