My dear friend, Dr. Paul Chappell, honored my dad, Dr. Ken Ouellette, on Wednesday night of his Spiritual Leadership Conference: giving him the Compassion Award. A beautiful video was played, telling of some of the ministries in which my dad had served over the years. Of course, I often think what a wonderful father I have and how grateful I am to have been reared by him. This event occasioned a few thoughts on my part. I decided to try to put on paper the three most significant gifts I was given by my father.
I always knew my dad had a genuine love for the Lord. He read his Bible. He memorized Scripture. He would pray at the drop of a hat. It has always been real to him. God had saved my dad as a 21-year-old college student the first time he ever heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He began to walk down God’s path for his life and never turned - or even looked - back.
My dad also has a genuine love for people. He believes that we serve God by serving people. While he may have, on occasion, been irritated or upset by someone, by and large, he tried to befriend, encourage and uplift the people who came across his path. I have no doubt this is why so many people love my dad - because he genuinely cares for and about them.
Dad has always had a genuine love for the work of the Lord. Whether it was pastoring a church in
, superintending the Detroit City Rescue Mission or traveling the country as an evangelist, he was always excited about seeing people saved, seeing Christians draw close to the Lord Jesus, seeing preachers encouraged and seeing God’s work go forward. I grew up thinking the most wonderful thing in the world was to do the work of God. Perry, Michigan
My dad taught me that I could depend on him. I believe this made it easier for me to depend on God. While I am sure there were occasions where work or other complications kept my dad from keeping a promise, I can’t remember them. In my mind, if Dad said he would be there, he was there. If he said he would do something, he did it. If he said I was going to be permitted to do something, I was permitted to do it. I always believed that my dad could take care of any situation. If a drunk got rowdy at the Rescue Mission, dad knew how to roll his coat down behind his back and twist it so that the man’s arms were pinned to his side and he was rendered harmless.
One day, a boy down the road from our home on
Fair Street in , took a small hammer used to play a toy xylophone and hit my sister with it, causing her to cry. Since I was the big brother, I walked down to the boy’s house, took the same hammer, and hit him until he cried (this was probably while I was still under the law and not under grace.) Later that evening, the young man’s father came and knocked on our door. I answered the door and said to him, “May I help you?” (I knew why he was there but I was playing dumb - not a difficult task for me. ) Royal Oak, Michigan
“I want to see your dad,” he said. My dad came to the door. Mr. Norton proceeded to tell my father what a juvenile delinquent I was and how terrible it was for me to beat up on his son. He further said that if I ever hit his son again, he would come down and beat up my dad! Now, you must understand that at this time, my father was finishing up his days as superintendent of the Detroit City Rescue Mission and was just entering full-time evangelism. He was well-known across our state and in many places across the nation. He had a testimony to uphold and a reputation to maintain.
And so, he looked at Mr. Norton and said, “You and what army!?” Then he jumped off our small front porch and into the yard (he later told me that this was so Mr. Norton could have room to maneuver if he wanted to try anything.). He proceeded to tell Mr. Norton that his son needed to stay away from our house, stay away from his daughter and that he did not even want to see him walking down the sidewalk in front of our street. I’m not sure what it was about the gracious words that proceeded from my father’s mouth, but I do know that Mr. Norton soon turned around and went home
Not only could I depend on my dad, I was accepted by him. While my dad did not excuse bad behavior, he punished disobedience; he accepted me as I was. If I was good at something, that was great. If I wasn’t good at it, that was okay, too. He never made me feel that I needed to fulfill his unfulfilled dreams for him to love me. He never made me feel that I had to have certain recognition or earn a certain place. He simply loved me as I was, for who I was. I believe one of the greatest gifts my father gave me is security. He was secure in his God and who his God had made him. He gave me the same sense.
My dad has always been content with his lot in life. He has always been grateful for the opportunities he has to serve God and whatever provisions God gives him. I’ll never forget the night that my mom and dad were rear-ended by a young man who left them upside down un a ditch. When I got to the hospital, they were still lying on the wooden boards on which they had been carried from the ambulance. My mom and dad were separated only by a curtain and could hear each other speak. My dad’s first words were, “Well, I just keep trying to say, ‘Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings and made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . .’” Then after a moment, he said to my mother, “You know, hon, it could have been worse.” My mother said, “Worse! We could have been dead!” My dad without any hesitation, said, “Well, dead I could live with.” Now, you need to understand, this was no minor accident. It was later determined that my father’s neck was broken at the time he spoke those words. Yet, he was looking on the bright side of a very bad situation.
In the very early 70’s, while I was still a student in college, my dad preached a meeting at the Gratiot Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He was given a $1000 love offering. Remember, the minimum wage at this time was about $1.60 an hour. I was very impressed with the size of the offering given to my father. “Wow, Dad,” I said, “You keep this up and pretty soon you’ll be in the big time.” Dad smiled, looked at me and then said, “Son, I’ve been in the big-time for twenty years.” You see, to my dad, being in the big-time was not having a big offering, preaching at a big church, having a big name or a big position; it was serving a big God.
Thank the Lord for a godly heritage.