Written by Ken
Last night, my Dad went to be with Jesus in his home in Paris, France with family around him, and I could not be there for this sorrowful, yet joyous occasion. My Dad, Harold Alexander, lead an extraordinary life. At fourteen years old, he was in the hospital for two weeks where he almost died of mononucleosis. I believe it was then that he told the Lord that if He would save him he would give his life over to His Savior Jesus Christ.
Harold was a tall, smart, good looking teenager and became strong with bursting muscles developed by spending his summers throwing fruit crates onto trucks up in Modesto, California. He was an outstanding athlete in basketball and baseball and played some semi-pro ball. He could have made a run for the majors but chose instead to head to Prairie Bible Institute to get his College and Bible degrees. Needless to say, his unsaved father was not very happy with his decision and refused to help him; but just before his dad died Harold led His own dad to the Lord.
Harold was one of six children and he lost his Mom at 15 years old when she broke the doctor’s orders to stay in bed with a blood clot after giving birth to a set of twins. One of the twins was crying so she got out of bed and the clot went to her lungs and killed her. Harold helped raise the younger children with his older sister when he was not working hard at school and jobs to help his father make ends meet. One of his jobs was working for a drug store that served sodas, and he was in charge of making the syrup. VJ Day (Victory over Japan) was announced and in the huge celebration everyone was told to go home, so he went home leaving the syrup boiling on the stove. Yes, the store died that night in flames, but it was not all his fault.
At Bible School in Alberta, Canada, the boys and girls attended classes together but there were very strict segregation rules. You would not be caught dead talking to the opposite sex during the school year. One particular girl caught his eye and somehow by sign language they figured out that they were interested in each other and made plans to meet up during the summer. Lois Ilene Wagler was a catch of a godly, joyful girl, and when they graduated, they got engaged and both joined the same West Indies Mission.
Dad and Mom went to Guadeloupe, in the French West Indies and were under strict supervision until they married about six months later. They could not be alone together at any time without a chaperone. Once married, they quickly set about building the Kingdom of God by winning souls and making little souls of their own. They had five children who they raised on a steep hillside of a banana plantation in Bananier, Guadeloupe.
Don’t you wonder what God can do with two lives who are sold out for Jesus? Well, these two were completely in the Jesus camp, and it took us kids years into our 20’s to realize that our parents may actually sin, because never, I mean never, did we think them be unkind, unloving, or break a commandment of the Lord. Dad would snap his fingers or give us that look when we were acting out, and we stood to attention not wanting to incur his stern disfavor. Mom was a singer and had a song for every occasion or comment we would make, especially if we complained. Together they taught us a great sense of right and wrong with strong disciple of a strap when necessary.
Dad was the epitome of wisdom and was much admired by all for his ability to easily recall and communicate God’s Word. He first led the church in the capital of the Island and when he was out witnessing at a sports club, a basketball rolled his way about 25 feet from the hoop. He picked it up and shot it and it went “Swish!” So they threw it back to him and he shot again with a “Shoosh.” The ball kept coming back and he kept nailing it until the club owner came out and asked if he wanted to play on the club team. He said “Sure, when do you play?” “Sunday at 10 a.m.” came the response. Dad said, “I am sorry but I work on Sundays at 10.” So they moved their games to Saturdays so Dad could play with them and the championship game was played in the rain. Dad’s team won 22 to 20 and Dad scored 20 of the points.
Fast forward 15 years later and we were returning from furlough with lots of appliances and things shipped from the States that we owed heavy customs taxes on, and the man at the counter said to Dad, “You don’t know me, do you? I am the guy who told my team you would not score a point in the championship game 15 years ago and you whooped me. You don’t owe any customs taxes. Let him through!”
Time does not permit to tell all the miracles that happened in the lives of the Alexanders on the mission field. We lived on as little as $100 a month and Mom often wondered how we were going to make ends meet, but we always had pancakes and eggs to fall back on or oatmeal. Having lots of bananas and twelve chickens that regularly laid 13 eggs a day was a miracle in itself. But as poor as we were compared to the average American, we were rich in the eyes of the natives. And we were rich in the things that matter most in life with a wonderful roof over our head that Dad built for us and lots of family and friends.
Dad helped found the Bible Center for training pastors on the Island and became the head of the Churches, taking over the largest church the last two years we were there. It was not unusual for us kids to be dragged to four services on a Sunday at different churches and I sat dutifully on the front row translating every word from French to English which later served me well in my lectures throughout Europe. Thankfully, there are missionaries willing to sacrifice their lives to go where they were called by their Lord. Much fruit was fruit was produced by just a few faithful missionary couples.
Guadeloupe was not without its heartache for the Alexanders. We were hit by a drunk driver when I was just four years old and it is a miracle none of us died as the driver missed his turn and plowed right through us. My older brother, Phil, lost his arm and his face was badly scarred, and he should have lost his life with the loss of blood, but Dad saved him by flagging down the next car and getting him to the hospital. It took him a year to finally talk again, and many years to get over the bitterness until He found Christ again in a special way and became a missionary himself. Dad and Mom were devastated, but their faith and mission never wavered as they modeled what Jesus looks like in the middle of great pain and heartbreak for their boy.
We children were like rats running everywhere in the ravines, taking on packs of wild dogs, climbing up trees and a forty foot dorm building that no ten year old should ever try to climb. Mom caught me once scurrying up the pole of our balcony to the roof, “Kenneth David, what are you doing up there! You get down here right now!” So I did what I always did and jumped off the roof to the to the side yard that was only about 15 feet down and rolled as I hit in the grass. Then promised to never go back up again. Wouldn’t you know it, the next week Phil threw his tennis shoes in anger onto the roof and guess who Mom asked to shimmy up the pole to get them. But really, we were dare devils and God was watching over us.
One time, the brakes went out on the car full of kids and we went careening down the mountainside yet instead of taking the leap over the steep hill into the Atlantic, Mom with the help of many angels, made the turn onto the highway below with no cars hitting and killing us. But story after story would only prove that Dad took life just as it came and walked by faith into whatever God had in store for him. Dengue Fever, hepatitis, gallstones, kidney stones, and heart arrhythmia left untreated the last 25 years of life except for his Curcumin. Dad loved to eat rich foods, liver and beef, bacon and eggs, liver pate, and yet did not die of a heart attack. He always stayed active and played a lot of tennis for years and walked a lot.
When we moved up to Miami after three terms on the Mission Field, Dad became the Overseas Director for Worldteam. From there, he traveled much of the world training pastors. The love of his life, my Mom, died of breast cancer when she was just 46 years old and he quickly became a shell of a man without her for a number of months. I choose to not go away to college to be with him and my sisters, and that year together was one of the best of my life. At 19 years old, I got to know my dad not just as my Father, but my friend who needed me and could lean on me. Thank the Lord that a godly woman jumped at the chance to date Dad and he ended up having been married to two godly, submissive wives for his adult lifetime.
Dad taught me many things under his leadership in churches and house churches but nothing more important than the truth that we must live our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ; and to do so means we do “all things Christian.” There is nothing of life that should not be touched by Christ and His example, and Dad showed me how to live as Christ and in everything to Him be the glory!
As I was building a career in the US and Europe and I needed a French translator as I was not confident enough to lecture three days straight in French, I talked Dad into it. After he listened to me lecture a number of times, I said, “Dad, you should do this with me. After all, half of what I am teaching in the secular world of management comes from your wisdom and God’s Word anyway.” Dad went on to have a 15 year consulting career with me which was God’s provision for his long life. We had so many great dinners together in Paris, Metz, Lyon, and Brussels. We traveled together, roomed together, and enjoyed each other like best friends. I sure am going to miss you, Dad!
Our children will miss you too, Dad. He was at so many of their basketball and baseball games, soccer and ballet performances, as he loved to watch their success. He taught the boys French when they were home schooled where they got to enjoy him greatly. We are so grateful that he made the long voyage home to California twice this year so that he could meet the great grand kids and see our children all grown up and each happily married and walking with Jesus. There is something very special about a Patriarch of few words, but whose faith-filled life permeates an entire family even to the fourth generation.
After a few years of retirement, Dad said he felt that God wanted him to be a missionary in France in his later 70’s. Well, he did it. And now, his days as a missionary here on earth are over at 89 years old and he just now has been greeted by the Lord with what I am sure is a hearty, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Master.” There was never any second guesses or doubts with Dad. He knew His Lord and knew His calling and he spent a lifetime fulfilling it. May you and I do the same so that we too may one day be greeted with a “well done” from our Savior.
I love you, Dad, you know that. I find it remarkable that after a lifetime of knowing you and loving you, that you have owed me no apologies, and as far as I know, I owe you none. You have been a faithful and honorable father and I have tried to be a son who pleases his Dad to make you proud of me. Your final miracle was my prayer today that the Lord would take you peacefully and quickly, and that He did.
Thank you, Lord, for a life well lived in Harold Alexander, your faithful servant. I am sure the hundreds who call my Dad their spiritual father were there to greet him just now, and Mom and Grandma and Grandpa, Father Abraham, and all those who in faith went before Him. And yet, that is not all, for you Dad have a whole legacy of spiritual offspring left behind who can still birth many more for God because of your faithfulness.
If I could trade any life right now for my own it would be yours Dad as I know how well you have lived it for the Lord. You didn’t have to say “I love you” much, but I always knew you did as you showed it by how you smiled and lived.
Thank you, Lord, for Dad’s wonderful Christian life. You have blessed greatly me to be part of his family and yours. I miss you already Dad!
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.