Ernest Hard and family


By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

This HARD FAMILY section is dedicated to stories and features by family members and to historical information on extended members of the Hard family.

This website is for all to enjoy, but, the main purpose is for Hard family members to have one place to go to share memories and information.  Family get-togethers are getting fewer and farther between as we are spread out all over the country.  

This website doesn't replace day to day social media interaction as in Facebook and others.  It does, however, keep you from having to search numerous sites and media to find Hard family information of interest.


Hard family members who want to contribute pictures, stories, or historical data to this website are encouraged to contact me at doctorhard@rodneyhard.com.

The following picture gallery has pictures and information on the family contributors to the HARD FAMILY section of this website.



By: Reverend Theodore Hard


From my father’s autobiographical book, HOPEFULLY FAITHFUL AND USEFUL, (Page 15-16).  Writing about immediate challenges and dire circumstances having just arrived in Korea by ship in 1954 as an Orthodox Presbyterian missionary with his family.

The Bruce Hunts, with daughter Connie, were our warm greeters in Pusan, and for many weeks our hosts in their home. Bruce looked hard for a house of some kind for us. Happily one was finally found two blocks from the Hunts' house in Nam Pumin-dong. 

But it was occupied by seven squatter families who vacated slowly and reluctantly, of course. We hated to unhouse anyone under the terrible conditions of living in city or country, and when we did move into the flimsy one story Japanese bungalow we encountered continuing occupants—rats and cockroaches and bedbugs in great numbers. Black grease still dripped from the kitchen ceiling. Household help or not, Grace met her first setting up of housekeeping overseas with remarkable aplomb.

There were many US army bases in the area, and many lonely young men came to Saturday night meetings held in the homes of the few missionaries in town, especially the Chisholms and Malsbarys of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and our Bruce Hunts. Soon many were visiting us any day or evening of the week for a bit of "home away from home". Soon I was preaching in various bases by invitation of chaplains or base commanders, at the same time worshiping at various Korean churches together with the Hunts.

To help visualize our situation I must speak of the neighborhood. Ours was not some kind of traditional missionary compound. Missions operating for decades before the war had, in most cases, a handsome elevated location with a cluster of well built houses and perhaps school and little hospital or clinic, with many national Christian employees. Often there were also orchards, gardens, fields.

By contrast, our domicile was a run down, poorly constructed bungalow, surrounded by crowded houses on narrow streets and alleys, with open ditches. A stone's throw distant, we found, to some dismay, a web of streets and alleys where small hotel-like buildings housed as many as one thousand prostitutes, lobby-like entrances displaying their languorous enticements each evening. 

 It was in this kind of neighborhood that our children grew up, playing with Korean children in and out of our yard, in nearby streets and alleys, or on the upper slopes of our Heavenly Horse Mountain, in very non-heavenly environment, physical or spiritual! 

 But the children grew with healthy bodies and sturdy constitutions! And minds and hearts were instructed and grounded in Christian truth and virtue through family prayers,home schooling (1954-1956) and Christian day school with other missionary children (1956-1959), in all of which Grace was steady and strong teacher.

They learned Korean, very rapidly outstripping their parents, and joined in regular church services whether in English or Korean. God's grace was ever great and evident! 

We did have the luxury, and necessity, of a live-in maid that helped with cooking and cleaning. This allowed Grace more time to teach and do missionary work.  Notice the bucket of well water and blue plastic ladle.  All water for drinking and cooking had to be boiled vigorously for up to a half hour in order to kill the micro-organisms.  All the human waste from the shanty houses above us and open sewers leached into the ground water that went into our well. 



By: Nelson Hard

By:  Nelson Hard 

Tailings and talus 
Torn from crumbling granite cliffs 
Graven images 

From the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 fin the Holy Bible

1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 



By: Nelson Hard

By:  Nelson Hard 

Late Autumn
Amber persimmons 
Apple chaff’s sensuous scratch 
Hot chestnuts crackle 



By: Nelson Hard

By:  Nelson Hard 

Open Air Market
Drunken pig athwart 
Reckless  cyclist risking limbs 
Kimchee’s piquant stink



By: Nelson Hard

By:  Nelson Hard 

Urchins' impish grins 
Temple guard's evil rictus
Leper's lipless leer 



By: Nelson Hard

By:  Nelson Hard 

Mountain’s cumulus crown 
Shot silk shimmer of salt sea 
Salient lateen



By: Sterling Hard


Among the many diversions we had as kids, one could only happen once a year.....in the late spring.  Nature, specifically hot sun, played a vital role.

During the summer and on through the winter, farmers filled up small ponds on the mountain side behind our house with the contents of outhouse pits hauled  “coolie style” in two, five gallon buckets suspended from each end of a pole balanced across the farmer’s shoulders. 

(Just an etymological aside: the Chinese word 苦 力 (pinyin: kǔlì) literally means “bitterly hard (use of) strength” ...citation: wikipedia.org..)

The farmers negotiated steep uphill rocky paths rarely more than a foot wide, carrying in excess of 70 pounds of “ripe” human excrement to be used as fertilizer to be ladled on the rows of crops to be grown next season. 

In the hot spring sun the smelly soup in the ponds developed a crust which looked pretty much what you would imagine it to look like...overdone bread pudding.

Now Robert Wright had a strange fascination with depth charges.....and when you heaved a sizable rock high into the air and it came plummeting down to break the surface, the “sploosh” produced a geyser which would satisfy the most jaded naval “war gamers”. 

But kids tend to be competitive, and so the rocks got bigger to produce larger depth charge geysers.  There were a limited number of ponds, with a finite amount of serviceable crust, so the depth charge projectile size escalated rapidly. 

Robert had “lost” the war last spring and wasn’t about to lose again.  So this particular hot spring afternoon, he picked up the biggest possible rock he could, struggled to the edge of a pond and was only able to lean over to roll the small “boulder” off his shoulder. 

It was the biggest alright, but the putrid geyser caught him full in the face! 

With a crazed yelp he fell back clawing the crap off his face. He tried to open his eyes, but within seconds the toxic slurry had swollen his eyelids shut.  “I can’t see!!” he bellowed. 

Suddenly the immediate possibility of permanent blindness crashed through our shock. 

He started wailing desperately.  I slung him onto my back and started down the mountain at a dead run. 

Cold fear and racing adrenalin only slightly dulled the pain of my bleeding feet.  I had long since shredded and lost my thin rubber shoes when I stopped momentarily, gasping for air, to check on Robert.  His hands clapped against his face didn’t stifle the pitiable crying, I’m blind, I’m blind, I can’t see!! 

I boosted him onto my back again, stumbling and tripping, driven by the panic of the crisis, past dumbfounded onlookers as we approached the house.

Exhausted, I dumped Robert on the ground and started hammering for all I was worth on the gate.

Helpless laughter?...had Robert lost his mind?  I turned, astounded to see him clutching his stomach, bent over.....LAUGHING....hysterically! 

“Robert, you OK?....can you see?” 

Paroxysms of cackling laughter erupted from Robert.  “OH, OH, I could see again; by the time we were half way down the mountain...my tears had washed my eyes out.” 

His eyelids were red and swollen, but I could see that his eyes WERE clear. 

“Why didn’t you stop me?” 

“Oh, I was having too much fun riding you down, and besides, I’ve never seen you so scared.” 

Momentary relief turned to fury, as I flailed and pummeled him, intent on doing serious bodily harm.  But I was too spent from the harrowing charge down the mountain to do any real damage....besides; all it did was to make him laugh harder! 


Sometimes these holding ponds were near the village.  I went to a country church one Sunday with my father, Rev. Theodore Hard, where he was going to preach.  

Before church he was taking pictures and stepped back into the edge of one of these ponds.  His foot sunk down and he got the excrement all over his leg almost up to his knee. 

The preacher at the church helped rinse it all off with well water and since my father did not have a change of clothes, he took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants leg, and preached his sermon from behind a large podium



From Grandpa Hard's Letters

My grandfather, Ernest Hard, regularly wrote long letters to his ten children, the oldest of which was my father, Theodore Hard.  My brother, Sterling, and his daughter, Anastasia, have been wonderful about collecting these letters, transcribing them, and getting them disbursed to the rest of us to enjoy.   The letters were written in microscopic handwriting from the very top left of the paper to the very bottom right of the letter.  Every inch of the paper was used without any margins showing.  His humor is often dry, but refreshing.  I have compiled paragraphs with snippets of humor and historical insight from various letters for the entertainment of friends and relatives.  Relatives who have not seen the letters can contact me about acquiring them.  - Dr. Rodney T. Hard 



I went to the annual three day Hort. Soc. meeting in Kingston today.  A Professor speaking said he was invited to address a group of students.  Three other Profs had turned down the invite.  When he came into the room to speak he noticed a broken window pane had a felt hat pushed into the opening.  After the speech the student leader, somewhat flustered told him, “You’re not like the felt hat, Professor.  You’re like a real pane.”


One noon hour over there I walked into to a bookstore.  I saw a book there entitled, “How to Clip Your Own Poodle” by Ernest H. Hart.  Looks like I came very close to being an author.


Sterling was telling about his aunts liking to argue.  He says they were at his aunt's house in New Jersey and were arguing about the layout of rooms upstairs.   Sterling offered to go upstairs and check for them but they said no, they'd rather argue about it.

​                           ****

Bill Fraumfelder was a Professor of Romance Languages at Bard and an elder at our church.  He left in 1954 and spent most of 15 years in Argentina and Spain.  Now he’s back at Bard.  He said his family and a small group of Americans were going to celebrate Thanksgiving together and wondered where they could get a turkey.  A Spanish woman was eager to help them and set out for the Turkish Embassy.  They had to head her off. 


Here we are at the end of 1957, fat and foolish, both nationally and personally.  I was just thinking this family has an income in cash and value of services of $100 a week.   What we spend for insurance and church has some value.  The rest I would say melts.   I believe your ma says about $30 goes into groceries.  I curse that car but your ma says she’d go whacky without it and now she has some regularly recurring babysitting jobs that almost require its services.  I suppose you have to pay for civilization.  They say women are always a force for progress adopting all the new gadgets expensive though they may be.  I favor Thoreau’s Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!  Maybe that’s retreating into one’s shell from one point of view.  Jane says my voting for simplicity just cloaks my own inadequacy.  She doesn’t approve of controlling lights by screwing bulbs in and out.  Remember the Vermonter who offset the slope of his floor by sawing off chair legs to make the seats level?


I recall talking to Charleen about your mother’s accident but I have no recollection of any unusual state of mind. Except for some unfortunate misreading of the first X-rays I thought that the case and care was being taken care of in the best possible manner. While I’ve heard that Charleen is gifted with ESP I think I possibly told her I was “Pretty good” and she thought that meant not so good.  I’ve adopted a “Pretty good” answer from the belief that the septuagenarians are rarely “Fine, thanks”.  I have only an occasional slight arthritic shoulder.  It looks now as though the line of inevitable decay will be forgetfulness.  I am absent-minded.  A couple times I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. My father was that way.  When he was about 73 he would forget whether he had or had not fed the horses.  He would go and feed them and they do pretty well.  Then when he couldn’t remember feeding then he got so he’d think he had fed them.  And they got so they didn’t look so good.  My aunt said that that year he had the longest legged pigs she had ever seen.  Maybe from running around looking for something to eat.


Mary Anne helped me plow garden by driving tractor, and one time as I was picking up trash she was demonstrating to Michael Durning.  She drove the front wheel up onto my right hind foot and stopped.  I was glad I had Al's lightest tractor afterward but at the moment I spoke tersely and earnestly to her.  So she backed off.  When Mike wanted to drive, I pondered for perhaps 5/10 of a second and came up with a definite answer. 


Doug's family ate supper with us up there.  Doug is now an engineer and works at a desk days.  Doesn't care too much for it.  I forgot to ask if there was a raise connected with it.  He has a hair cut somewhat like Napoleon had in one of his pictures -- kind of short and straggly but pointed toward the front.  He says that's so he can rub his head without messing up his hair.  I told him if he's going for that Napoleon stuff he should ditch the sport shirt and put on a jacket so he can put his hand into the buttoned front right above his paunch and look thoughtful.


Lincoln said he had a girl at Bard whose parents couldn't stand each other unless they were drunk.  Said they'd get up in the morning and drink and fight for a couple hours till they got high and then were all right for the rest of the day.  I asked Lincoln if he got mixed up with the dumb girls so much because it was a relief from the scintillating celebrations he encountered at home.  Strangely enough he took the question seriously and said he thought maybe it was because he thought smart people were hard to get along with.

​                                 ****

 Bill tells a story of a young man taking a physical for induction into the army.  At the end of the day his test was not finished and he was told to bring in a specimen of urine the next morning.  Not favoring induction, he begged urine from his grandfather and his sister to mix with his own.   Seeing a bitch taking a leak he secured some urine there.  He presented the composite sample and after lengthy testing, a doctor told him, "Your grandfather has gall bladder trouble, your sister is pregnant, the dog is in heat, and you're in the army."


Sunday night there is a cantata in the church by the combined Reformed and Methodist choirs directed by our minister's wife.  I told your ma I wanted to go and see the babes sing.  She said she would sing for me.  She would put on a cheesecloth gown and stand in front of a strong light.  I asked her what she would sing and she said, "Does it matter?"


 Note above date.  It marks end of deer season.  Now maybe Don will work.  No deer were gathered by this family but I guess the season was successful for us in that Don got through it without entering jail, what with hunting with a gun on a bow hunting license etc., etc.  He had two good shots at a buck but missed on account of having John's unfamiliar double barrel.  There were other hunters nearby and maybe he was lucky.  He stayed out of school today so will probably have some penalty meted out tomorrow.  Where doe (sic) he get this law breaking tendency?


Donald and I have a new riddle.  A boy was in the kitchen surreptitiously eating something behind the door.  What was he eating?  The answer is corn syrup.  Donald supplied the corn part of it.


They tell me Sid Delanoy was holding forth at the Sage House on the trials of a paratrooper.  How they had to jump out at 400 feet with a 180 lb pack on their back, land, and walk off with it.  He didn't tell how they got their feet up out of the ground.




By: Gregory Hard



Presented to Dr. J. Muller in partial fulfillment of requirement for a college class called THE FAMILY
April 12, 1977

The brunette co-ed glanced up from her magazine to see who her seat partner would be.  Tall, dark Ted Hard lifted some baggage to the rack above the seat, checked the number, and seated himself to await the beginning of the fourteen-hour trip home to New York State.  He was aware of the car full of Wheaton students behind him, and noted that he must be overflow.  Beside him, Grace had returned to her reading, not knowing that the man beside her was also a Wheatonite; she didn’t much feel like striking up a conversation. But indeed, providence does not always follow one’s first inclinations.  

Soon, the two were engrossed in talk, which continued for some time.  But the distance home stretched large.  Grace was awakened from sleeping on Ted’s shoulder when his toilet kit, being gingerly removed from the high baggage rack slipped and landed on her nose!  It is fortunate that mutual embarrassment is easier to endure.  In Buffalo, the two disembarked for fresh air and a short walk.  Grace saw fit to throw a light-hearted snow ball, which failed to go without notice.  Ted got off first the next morning.  Grace continued down the Hudson to her home in New York City.

Told with only two or three imagined (and therefore minor) details, this episode marked the beginning of Grace Vogel’s and Ted Hard’s acquaintance, subsequent courtship, and marriage.  Christmas vacation was the time of the train trip.  The subsequent June saw their wedding in New York.  What seems like a romantic beginning and a quick courtship may present cause for concern.  Indeed, one person has indicated that such a short acquaintance may be a cause for some of the troubles, the friction, and at times severe conflict in my parents’ marriage.  But much quicker marriages were typical of that era (1940s), and Ted and Grace – henceforth to be referred to as Dad and Mom – were far from irresponsible.

Mom had become a Christian at an early age.  From age nine forward, she was convinced that God was calling her to missionary work in Tibet.  The second of three daughters growing up in the middle of the Great Depression, she was neither spoiled nor unaware of the harsh realities of life in this world.  In high school, during the stress of World War II years, she was a superior student, and when she entered college, she did so with the knowledge that tuition would come from her pocket.

Dad grew up on a farm in a small town in Connecticut, the oldest of ten children (and several foster children).  At age sixteen, he committed his life to the Lord.  High school graduation included his valedictory speech and he entered Yale University on full scholarship after a summer at prep school.  But with only a semester behind him, he entered the Army Air Corps, went to cadet school, and flew as a navigator in B-29 bombing missions over Japan. While in the service, he also perceived a call to go to the mission field, but with no specific area in mind.  When he married Mom, he was just as committed to going to Tibet (her condition to marriage) as she was.

Ten months after their wedding, Mom and Dad took Sterling Theodore home from the hospital.  Nineteen months from Sterling’s arrival, Rodney Thomas was delivered.  By that time, Mom and Dad had graduated from college together.  Gwendolyn, Nelson, and Gregory came after arrival on the mission field.

Dad went to seminary at Westminster.  After graduation and a year of internship at a church in Michigan, Mom, Dad, Sterling, and Rodney left for the Far East.  Destination?  Korea.  Mao had taken over Tibet.

Essential to an understanding of the family situation under which I grew up is a fair glimpse of what Korea was like.  Unfortunately, only first-hand experience is sufficient, but for present purposes, a paragraph will have to do.

The destruction of the Korean War left Seoul (pronounced exactly like 'soul') in shambles and Pusan full of refugees.  What sixty years before was a town of 100,000 is now a crowded major port of 2.5 million inhabitants.  At one time called Cho-sun - Land of the Morning Calm - Korea is a country where one retires at age sixty to sit in the sun, smoking one's pipe and enjoying the benefits of grown children.  It is a land where Buddhist monks retire to remote temples for study and meditation while in big cities, shipyards bang and sparkle, office secretaries type, and subway trains (in Seoul) rumble.

To many, it is a dirty land with human feces fertilizer, stinky city streets, and muddy roads.  It is a land struggling to raise its nose above the water surface of 20th century industrial and economic standards but has not suffered the effects of a Japanese-type crass materialism.  It is a land with a strong, largely conservative Presbyterian church.

What did Dad's work involve?  When I was growing up, it involved teaching at the seminary nearby; preaching in country churches; distributing relief to "leper colonies", orphanages, old-folks homes, etc.; running an in-house book store of English predominantly religious books sold to seminary students; being charter member of a society to translate and publish important Christian books; working on the side to design and experiment with solar heating and cooking devices.

I often went to country churches with Dad, bouncing over winding, bumpy, mountainous country roads.  After I learned to drive (when I was twelve) I would sometimes pilot the Land Rover myself for a distance.  At a country church, Dad would preach, and if he stayed for the day, eat at the pastor's (or an elder's) house, do visitation in the afternoon and in the evening have a shortened sermon followed by Bible story filmstrips.  Nelson, my older brother by two years, or I, or both of us would attend to the projector or the screen.

At the college/seminary, Dad was the librarian, besides teaching part time (anything from theology, to comparative religions, to general science).  Relief work might involve loading up the Land Rover with cases of Multi-Purpose-Food and delivering them two hours away, or distributing bandages or scrapbooks full of pretty and bright pictures. 

Our house (actually two old Japanese houses connected by an enclosed corridor) served as Dad’s office, his secretary’s office; it housed his personal library of several thousand volumes; it was a storage point for books recently published; it was a pick-up point for filmstrips lent out to churches, receptions room for visitors, and at one point it served as a graduation auditorium.

When one was at home, one necessarily became involved with Dad’s work.  The work never left him – or us.  During the day, he was either teaching at the seminary or working at home; behind a typewriter, issuing instructions to secretary or carpenter in for repairs, sending the maid on an errand, asking Mom or one of us children for assistance.  At night, he would often be found studying, preparing a sermon, or typing, if he wasn’t out preaching at a week-day service. 

There was always an urgency in Dad’s work, and because there was so much to be done at home, there was a conflict between the need to do more work and the need to spend time with his family.   The abundance and urgency of work often meant pressing wife and kids into service.  After a tiresome week of teaching with plans for a restful Saturday, my mother was not always inclined to pour herself into filing papers, writing a letter, or whatever else might need to be done. 

Generally, we children worked grudgingly – we resisted work.  As a result, tension arose.  Dad couldn’t understand why we weren’t attacking our jobs with as much vigor and energy as himself.  Trying to get things done with begrudging kids who looked for excuses and had to be instructed how to do a simple job made for irritation and a sense of harassment.  I think my father often felt: “I have bigger and more important things to do than tying up boxes or weeding the garden.  But I can’t just delegate a job and expect it to get done.  I’ve got to oversee, check up, make sure that the job gets done – and done well.”

Although a source of tension and parent-child conflict, Dad’s having his work at home was also very essential to the development of his children.  It instilled in me a desire to do my best in a job – any job; it gave me many of the benefits of close parental supervision; it gave me an understanding of what missionary work involves; it instilled in me an attitude of: “A person is valuable for what and how he produces – not for what he is.”  Indeed, I’m still struggling to be a more Christian sense of people and their value – their relationship to me and my work, and my responsibility and proper attitude toward them.

In contrast to my father’s schedule, which was different every day, my mother’s teaching jobs lent themselves to her maintenance of regular and predictable schedules.  My remembrance of her teaching goes back only to her days at the elementary school on the American Army base in Pusan.  In contrast to my father’s work, teaching was something done entirely away from home, with the exception of papers brought home to be graded.

My family wasn’t involved with her colleagues; we weren’t pressed into service for her; when at home, she attended to home activities.  Mom’s working contributed, I’m sure, to the independence of her children.  It also allowed for her to spend more time in home activities – helping with homework, doing family accounting, providing affection and attention, etc.  But it was sometimes cause for conflict when asked to involve herself heavily in my father’s work (besides being mission treasurer, hostess to visitors, and sometime secretary).  In a sense, teaching had become her missionary work.  

By teaching, she was being a support to the family bank account, and thus being a support to children’s education and development as well as lifting off the pressure of financial problems.  Part and parcel to that teaching job was the nightly rest and weekend recuperation.  If my father asked for a lot of help on Saturdays, it might be asking more than my mother was willing or able to do.  Painful back trouble did not help matters.

Decision making never involved a family council.  Mom and Dad made decisions without consulting their children.  Although Dad always had final say if there was disagreement, most decisions were reached after discussion on an egalitarian basis.  As a sociologist might describe the situation: The decision making structure was one of egalitarian mutual consultation, with a tendency toward autonomic sharing of decisions.  Mutual discussion decided, “We will buy a four-door Datsun 1600.”  Mom decided what color it would be.  Mutual discussion decided on addition of a room as a kitchen.  Mom designed it.  In general, discussion was held in secret or behind closed doors, then a decision would be announced.  In the giving or permission, one parent’s consent was usually enough.  Occasionally I would get, “Go ask your father.”  Upon which asking, my father would reply, “I’m not sure, go ask your mother.”

I only once remember being punished by my father – a slap for back-talking him.  Likewise, I remember only one spanking from my mother.  Dad’s tone of voice or threatening look was usually discipline enough.  Mother wasn’t as demanding, but usually chastised with her tongue.  We children were well disciplined.  Speaking for myself – I usually had no cause for disobedience; for the most part I was glad to do what my parents bade or forbade.  With good discipline came responsibility.  The workshop in our house often found me working diligently and alone on some project.  We children traveled alone to any part of the city.  We rode our bicycles in the middle of city traffic.

I always had a partiality toward my mother when I was younger.  When she argued with my father, I was always (in silent non-intervention) on her side.  If I needed someone to talk to, I spoke with her.  She was the sex-educator of the family.  She was the spiritual counselor.  She was the one I hugged and kissed.  She was the one that helped me with algebra, that tucked me in bed at night, that gave me my allowance.  She was the one that would stop in the hall, hug me tightly, and tell me that I was a very good boy.  She was the one most “impressed” by my “wizardry” when I fixed a lamp or replaced a wall socket.  I could talk to her about Dad and vent my feelings and thoughts about him.  When she got angry, I usually cringed in shame –rarely was I angry in return.

My relationship with Dad was much more formal.  Most of the time he called me “Son”, resorting to a crisp “Gregory” when he was angry or when he had something important to say.  Although Mom objected to “Yes, ma’am!”  a quick Yes sir!” was in order if Dad gave impatient instructions or questioned, “Do you understand me?”  It seemed that he could never see the good of a job completed – there were always flaws to point out, criticism to be given.  Indeed, Dad instilled in me a good sense of quality, but I often boiled up inside at his criticism and the tone of his voice in which it was delivered.  It seemed that I always should and could have done better than I had.  

Talking to Dad about personal concerns was avoided until my middle teens, and when we were alone, our conversation usually dwelt on academic matters or discussion of events.  Although I sometimes wanted to, I rarely hugged or kissed Dad, and when I left for boarding school at age thirteen, we shook hands.

Mom has asked me several times what I thought was the most important thing that she and Dad had been trying to teach me as I grew up.  Generally, I was at a loss for a cogent answer.  Principles of Christianity were so ingrained in me that I hardly knew that my responsibility before God and man, the need to commit in word and action my life to Jesus Christ was the core of my parents’ instruction.  Regular church attendance at a local congregation was just not part of the life of my family while on the field in Korea.  Although we knew the language better than most missionary children, we children would not have understood much in Korean Sunday school.  One week I would be with my father at a country church in a leper colony and the next week I might be worshiping with my mother at the Army chapel.  The most consistent spiritual training came in Bible story reading (when we children were young) and family prayers.  Almost every evening after supper saw us gathered as a family in the living room for family devotion.  We’d read a chapter of the Bible and Dad or Mom would pray. 

We were encouraged to study the Bible on our own.  I prayed every night silently before falling asleep.  Several attempts to get us children to memorize the Shorter Catechism failed – Mom and Dad did not push us.  When a time of questioning did come around for me, I was away at high school – but I pursued answers seriously.  A time of confession and repentance lat in my junior year, not rejected later as insincere or unheard by God marked the beginning of my commitment to the Lord.

What do I want to imitate in my marriage and family?  What do I want to avoid?  I want to imitate my parent’s demonstrativeness of love and affection in front of their children.  I want to kiss my wife and hug her, hold her hand and compliment her in front of my children to give them a positive example and the security of a stable relationship between their parents.  I want to imitate a firm and fair discipline that gives responsibility and a high degree of independency.  I want to imitate the emphasis on Biblical teaching and everyone’s responsibility to and before God as his creation.  I want to imitate involvement of my children with my work.  I want to imitate a positive criticalness.  I want to imitate a willingness on Dad’s part to wash dishes or change diapers when the need arises.

But I want to avoid the formality of father-son contact.  I want to avoid the tone of voice that says, “Why didn’t you do better than you did?”  I want to avoid a lack of complimenting my son on progress or on a job well done.  I want to avoid pressuring my children too much to achieve or to produce.  I want to be able to hug my son, to talk to him freely about sex, or his English assignment, or his relationship to the Lord.