A Letter to Dad
I was born in 1955 to very loving parents. When I was eight months old my father passed away due to a doctor’s mistake. In 1957 my uncle (dad’s brother) married my mom and raised me as his own son. I migrated to the United States in 1972 at age sixteen to further my studies and remove myself from the Israel/Palestine conflict (I am an Arab Palestinian). In leaving my home at a young age, I missed the close relationship between father and son. Therefore Louis Brighton became my spiritual father. A longtime professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Dr. Brighton passed away on November 13, 2015.
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To a Reverend Doctor of the church, my spiritual father, Louis Brighton:
I write these words in loving gratitude to my heavenly Father, for the way you (Professor Brighton) touched my life, shaped my ministry, and caused me to hunger and thirst for the Word of the Living God. Tears of joy roll down my cheeks as I reflect on the many hours I was privileged to spend at your feet as you demonstrated to me and countless others the role of the under-shepherd of God’s flock.
We met in the summer of 1989 while I was enrolled in the Greek summer program in preparation to the office of the Holy Ministry. In the early days I would see you on campus. You always had a big smile on your face and a kind word on your lips filled with love and adoration of your Lord and Savior, Jesus. When you would see me you would always say, “How is your lovely bride, Jean, and how are your wonderful boys, Tony and David. How are your studies going?” In this you became such a dear friend and mentor to me and ultimately played the role of my pastor away from my home congregation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As the days progressed and we were to start the seminary education, many of your former students would say, “Make sure you register for Dr. Brighton’s classes. You will learn much and you will see what a true pastor is.”
I listened to the upper classmen’s advice and took as many classes as I could from you. During those formative years, I learned so much from you, dad, and wanted to be like you as a pastor. When I returned home from classes, I would tell my wife: “If I could only be half of what dad was I would have served my Lord faithfully and well.”
Dad, you cared enough for my soul, my future ministry as an under-shepherd of God’s flock that you would teach me in humble ways what it means to be a pastor. I was moved by your caring and pastoral attitude and would find any excuse to be with you in your office and get to know you so much better.
In the classroom, dad, you reminded me again and again that what was caught was as important as what was taught—and what was taught was extremely important. For thousands of pastors you modeled the Lord Jesus, taught about Christ’s great love for us, and opened up the Scriptures in a true evangelical fashion. Students left your class feeling as though they had just taken a walk on the road to Emmaus. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets you explained to students the things concerning the Christ of the Scriptures. In the breaking of the bread, you helped us to see more vividly the crucified and risen Savior and to dwell under his wings of mercy. Your exposition of God’s word set our hearts aflame with joy, high heavenly hope, and love.
You made me hunger for the word of God and drove me to dig deeper into the original languages so that I might see the face of Christ more clearly and concretely. I remember how you would often say to me, “Son, see Christ and his love everywhere in Scriptures. For the whole Bible from front to finish is all about Jesus!”
As I said above, dad, you shaped and formed my ministry to be the husband, father, son, but above all, the pastor that I am today in the service of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I will never forget the stories you told that brought the lessons to life! In one of my classes on the Book of Revelation, you shared with the class a story that took place during World War II that moved you to be faithful even to death.
While we were discussing chapter 2 in general and verse 10 in particular, I remember you leaning on the podium, with your finger pointing at us, and saying: “Men you need to hear me and hear me well.” “Don’t ever deny your Christ no matter what! Always share the love of Jesus, the face of Jesus, and the compassion of Jesus. Never stop preaching Christ’s good news.” As the story progressed, your face became red, your voice had a higher pitch, and your eyes focused on each one of us.
During the war, the Nazis had made their way into Poland. They had gotten hold of a Christian professor and brought him out to the public square. At gunpoint, they asked this professor to deny his Christ or face death. He wasn’t willing to deny his Lord and Savior. Then they brought his wife and children out to the square. Again, they asked him to deny his Lord and again he declined. Then one of the soldiers brought the wife closer to him, pointed the gun at her temple, and said, “Deny your Lord or we will kill your wife.” Before he could speak, the wife started speaking, “Please don’t deny our Lord, he died for us. His promise was this, ‘even if you die, you shall live.’ I will see you again even if they kill me.” The professor looked at his wife and the soldier and said once more, “I can’t deny my Lord and Savior.” With that the soldier pulled the trigger and the wife collapsed in her own pool of blood. Dad moved towards the window and looked out (into a far away land); the silence in that classroom was deafening!
Dad, you powerfully continued the story saying this scene occurred three more times as his three children were shot and collapsed in their own pools of blood right next to their mother. Dad began to choke up and tears began to roll down his cheeks and looked at us once more, and said: “Never, never ever deny your lord and savior!” This was the first time I saw you cry, dad.
Dad, this story has been etched in my memory. My ministry has by the power of the Holy Spirit continued to be focused on being the humble servant of the most High God—imitating in word and deed your love, dad, for the gospel and the Lord you so faithfully loved, served, and taught me and others about.
To you dad, my spiritual father, thank you for your love of God’s word and his gospel. Thank you for the many gifts you have given me over the years, your own personal Bible signed in Greek to your spiritual son and your commentary on the Book of Revelation autographed just for me to be faithful and to never be ashamed of my Christ. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a servant for the sake of the kingdom. Thank you for your role in shaping me to be the pastor that I am today. Thank you for encouraging me to remain in the ministry when Satan unleashed his venom on me and thank you for being you, dad!
I love you with all of my heart and look forward to seeing you again soon with the risen and exalted Christ—he who was slain but now lives forever.
I pray that the words of John—“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rv 2:10)—will help us to remain faithful until the end of life, when we will see the Lamb around his throne.
In Christ’s love and in his service,
Your spiritual son, Nabil Nour, a foot washer (Phil. 1:6)
The Rev. Nabil Nour is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hartford, South Dakota, and serves as the fifth vice president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.