by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
April is a special time to me for several reasons. I was born on what liturgical denominations call "Holy Saturday," the day before Easter, April 12, 1941. Bombs were already falling on London and America was heading into war, which would break out with Germany and Japan only seven months later, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. But on Easter morning all was still quiet in our country.
I had been born at 3:50 in the afternoon the day before. It was a difficult delivery for my mother, and they brought me in for her to hold me for the first time on Easter Sunday morning. Holding me close to her heart, she looked out the window of the hospital as hundreds of white doves were released from a hill-top at Forest Lawn Cemetery, next to the hospital. She could hear a choir singing "God Bless America" as those white doves flew up in a beautiful formation in the sky. She often told me about that scene. And she would always add, "Robert, I knew that God had something special for you to do that morning." I treasure those words of my mother in my heart today, sixty years later.
April is very special to me because it is the month that God's people, the Jews, were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, at the first Passover. The Lord Jesus Christ was also crucified and resurrected from the dead in April, at the end of the Passover that year. I was called to the ministry in April, in 1958. God made it clear to me on Easter morning that He wanted me to be a pastor, and spend my life preaching the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.
In April, also, my Aunt Rene, my mother's youngest sister, was born on her mother's own birthday. She was a beautiful birthday gift to my wonderful grandmother, whose memory I will always cherish. I thank God for my aunt, Rene Morton. How my wife and my boys love her. And I also love her very much. She means so much to us.
We have a present for you, Aunt Rene. And we want to sing "Happy Birthday" to you.
April is also special to me because one day before my wife's birthday our close and much-loved friend, Ed Gallick, was born eighty-one years ago this April. Ed and his wife Ruby have been my friends for forty years. They are like members of our family. We have a present for you, Ed, and they will bring it to you as we stand to sing "Happy Birthday."
But the most significant thing for me, apart from the death and resurrection of Christ, happened on April 16, 1963, when a little girl was born far away in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Her mother, who is here today, named that little girl Ileana Patricia. God brought her to America to be my wife, the mother of my sons, and my life-partner, my helper and my friend.
Ileana, I want to say something to you this morning, in front of our friends, that I have often said to you in private, "You are perfect for me. I cannot imagine life without you."
The last night that she could speak more than a word or two, before she had her final stroke, my mother sat up in her hospital bed, just before I was about to leave. She said this, and she meant it, "Robert, you have a wonderful wife. She is behind you all the way." I will never forget those words of hers because they were so very true.
Ileana, I would not have the good life I do without you. I would not have these two remarkable sons, Robert Leslie III and John Wesley, without you. I would not have a home without you. You took my mother into our house for the last four years of her life, after she was converted. You, Ileana, more than anyone else, made a beautiful life for my mother in her final days. I owe you everything for doing that. My mother, Cecelia, loved you with all her heart, and so do I.
No one really understands how difficult it is to be a pastor's wife, especially during the dark days of a massive church split. But I know. And I also know that you came through it all with flying colors. I have never doubted that you were with me all the way - for better or for worse. Thank you. You home-schooled our boys for eleven years, giving them a superb education, including piano lessons, Spanish lessons, and yes, karate lessons! Now you are giving Dr. and Mrs. Cagan's two boys the same wonderful education you gave our sons.
I want you to know that your labor is by no means wasted. You are training four men whom we dare to hope will be pillars of the church for the next half century and more. Those four boys will soon be men - and they will owe as much to you for educating and molding them as I do for your love and care for me.
Ileana, you work tirelessly in all aspects of the church's life. You spend yourself in Christ's service night and day, week in and week out, decade after decade. We all owe you so much. And no one owes you more than I do. Ileana, God bless you, and to make this birthday memorable, here is my gift to you - a check which is to be used by you to go back to your homeland in Guatemala and visit your father and your beloved grandmother. I love you, Ileana, and I always will!