The Heart of a Father

Stephanie Demorest (left) with her father, Joe Cox g93 (right), and mother, Brenda Cox (middle). 

by Stephanie (Cox) Demorest g93, Director

“’Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?’” ~Matthew 7:9-10, NASB

I can still hear the voice of Rev. Ron Scharfe reading this Scripture while teaching our New Testament Theology class one dark, cold Indiana December morning in 1990. Only a few of us Bible/Pastoral Ministry majors sat in that classroom from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for those two weeks in the middle of December.  Mornings were spent receiving wisdom from Rev. Scharfe, as he guided us through George Eldon Ladd’s classic 630-page volume entitled A Theology of the New Testament, and afternoons were devoted to reading, researching, and writing in the Lehman Library, where the light of days faded quickly over the icy horizon. 

On this day, I remember sitting near my dad, Joe Cox g93, in class. This was the only class we experienced together during our parallel time at Fort Wayne Bible College. And it was a privilege for me to have this time with him. As Rev. Scharfe emphasized the point of the passage being the importance of persistence to ask, seek, and knock, he highlighted Jesus’ own reason for why we should not give up: we have a heavenly father who magnifies the qualities of our earthly fathers and so will not refuse to meet our needs. He will not give us negative substitutes and lesser value answers than what we request. Our Father in Heaven will answer our requests in a similar but better way to our earthly fathers, who desire to give us all good things. 

Reverend Ron Scharfe teaching a class 

Then, Rev. Scharfe looked intently in our direction and said, “Joe, if your daughter asked you for a loaf of bread, would you give her a stone instead?” His answer: “Of course not!” And so the point was clarified and strengthened – my earthly father loved me and would give everything for me. How much more then would my heavenly Father meet my needs, answer my request?! 

I will not, for as long as I live, forget that lesson. And as time has elapsed, life has changed, and the meaning of that moment sinks deeper into my soul. 

My father passed into his heavenly home on May 22, 2022. Around the time of his funeral, I received a phone call from Dr. Dave Biberstein g66, who was of course my dad’s advisor, teacher, and mentor during his student years in the Pastoral Ministries program at Fort Wayne Bible College. He told me he would send a photo he had of me and my dad at our graduation in May 1993, since he always took photos of all of his program graduates over the years. I was overjoyed a few days later to receive the picture above. 

Now that several months have passed since the time that my dad left this earth and I am nearing that one-year anniversary, I remember with a smile how God brought me to FWBC through my dad already being enrolled, starting in 1987, in pastoral classes. I visited a Dr. Wes theology class with him in the Spring 1990 and transferred immediately in the Fall to start my sophomore year. This was a life-changing moment for me. 

During my time as Director at the Fort Wayne Alumni Center, I have heard stories from many of our alumni about the impact this college had on their lives. This was a unique place of delving deeply into the Scriptures, encouraging one another, seeking God’s call on our lives. It was not a perfect place, but it gave us a space to grow and to hear God speak in powerful ways to launch us into ministry and service. I am forever grateful for all that the faculty and staff of FWBC invested in me during my years at the college. And the memories of times together with my dad on that campus are indeed inscribed on my soul (cf. Aristotle, “Memory is the scribe of the soul.”). Thank you for allowing me to share this memory with you. 

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