“My Testimony” is a series of personal stories from ordinary people who have have been used by God to do mighty things.
This is Nathan Ingle. He bravely shares the story of the passing of his Dad, a well-known Pastor in Susanville, California.
This last month has been one of the toughest times in my life. March 29th, I received a call from my sister that my dad was in the hospital with chest pains (both my sister and her family and my mom and dad live in a small town in NE California). I began to pray for dad, and then I learned a few hours later that he had a heart attack and was being helicoptered to a hospital in Reno, NV. This surprised us all because my dad had just been given a clean bill of health less than a year before, including what the medical report said, “A strong heart.” By the end of the day, I learned that my dad was going to have open heart surgery the next day, but it was too late for me to get a ticket to fly out of Austin, TX, to Reno, NV. I would not be able to get there in time to see him before the surgery either. By the time I would land, he would be coming out of surgery.
So I spoke with my mom and dad on the phone, and the three of us decided it would be better to wait until after the weekend and go out to California on Wed, April 5th, for 2 weeks and help my dad recover. My dad said he was sending my brother-in-law to get me a temporary fishing license so we both could fish the river behind his house. I prayed with my dad the next morning before he went in for a triple bypass, and received news late that night that my dad made it out of surgery without complications, no damage to his heart, and was expected to make a full recovery.
Through the weekend, my dad was doing amazing. He was up walking around, and they decided on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 4th, to send him home. The only concern was that his oxygen level was low, but they counter-balanced that with oxygen tanks. My dad had been home for a few hours and I was at home packing, and getting ready for the red-eye flight.
At 9:30pm (CST) I texted my mom a picture of my luggage saying, “I’m ready, see you both tomorrow.” My dad texted back, “Bring a coat, its cold. I got a temporary fishing license for you.” I replied that I was looking forward to it, and turned my phone to silent, hit the shower, and got ready for bed.
At 10:20pm, my mom called my wife’s phone and told us that my dad had just died. I responded, “No! I just texted him, and he just texted me back, this isn’t true!” But it was true. I would find out 2 days later that his heart collapsed and ruptured his aorta. My dad literally told a joke to my sister and her family as they were leaving to go get him some food, and 2 minutes later was called to his eternal home.
Long story short, I was able to get my wife and 2 kids on the same flight with me to California. We cried that first day, all day. The next day, Thursday, April 6th, it was business time for me. I led my mom, sister, and family to organize dad’s funeral arrangements, who would speak, etc, and became the anchor for my family. It was only through the Lord and the prayers being lifted up on our behalf that I was able to do it. I was scheduled to speak Palm and Easter Sunday for my dad at the church he pastored, and did so, as well as speaking and leading his service on my birthday, Monday, April 10th.
His service is what was so amazing. Through the most difficult time, God showed up, and floored me with amazement. My dad was not only a Sr Pastor of a small church in a small town (Susanville, CA is about 9,000+, but the official count is higher because they count the prisoners in the State and Federal facilities as part of the population), but he was a volunteer chaplain for the fire, sheriff, and police departments of Susanville.
My dad set out a 10 year vision for his ministry in 2010, and he called it his 20/20 Vision. It was to reach or impact 20% of Susanville for Christ by the year 2020. We (my mom, the fire, sheriff, and police dept) figure he reached/impacted 35-40% in 7 years. Between the 3 departments, my dad logged an average 120 volunteer hours to serve as chaplain to the community. Never once, did he ask people to attend his church, but he did invite them to Christ if they did not know him. Never once, did he use his chaplaincy as a platform to increase the numbers in his church, but instead, he wanted to increase the numbers for the Kingdom of God. On a Monday afternoon, for 2 1/2 hours was his service, and over 600 people showed up. We know without a doubt, that if his service was on a Friday or Saturday, we would have had over 1,000-1,500. My family handed out blank cards for people to share how my dad impacted their lives for us to read. We made over 450 for the service, and even today, a month later, my mom is still receiving letters and postcards of people in the community sharing how my dad made a difference in their lives.
The day after his service, I was at the local Walmart buying a bigger suitcase for some of the things of dad’s I was going to take home. A couple came up to me and told me how my dad was there for them when their baby died, and not just there, but visited 2 or 3 times a month for 6+ months. They didn’t know that he was a volunteer chaplain until his service, and they committed to the Lord to give back to the community the way my dad gave. These are the kind of stories we are hearing from people throughout the community.
As an aspiring pastor myself, the legacy my dad has given me is tremendous. As I look for my first pastorate, I am challenged by my dad to not be stuck in making things about the kingdom of “said” church, but about the Kingdom of God. It is not about how large/small my church is, but about bringing people to experience Christ for themselves, and leading them to make a decision for Christ based on that experience. If they go to my church as a result, praise God. If they don’t, then I need to make sure they are going somewhere.
The second thing I am challenged with in my dad’s life and ministry is not to seclude myself in an office, but be out among the people, meeting them where they are. Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells us “GO! Make disciples” (paraphrasing the emphasis). Literally it is read, “As you go about life, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. My dad went about his life going to those who needed Christ, making them disciples for Christ, until the day he died.
My dad gave of himself to his community, and I am overwhelmed with pride to call him dad and to see his ministry continue to bear fruit and blossom. He lived the verse Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure pressed down, shaken together, andrunning over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” It has been measured back to him by the Lord and he now lives the verse found in Psalm 16:11: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Here is a link to an article his town ran Thursday, April 6th: