Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me… (Deuteronomy 4:5)
I originally posted this on June 19, 2015, but aside from some minor edits to bring it up to date, it still honors the memory of my dad, who I still miss so much.
He came to the United States from Mexico in 1943 with false papers under an assumed name and started working for the railroad. Not long after, his work brought him to the West Texas town of Monahans where his eye fell upon the lovely Elena, and his life changed forever. Elena was one of five children of store owner and Baptist lay preacher, Porfírio Enriquez. Elena was hard to get, especially since her father wanted her to have nothing to do with the “mojado” (“wetback”), especially since he was not a Christian. But, eventually Elena fell prey to his boyish charm and the couple soon married – he was 20, she was 18.
The “unequally yoked” couple (2 Corinthians 6:14) soon experienced struggle over religious differences. Chale (Chah-leh), as he was known to his friends, was a non-practicing Catholic, so “church” mattered little to him. In fact, he found the practice of praying to inanimate images silly and pointless, so church to him was a waste of time. Chale also loved to party, and he loved to dance, much to the chagrin of the good Southern Baptist girl he had married. But Elena was not without recourse. On Saturday nights when Chale wanted to go dancing, Elena promised to go with him, if he would come to church with her on Sunday. Chale would dance all night with all the other ladies while Elena sat patiently by and watched. She would later say that he looked like a little demon dancing around through the haze of cigarette smoke. That arrangement worked well. Chale honored his promise to attend church with her on Sunday, and before long Chale surrendered his life to the Lord, gave up his partying ways, and took after his father-in-law as a lay preacher.
Shortly after Chale surrendered his life to the Lord, Elena became pregnant with me. At that time, Chale still resided in the US under an assumed name and false documentation. His new “tenderized” conscience started to bother him not only because of his illegal status, but also because he did not want his son given some stranger’s name. Determined to set the record straight, he returned to Mexico to earn the right to return to the United States legally. Wenceslao Carrasco de Cortez (his legal name) was required to spend two years in the Mexican Army Reserves to fulfill his military obligation to that nation, while at the same time working with a Mexican lawyer to legally come to America. While in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, he served as assistant pastor in a Baptist church in that city.
I was born in Monahans in 1950, and when I was about one year old, Elena, Mom, took me with her to be with Dad in Juarez. We lived there a year until Dad got all his legal matters resolved and fulfilled his military obligation to Mexico. We returned in 1952, and the following year I was blessed with a baby brother, Ednoi.
Dad continued to work on the railroad, and soon his work carried us to Odessa, Texas where, in 1955, another baby brother came along – Eliseo (Eli). Around this time Dad felt called of God to go into full-time ministry, and soon we moved to San Antonio, Texas for Dad to train for the ministry. W.C., as English speakers referred to him, was not well educated. He got as far as the third grade in Mexico where he learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the needs of his father’s ranch were of higher priority than education, and school fell by the wayside. Study at the Instituto Biblico Mexicano proved difficult for Dad, not to mention the burden of a family that needed provision. There were times when we had no food and no money for food. Mom told me of a time when she sent me to school with the last bit of beans folded in a flour tortilla (a bean taco), and after that no food was left for the rest of the family. That day, Dad was in the school chapel crying out to God; Mom was at home on her knees in prayer, when a knock came at the door, and some ladies from an Anglo church showed up, completely unaware of our need, with a month’s worth of groceries. In the meantime, the president of the school overheard Dad crying out to God and came to see what was troubling him. When he discovered the need, he reprimanded Dad for failing to make his need known, and promptly wrote him out a check for $100. In 1957, that was a lot of money! Dad couldn’t wait to come home to give Mom the news, and when he arrived, he found her in tears of joy for how God had provided.
I could relate many more stories just like that, but what I experienced in my young life taught me that God is real. His love is real, and He really does care about our every need, and He will provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.
W.C. spent five years in school preparing for the ministry. In the end, he left the school without having completed his training. Our family moved to Cotton Center, Texas in 1960 where Dad was ordained as a Baptist minister, and where he pastored his first mission church in that capacity. Many mission churches followed. In 1963 we moved to Raton, New Mexico where Dad served as pastor of his first non-mission church. In 1965, God blessed us with our baby sister, Esther. I only got to know her the first five years of her life, and then I was off to the Navy and a life of my own.
Dad taught me many things. He taught me to read and write in Spanish. He taught me how to play baseball and throw a curve ball. He taught me how to drive; in fact, at 10 years old, when we were living in Cotton Center, he would send me, by my 10-year-old self, in our 1956 Ford Victoria to pick up kids for Sunday school. By the time I was old enough for my driver’s permit, I was already the most experienced driver in my Driver’s Ed class! Dad taught me the value of hard work. And even though he was not yet a naturalized citizen of the United States, he taught me patriotism, love of my country, love of my flag, and respect for authority. Dad taught me to take responsibility for myself and to never shy away from a challenge. He would always say, “Si está hecho por hombres, yo también lo puedo hacer.” (If it’s done by man, I can do it too!). But the greatest thing Dad ever taught me was the love of God and the love of God’s Word. The lessons learned from that have kept me from drifting to the left or to the right knowing that God does not change, and God’s Word never changes. Some have thought me insensitive, or unmoving, but although Dad taught me to love, and God’s Word teaches me to love, I also know that some things, from God’s perspective, are non-negotiable, so I do not easily yield to compromise even when “love” comes into play. The love of God must always supersede all others.
Dad was always strong – a trait I greatly admired in him, and one that I tried to emulate. He almost always had a cheerful disposition. He loved life, and he loved people – something else I admired in him. And he sang (or hummed) incessantly – to the point of annoyance – oblivious to anyone around him. But even that I admired in him – there was always a song – usually a hymn – in his heart. The world could be falling apart all around us, but one would never know it around Dad.
After Mom went to be with Jesus in December 2001, he, now 75, continued on with life as before, only without his lifelong partner. Shortly after we buried Mom, he took the pastorate of a small dwindling church in Brady, Texas, and served and ministered to them the remaining years of his life. His knees gave him trouble since his late 60’s, but the fear of knee replacement surgery kept him taking care of the problem. It finally got to the point where he could hardly get around, and that interfered with his ministry, which to him was a high priority. So he finally conceded to replace his knees, first the right one followed by the left the next year. Dad got a new lease on life with his new knees, and it was hard to slow him down at age 85. I found out through the grapevine that he helped a family put a new roof on their house. He was climbing ladders with bundles of shingles on his shoulder, and down on his new knees nailing shingles to the roof. He even outworked two much younger men that were helping him. I had to give him a good scolding for that, but that was just Dad. He would make the four and a half hour drive from Brady to Dallas and mix it up in Dallas traffic to make his doctors’ appointments.
He was an incredible man, my dad. As I watched him live his life – full-bore, filled with joy, loving the Lord with all of his heart and soul – I dreaded the thought of his decline into helplessness in later life. That would not have suited Dad at all, and I prayed and asked God not to allow my dad to decline physically or mentally, but rather that when his time came, that God would just take him. God answered my prayer on August 26, 2014. Dad got up that morning with respiratory issues and collapsed in the kitchen of his Brady home. My brother Ednoi, who was living with him called emergency services, but by the time they arrived, Dad’s brain had been deprived of oxygen too long. The EMTs worked on him and got him to the Brady hospital and then on a Care Flight to San Angelo. Dad lingered on a ventilator long enough for all of us kids, grandkids and some of his siblings to come and say goodbye. His body was functioning with the help of the ventilator, but he was not there. On August 28, 2014, we had the ventilator removed, and in a short seventeen minutes all life-functions stopped. Dad went to be with Jesus and to celebrate his 64th wedding anniversary with Mom the following day. Dad was exactly one month shy of his 88th birthday when he went to be with our Lord, but because of the greatest thing he taught me, I KNOW I will see him again, and maybe some time very soon.
This year marks the sixth year that I celebrate Father’s Day without my dad. But it will not be a time for sorrow. Rather it will be a time to thank God for the father He gave me and for the instrument that he was in my life to instruct and guide me in the ways of God. It will be a time of joy knowing that soon I will be together with him again forever because God is faithful, and His Word is true. That is not hope. That is assurance! Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for all you meant to me, to our family, and to everyone whose life you touched. See you soon!
5 responses to “My Dad”
What a wonderful legacy Ernie.
You have much to be thankful.
What a beautiful account of salvation and restoration, Ernie. You look very much like your father…and I’m sure he is proud of you too! Loved reading about him and how good our Father in Heaven is to answer prayers. ❤
There are many things to highlight in this wonderful blog post, but perhaps the best is “The world could be falling apart all around us, but one would never know it around Dad.” I loved hearing this story about your dad’s legacy of faith.
What a great tribute to your father – humorous, well-crafted, and full of interesting details. Truly he was a God-given blessing to you and your whole family.