Letter to My Father


Faithfulness, Part III

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash Clayton Shenk founded Tidings of Peace Christian School in York, PA, and led the school for 24 years. In 2019, he passed the leadership of the school to his son, Austin. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with cancer. On Christmas Day, 2019, Clayton passed on to his reward. This post is Austin’s tribute to his father.


I’ve always been amazed at your huge heart and boundless energy. Now that cancer has taken that boundless energy, your huge heart is in such great pain because you don’t have the energy for service. I want to assure you that God, others, or I, are not judging you based on your service. We’re all too busy catching our breath. Your life of faithful service has been a whirlwind of activity. It is only now that the whirlwind has ceased, that we have the leisure time to contemplate the magnitude of your service. There are three specific areas of faithful service for which I’d like to thank-you. They are: always loving mommy, always having time to talk, and always challenging me to forgive the bad and build on the good.

Although I don’t remember my first day, all that I’ve grown up seeing or experiencing has convinced me what you said and also believed: “The best thing you could do for me was, love my mother.” I felt secure knowing that you were always infatuated with her. It was so reassuring when I’d walk through the dark hallway on my way to bed to hear the soft murmur of your voices and sometimes joyful laughter. I knew your public displays of affection were not an act, but the real deal right down to the core. I didn’t understand the magnitude of your sacrifice when you left her for five months to take us boys on the Appalachian trail. Now that I understand more, I realize it is impossible to ever thank you enough for that time of separation. It is also impossible to thank you enough for how you both loved us together whether doing family night, teen encounter, or ministry in our home. Thanks for loving me by loving mommy.

A person doesn’t need to know you long to understand your ability to talk, but the deeper the relationship the more obvious was your gift for listening.

I wrote this much of the letter eighteen days before you went to be with Jesus. Oh, how I wish I would have delivered it sooner. The rest of the letter will be solely for the benefit of others.

A person didn’t need to know you long to understand your ability to talk, but the deeper the relationship the more obvious your gift for listening. I always knew you were a busy man, but I also knew you would always take time to listen to me. Whether it was the middle of the day or late into the night, I can’t remember a time you told me to wait till later to talk. This was an amazing gift to me as your son, but I know many other people were also blessed by your willingness to listen. This is one area of good I hope to build on from your example.

Speaking of what to build on, I greatly appreciate your humility in training me to build on the good and forgive the bad. You lived a life that backed up that statement. You were quick to ask forgiveness when you did wrong or to clarify if something was bad and not something on which to build. As I reflect on the good to build on, this is a strong foundation for my life. Thank you for all the good you gave me! Your children’s children will be better for it.

Your love for mommy, your willingness to listen, and your admonition to build on the good are priceless examples of faithfulness to me. I know your desire to see your grandchildren grow into faithful Christians was with you to the very end. Although you are no longer around to teach them, my 2 ½ year old daughter still talks about the Christmas eve goodnight kiss you gave her before going to be with Jesus the next morning. Your faithfulness to the end is the seed you planted that God and I will take from here for a bounteous harvest.

Thank you, Daddy!

Love, Austin


  1. Re-read the letter and pick out any attributes of faithfulness you plan to build into your life. Then make and work a plan.
  2. Write a similar letter to your father. If he is not alive you may send it to someone whom you respect and trust.
  3. Repeat steps one and two with your class.



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