Dear Dad

A Tribute to

Virgil Walter Moneysmith

Written by his daughter Dottie Moneysmith Hoppe and read at his funeral

July 20, 1988 [eight weeks before he died]

 Dear Dad,

I see you lying there sick and weak. Yet I want you to know that I see not so much the affliction of your body as I see the strength of your spirit—yes, of your whole being.

Your hands shake a little now, and they hurt a lot from the arthritis. Yet, though you lay there almost seeming to be unconscious at times, your hand still grips mine with a strength of love and purpose and character that can’t be erased by sickness and pain.

I still see in those hands the accomplishment of the years: The football you threw that earned you the honored position of quarterback of your high school team. The softball you tossed to us before we were five and so gave us the opportunity to enjoy many wonderful hours playing, not only with you, but wherever we have gone. The bricks you made and laid to build us our own home at Bakouma, a home that will always be more than anywhere to me my childhood home. You made that home, Dad. You created the kiln to bake the bricks and the molds to make the tile for the roof. You taught the Africans skills, and they were your helpers. And then you made the furnishings that were within.

The chairs—can I ever forget those beautiful chairs you made so skillfully with your own hands? Today I wonder where those chairs are, and if perchance I could have one. How I would love to have one of them! The couches I remember, too, with their wide, curved wooden arms. We could have sat on something much more simple. Ours was the first house of all the missionaries to have a flush toilet and running water to sink and shower because you had the foresight to take those things all the way to Africa.

And, Dad, the piano. To give us a piano, you combined your skills—no, not of music perhaps, but of patience, perseverance and perfectionism to give us a piano. You crated it so carefully for shipment to Africa, but when it arrived at the coast, there were no lifts with which to move it. So they rolled it end over end over end. As a result, all the little hammers and sticks inside came apart, and when we opened the crate they lay in heap at the bottom like a box of tinker toys. Though you know nothing about music, you figured out how to put it back together, and with an earlier single lesson in tuning, you somehow made it playable. Play it we did, then—and we still play. That heritage you gave us has been used in many places, in many parts of the world. And we have passed it on to our own children and others. Undoubtedly, they will pass it on to still others.

Though you did not have the privilege of being raised in a strong Christian home, when you heard the Good News, you had the courage to accept it and to step out by faith and live what you believed, no matter what it cost you. And you never turned back. Though not trained in formal higher education, you studied the Word on your own, and you taught and preached it faithfully. You set for us the highest standard of godliness that a young person could desire. Your loyalty and commitment to your Savior and your God led you and your young bride to leave family and friends to go to a vast unknown in the very heart of darkest Africa.

It was farther away then than it is now. Travel was long and arduous. Mail took forever. Medicine was minimal. There you learned two new languages, and you established churches that exist to this day. Whenever I have been tempted to shrink back from the task, I have remembered your example. We didn’t have school, we didn’t have luxuries; as I recall, we didn’t have candy. But we had some of the greatest parents a child could ever want.

And we were happy. How can we ever forget the nights out on the terrace, singing to the moon and learning about the constellations! How could I forget the cities we built in the sand pile you made us, or the chickens you allowed us to tame and name, or how you allowed us to tear up the cement on our front porch so we could in a small way experience the fun of roller skating? And none of us will ever forget some of the best playmates a kid ever had—Scotty, our dog (who was eaten by lions), and our cats, Pussy Willow, and Princess, and Silver (God bless all his nine lives!).

Dad, you have never really told us how much it cost you and Mother to give us an education at the best Christian college around. Oh, we may have seen the bill—but how did you pay it? I guess I don’t really know. Surely I have told you thanks, Dad, but it won’t hurt to say it again. I know you must have done without a lot to make that possible.

And Dad, thanks for all the toys you fixed. I always believed, and still do, that you can fix anything. Thanks for encouraging me to enter one of the most exciting professions on earth. I still remember your writing me a letter in your own hand when I was at the Summer Institute of Linguistics training in North Dakota and saying it was okay if I joined Wycliffe, if that was what I thought the Lord wanted me to do. Thanks for letting me go far away, and for taking care of all the business at home when we were gone. Thanks for taking care of our children so many times, for giving them a piece of your mantel, for sharing generously the little money you had.

Dad, you taught us so many things—do I dare name a few at the risk of excluding other important ones? Money just isn’t that important. You don’t have to have money to be happy. God supplies all our needs (and many of our wants). Family is important. Godly living is essential. Sports are fun. Living by faith is a worthwhile risk. Honesty is of utmost importance.

I could go on and on. But what I want to say, Dad, is that even though you are very sick now, in my mind you still exist as the great man that you always were. You are no less important, no less cared for, no less loved, no less esteemed. In fact, the opposite is true. The fact that God has blessed you with 78 wonderful years does not make pain any less real, or suffering any easier, nor your absence any less painful when God chooses to promote you to glory. We’re proud of you for the past—and we are proud of you now, Dad. You have met this challenge with the same Godly courage that you have always used to handle sorrow, difficulty, and hardship.

One of my greatest prayers is that you will know God’s peace and His unmistakable presence through this valley until God chooses to bring you out. His grace is sufficient.

We’re with you. We’re cheering for you. We love you.


[Daddy slipped away to heaven on September 12, 1988.]