There have been many people who have profoundly influenced my faith, but none more than my father, Richard Benefield, aka "The Jolly Fat Man of the Hotel Magee." Dad was a hotel manager and caterer whose worked tirelessly 7 days most weeks. He prepared me for the minister's life by working every weekend. But for him, work was not the center of his life, faith was.
My Dad's favorite verse of the Bible was Romans 12:1: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." He found his particular calling later in the chapter, "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching, the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness." God gave my Dad and abundance of most these gifts, though he considered he was especially blessed to be a generous giver.
One of the things my Dad used to say, which has been a guiding light for my own life, is: "If you love to serve others, you will always have something important to do and you will always be happy." He loved to serve his church, his community, and God's creation, and it made him a very happy man.
I remember when I was 12 years old, I went to the First Presbyterian Church of Bloomsburg, PA, for a worship service in which my Dad, an elder of that church, was installed as Moderator of Northumberland Presbytery. On Tuesday night, when I was installed as Moderator of Monmouth Presbytery, surrounded by my family and so many wonderful friends from United Presbyterian Church and the Monmouth Presbytery, I knew that my Dad was one of that "great cloud of witnesses" cheering us on from heaven (Hebrews 12:1).
My father was the one who helped light the torch of my faith, the Light of Christ that illumines my path in life and inspires me to share Christ's love and light with others. My prayer is that we might be the kind of Christians whose love for Christ and service for others inspires generations to come, just as my father's did.