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‘Bonus Fathers’ Important in Shaping Our Path

This weekend many will be celebrating Juneteenth. It is now a federal holiday, recognizing the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The date comes from the last place where slaves were still being institutionalized and finally set free in Texas on June 19, 1865. It is also a celebration Monday for West Virginia Day. It is a state holiday recognizing the day West Virginia became a part of the Union on June 20, 1863. It is also the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day.

Yet for me, if you saw me this week, you might have seen a tear in my eyes and a smile on my face, and it would have nothing to do with any of these great holidays. This past week I lost my father — not my natural father, but a bonus father, the one Paul talked about in Bible. A tear in my eye because he left me, and a smile on my face because he is now where he was trying to go. The Bible says, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel.” I Corinthians 4:15

When I first read this as a child, I thought the writer had made a mistake. “Ten thousand instructors, yet you only have one father,” is what I thought it should say. Yet clearly, he seems to imply, that you might only have one natural, biological father, you can have several bonus fathers. I have lost count of my instructors; I have forgot more then I care to remember. My natural father told me, “Everybody can teach you something. Some teach you what to do, some teach you what not to do, but all teach you something.” When it comes to bonus fathers I have been truly blessed. Some are Dea. S. Jethrow, Dea. C. Bonner, Dea. G. Bonner, Bish. N. L. Wagner, Bishop P.A. Bowers, Dist. Eld. J. Agnew, Suff. Bishop F. McDonald, Suff. Bishop G. Washington, Suff. Bishop N. McAllister, Bishop J. W. Gaiters, Bishop A. Cooper, Dea. J. Hibbett, and several others. I did not see it as a child, but I see it now, if you are truly blessed, there is a possibility that God might bless you with a bonus father. I have been truly blessed, because I have several bonus fathers. Some I asked for, and some I did not, but all have been truly bonus fathers to me.

This week, I lost another bonus, Bishop Roy C. Dawkins, of Wintersville, Ohio. He went on to his reward in heaven on June 8, 2022. He was born on December 24, 1939 in Lake Village, Arkansas, the oldest of 11 siblings. He was raised and educated in Kansas City. He proudly served in the U. S. Marines, and married one of the most wonderful people in the world, his beloved, Lady Charlene Dawkins. They were truly a dynamic dual for the Kingdom.

Bishop Dawkins served in the ministry for over 60 years, and as a pastor for 47 years. Thirty-five of the years at Greater Zion Temple Family Worship Center, Steubenville, Ohio. He is survived by three wonderful children, two of them are known internationally as Dawkins & Dawkins.

I did not really meet him till I came to the Ohio Valley. I had heard of him, and seen him, but never really talked to him, until I came to the Valley. When I came to Wheeling, I was driving from Ashtabula, Ohio, where I had pastored for the last 10 years. My natural father had told me to visit Bishop Dawkins before I went to Wheeling. I dropped by Bishop Dawkins’ church without an appointment, and he came out the office to meet me, saying “I heard you were coming!” He had come to the Valley three years before me, from another area of the country. Both of us started somewhere else. We were both outsiders. Did my father know that I needed a Bonus Father in the area? Had he talked to him, they both knew each other. They both had the experience of serving as state officers, and I have the honor now to follow them. Bishop Dawkins went on to be President of the same organization, my natural father never had that honor. With the help of my bonus father, I now have had that same honor.

My bonus father, Bishop Dawkins and I have not always agreed with each other. Truth is, neither have my natural father and I always agreed. They both had taught me hard lessons, that I did not always want to learn. I have been blessed to have several robes in my closet. Three of them were from other pastors. One of them was my natural father. The other two were from my bonus fathers. One was Suff. Bishop N. McAllister and the other Bishop Roy C. Dawkins. I believe I feel all three of their presence when I minister in their robes.

A father, bonus father, freedom, and a state’s goal are to have their people to be successful. A man by the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803-1882), an American philosopher and poet, asked a rhetorical question, in what is called” The Complete Works.” The question was, “What is Success?” He then answers the rhetorical question as if he is thinking out loud. He states maybe the goal of life is to just be happy, to experience happiness. There is a sharp difference between joy and happiness. Happiness depends on what is happening, but joy has nothing to do with what is happening, it comes from inside of you. Then you can have joy in the midst of sorrow.

Then he argues success could be having the respect of others. Then he says maybe it is to earn the appreciation or winning over a critic. For some who use to put you down, now start lifting you up. Then he argues maybe it’s beauty, maybe it’s creating a better situation or environment for others. Maybe he says, it means to live and let others live.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” The purpose of life, is to have a life on purpose. Sadly, some will die, without ever living, because there was no purpose for their life.

Here is how Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded”

I thank God for my natural father, my bonus fathers, and my freedom.

I also thank God for my bonus father, Bishop Roy C. Dawkins, who taught me so much.

An Unforgettable man! May I become one, too!

Happy Juneteenth, West Virginia Day, and Father’s Day!

The Rev. Darrell W. Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.

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