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The man I call Dad

By E. Scott Martin

In spite of only being exposed to liberal Judaism and liberal Christianity, I always had a God-consciousness as a little boy. This wasn’t just a coping mechanism for a devastating childhood; it was God’s grace reaching out to a child to accomplish His plan. I was born to a single mother; the only male figure in my life, my grandfather, committed suicide when I was 5. My mother battled cancer throughout my childhood, and when I was 7 she died. I was left to live with my grandmother in a small home in the center of Phoenix, Ariz., in near-poverty.

I greatly desired a father figure, someone I could call Dad. I had all the passions of a boy growing up — playing ball, fishing, building a tree fort — but no one to show me how. My grandmother loved me and wished she could help me more, but she didn’t know how to handle an active 7-year-old boy. I would roam the streets of Phoenix playing with my friends and looking for adventure. Even though my future looked bleak during that time and no one had ever shared the truth of Jesus with me, I still had an awareness of God’s presence and plan for my life.

The Martin family moved into Phoenix not too far from my house. They knew my family and would come to visit my grandmother and me. I would look in amazement at Leroy Martin. He was tall, strong, knew everything and could make anything (at least in my eyes then). The Martins began to invite me over to their home. Soon I found myself hanging out there as much as possible with Leroy, Dena and their daughters Debbie, Denise and DeAnn. I was so attracted to a family unit. I saw the love they had for each other and I longed for it.

They began to tell me about Jesus and His love and plan for my life. They invited me to their church, Central Assembly of God on 9th Street and Oak. I still remember the first day I visited. What a strange experience! But I knew everything I had seen and heard was the truth. I was 8 years old, very impressionable, but able to understand the gospel. The people in the church loved me, and a short time following my visit I accepted Jesus as my Lord.

Shortly after this time I found myself constantly at the Martins’ home. They would take me on weekends to “Mamo and Papo” Martin’s home, the ranch where Leroy had grown up. I was overwhelmed! The entire Martin family would gather on these weekends — uncles and aunts and cousins. It was something I had never experienced before. They would go quail hunting and take me along. It was a dream come true! Everyone treated me well and loved me.

I was completely stricken by Leroy Martin. He was everything I pictured a man and a dad to be. At the age of 9, to my great surprise, Leroy asked me if I wanted to move in with them — to become part of the Martin family. “Oh yes,” I said. I would have a man to call Dad.

I was too young to understand and appreciate the ramifications this move would have on my life and the life of the Martins. They took me in under great threats from my grandmother, but they knew this was God’s will.

I was fully accepted into the family, an equal member in all things. We moved from Phoenix to Florence, a small rural Arizona town. It was there that I would be developed and raised to manhood.

My dad taught me values. I followed him everywhere he went at every possible moment. He never tired of having me tag along even if it cost him time and money. He taught me how to work and use tools, how to hunt and fish, how to drive and operate a tractor, how to give and fulfill my responsibility to our church. He taught me the value of education. But there was one thing he didn’t just teach me — he showed me. My dad showed me Jesus.

I know Jesus has saved me from my sins, but He used Leroy Martin — the man I call Dad — to save my life here on earth. The Martin family never adopted me; I just moved in. At the age of 16 I legally changed my name to Martin. I am a joint heir to everything the Martins possess. I am loved by all of them and am seen as nothing less than a true family member.

The man I call Dad has financed my education, my vehicles, my home, and most importantly the ministry and call of God on my life. And because of that, thousands of people around the globe have come to know Jesus. Leroy Martin became my dad by choice, not obligation. I am eternally grateful to him for making that choice and to the Lord for putting him in my life. He’s tall, strong, knows everything and can make anything (at least in my eyes today).

The world needs more men like the man I call Dad.

E. Scott Martin is a representative for National Chi Alpha Student Missions & Evangelism.

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