I have found it absolutely impossible not to think about my father today. H.B. Charles Sr. was my father, my pastor, my hero, my mentor, and my friend. I succeeded my father as pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, which he served for better than 40 years. The Lord took my father home to glory in June, 1989. I was only 17-years-old at the time. And I cannot begin to explain how devastating that was to me. However, over the years, I have been able to recognize the invisible hand of divine providence at work in this. And I am able to thank the Lord for knowing and doing what was best for me. But that doesn’t change the fact that I miss my father terribly. I didn’t preach Father’s Day for about ten years after his death. I think the thoughts of my father were too much for me to concentrate on a preaching assignment. In fact, it was only after I have a son of my one that I dared to press through to preach on Father’s Day. I have done well over the past few years. But this year I really miss him. Interestingly, none of my thoughts about my dad today bring me the pain of loss that I used to feel. It is just one of the days where I am thinking much about him. At this point, more than half of my lifetime has passed since my dad’s death. But it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. And there is even a sense in which it feels like is still with me. Of course, I don’t mean that in any mystical sense. I only mean that my life is filled with so many memories of my father that it is virtually impossible to forget him.
My father was a whale of preacher. He was not a student of exposition. But he was a faithful preacher. His style was more textual. And his presentation style was similar to the other orator’s of his day. He didn’t really “whoop,” either. And he couldn’t stand the fact that I, as a boy preacher, was determined to “shut it down”! My father used to regularly warn me that I was not going to get far with all that “whooping and hollering,” as he called it. My father was an avid reader who had an extensive library. In fact, his was larger than mine is now. And he would regularly push me to read. If I would ask him a simple Bible question; he would send me to a book, rather than giving me the answer himself. I thought this was ridiculous. And I didn’t understand the significance of all those books. I would readily traded in a book for a tape of Jasper Williams, Donald Parsons, or C.A.W. Clark. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to love books until after my father died. After his death, I received less than a hundred of his books. So I have had to build my own library over the years. But I have done so, trying to take advantage of the many things my father tried to teach me. I hope he would have been proud of the man and preacher that I have become.
My father was also a good pastor. I am still amazed by how many different people are convinced that they each were my father’s dearest member. He just never met a stranger. And he loved the people of Mt. Sinai passionately. I was the son of his old age. And by the time I began preaching (at age 11), my father was basically finished with revivals, conventions, etc., even though he maintained some participation in these areas of ministry. But his focus was Mt. Sinai. And I greatly benefited from that. And so did the church. My father was a disciplined student. And he would teach the Monday night Sunday School Teacher’s Meeting each week, after having taught the exposition of the Sunday School lesson at the Minister’s Conference earlier that day. He would meet with us preachers each Tuesday night. And he would preach two different messages at 8 and 11 AM on Sundays, rarely repeating himself. This did not include all of the pastoral care and visitation, counseling and meetings, and local political matters my father was involved him. Yet he did it all with an unforced rhythm.
Lastly, my father was a good father. Certainly, he was a flawed man. And in my short time with him I saw him make many mistakes. Yet, he was quick to admit when he was wrong. And he was willing to make changes when he needed to. He trusted people very easily. And though this would result in him getting burned many times, he never really held it against the next person who sought to win his trust. He was a very busy man. But I never felt that I was in competition with his ministry work. I don’t know how he pulled that off. But I praise God for it. He was a strong man who could be as stubborn as steel, at times. Yet, he was also a very gentle man who could sit and read the scriptures and weep for hours over the joy of spiritual discovery. He loved clothes. But he gave away just as many as he bought. Even to this day, I meet preachers who tell me my dad gave them their first pair of nice shoes or their first nice suit. Somehow, I was an expert at getting under his skin. I didn’t do it on purpose, most of the time. But I would really frustrate him. I think I should have listened more and questioned him less. But as mad as he would get at me; his primary form of disciplining me was to withhold affection. That was the most painful thing he could do to me, at a point. And even to his death, my father would hug and kiss me. It meant a lot to me, communicating the things that he didn’t say with actual words. But he also knew how to use words to communicate his love, as well. He gave most of the people in his life a nick-name. And I was no different. He called me “Bish” (Long Story!).
I thank God for my father today. I also praise God for my “Sunshine” – my wife, Crystal. And I deeply grateful to God for the two precious children he has given us – H.B.3 and Natalie Marie. And I thank God for all the blessings of our life together. God is a good God.