On Feb. 7 my dad, Bonner McMillion, passed away here in Austin.In his last days he contracted pneumonia but by then he was in a nursing facility and in extremely poor health. He is survived by his wife and three children, 8 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
As my mom likes to say, my dad owned three newspapers, wrote three books and had three children. Growing up around journalism and publishing is where I learned so much about printing, writing, publications and many aspects of graphic arts.
In his last years my dad and I were much closer than when I was growing up. Being a person who was somewhat at the center of events in the late 1960’s, my relationship with my parents was similar to how it was for millions of young people back then. But over the years I’ve come to realize how much of an influence my parents were in what I’ve done with my life.
I told you about my grandparents in the blog post “Texas People”. But here I’ll tell you about my parents. Although my father was a Unitarian, the outlook my parents brought me up with had a number of aspects to it which fit well with my later calling to a Christian missionary lifestyle.
If you’re going to be a Christian disciple and a missionary abroad, you need to be comfortable with being different. In a very real sense, I was brought up in an alternative lifestyle. Nowadays that seems to mean that you were home schooled and your parents were far out hippies or some kind of freaks. For me, it meant that my family were not nominal Christians in a city in Texas during the 50’s and 60’s when to not be a church-going Christian was very unusual.
But one of the things that seemed to be more or less totally accepted by everyone in my part of Texas was racism. When I wanted to take a city bus back then, there was a sign at the front of the bus, “Coloreds to the rear”. I was 17 years old before the schools in Texas integrated, in other words where African-American students were allowed to go to the same schools as white students.
African-Americans were compelled to sit at the rear of city buses. They couldn’t eat in the restaurants that my family could. They couldn’t use the public restrooms I could or drink at the same water fountain. This was just the way it was and virtually no one said anything against it.
But my parents did. They taught me it was wrong. Nowadays everyone looks at it that way. But when and where I was growing up, virtually no one at all did, including all the Christians I knew. But my folks taught me that to be racist was wrong and evil. I agreed with that and stood up for it. So I was teased and ostracized and I learned to stand up for what I felt was right, even if everyone else didn’t agree.
That’s been a real help in my adult life when standing up for the Lord and putting faith and God’s Word ahead of worldly wisdom and secular values.
Also my parents were politically active. I distinctly remember passing out political pamphlets with my mother on the street in the lead-up to the 1956 presidential election. I was really glad to be able to do that together with them and to stand up for the beliefs that I held with them.
Another alternative, almost weird thing my parents would do would be to take food to the poor and to take Thanksgiving dinners that my mom prepared to poor folks on the other side of town. This type of thing had a profound impact on me. I had no doubts about my parents’ sincere care for others and their benevolence to the needy and those in distress.
Things like this and much more influenced my life to move towards some kind of public service. That was what I was directing my studies towards when I was in university here in Austin in the late 60’s. Through God’s mighty and miraculous hand, He worked in such a way to bring me to a form of “public service” that was far greater than getting involved with the often fruitless life that modern politics can lead to.
Instead, God brought me into a life of Christian service for Him in many lands. But it was my parents’ example of going against the grain and standing up for the downtrodden that set the tone for my life of being a fighter for the Lord’s cause against the spiritual darkness that comes against that cause from so very many quarters.
My dad taught me to care about those who were hated and to not feel I had to succumb to the whims of the majority. I would not have had the life I’ve had without all that I learned from him and my mom.