I was 11 years old when Rod Farthing moved his family–his wife Jan and 5 kids, at the time–to my hometown of Salem, Missouri. The Farthing Family’s entrance into my life was a game-changer.
I remember the pool table in their living room, the cookies and the Kool-aid. The Thursday night Bible studies led by Jan. Rod coming back from his volunteer gig as a DJ at the southern Gospel station in town.
I can recall suddenly wanting to be a radio disc jockey.
I remember listening to E.V. Hill preach his own wife’s funeral via cassette tape while riding in the car to Central Christian College of the Bible. Rod was driving. I remember listening to old preachers tell stories around the campfire in the Kiamichi mountains, late at night. Rod was across the fire. I remember preaching at preacher-boy contests all through my teenage years. Rod was the most encouraging listener in the audience. I remember a quiz Jan gave us one night at youth group to see how much we knew about the Bible. I remember doing much better on that quiz after our bible basics series was over than I did when it started. I remember Rod still knew way more than me.
I remember the old sermon illustration about John Griffith the railroad bridge operator, as told by Rod in a Sunday morning sermon, and understanding the Gospel in a whole new way. I remember a blue shirt, black shorts, a backstage prayer, and Rod lowering me down in the water. I remember rushing to get dried off and rushing back just in time to see my dad being lifted out of the water. It was March 6th, 1994. I remember getting a “spiritual birthday” card, e-mail, or text every year since on the same date. I remember seeing my mother come up out of the water a few years later. Rod was lifting her out of the water. I remember his then very young son Ryan baptizing a bunch of puppies at the Farthing house, because he wanted to be like his dad.
I wanted to be like his dad, too.
Rod Farthing has never been on staff at a mega-church, but he has preached the Gospel faithfully to hundreds of thousands of people for forty-plus years. He’s never written a best-selling book, but he has etched truth into countless lives, as if on stone, over the course of his ministry. He never obtained his masters degree, but I am sincere when I say he is one of the two or three smartest people I’ve ever met.
I could go on and on, but allow me to finish by saying this: I would not be writing this, I would not be in ministry, and I may very well not be walking with Jesus if it weren’t for Rod Farthing. As adults we’re good friends and, though we don’t agree on everything, he is a hero of mine. Because once upon a time I was a little kid in Salem, Missouri. Then the Farthing family moved to town, and my world changed forever.