This hero will certainly battle on. He will not retire or call it quits. He has dedicated himself to the cause and regardless of the pain, discomfort or challenges he is determined to give his all. I am speaking of my eighty year old paraplegic father, the Rev. Dr. Cecilio Melendez. He is a model for all to see, an object lesson for none to forget. We live our lives with a higher calling to serve God. With each individual there is of course a variety that is expressed as God uses us all in a unique way. Whether he formed us to sing, preach, teach, play an instrument, be hands of comfort or help, pray, build or fix, and others, we have a very personal mission, a commitment between God and us. My father was formed for many reasons, but one of great importance was to preach.
It was in the fishing town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in a small Spanish Pentecostal church he was asked to preach to the children of his church. What was remarkable is that he was seven years old. He remembers that he preached on Matthew 24, the topic was “Signs of the End of the Age”. He never looked back. He found the courage to do what few would. He would pull up a crate on the street corner and start preaching. This started at the age of twelve. Around the same time came the many invitations from traveling evangelists for the young man to accompany them and preach before large crowds of hundreds. Before he was a teenager his ministry was in full swing.
By the time my father was twenty years old he was a fully ordained minister. All was brilliant in the life of this young man; now married and the father of a beautiful little girl, my older sister Lisa. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. Treatments began earnestly in order to save this young life. The Doctors never gave my father much of a chance. They thought he would perhaps live a couple of years. But my father a man of great faith, put his life in God’s hands and fifty eight years later he still standing. However this is not the whole story.
The effects of radiation therapy would not become evident for many years later. In his late fifties he would begin to lose the use of his hands. One complication would lead to another. To summarize, both of my father’s arms and hands are paralyzed, he has lost complete vision in his left eye, sees with great difficulty in his right eye, occasionally loses his sight completely, loses his balance, may also at times feel faint, is on a strict diet, suffers from different aches and pains, has paralysis of the right vocal cord, and gets up every morning thankful that God has given him another day, when he was supposed to have been dead over fifty years ago. Doctors have chastised him for preaching and counseling, ordering him to rest his vocal cords, which is exactly what he did for almost a year. It was yet another source of pain and frustration for a man that has been preaching since he was seven. For him preaching was as natural as walking and breathing.
Every last minister and preacher in the church had taken several turns throughout the year and then the merry go round stopped. The Pastor was going to preach. Everyone waited in anticipation. Many I am sure were just waiting for him to retire. Others had been praying for healing. Neither would occur. The brave old man with little vision would locate an old outline from his memory of thousands and the sermon began. More than an hour later, he concluded after having inspired, motivated, excited and spiritually lifting the entire congregation. The time had just flown by. The church had witnessed a man wholly and completed dedicated to God. It did not matter, what physical ailments he would have to overcome, nor would it matter the weariness he had been suffering. Not even the warnings of doctors would stop him. He knew he had to preach. It was probably the best sermon I had heard in over a year. Later in private I would ask my father “Are you going to preach next Sunday?” His response was perfect, “Of course this has to continue!” No excuse, no retreat, no surrender for this hero. He will battle with his sickness and continue with this mission, until God says “no more”.
God is not looking for excuses. He did not accept any from Moses (Exodus 3:11, Exodus 4:1, 10), Gideon (Judges 6:15) or Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). He does not want us to come with excuses either. He is looking for men and women who are willing to sacrifice and overcome obstacles to complete with the mission God has placed in each of their hands. It will not be easy, nothing worthwhile is. But I know as I watched My father preach, I learned that to be responsible to your calling will most likely include great sacrifices and great battles, but “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)