The Boldness of Elmer Kardatzke: Welcoming Home a Prodigal Father
By Nyle Kardatzke
The father was a farmer, and he had been in the Church of God fifteen years earlier. His wife was a devout Christian who played the piano at church and took their nine children every time the doors were open. But the father no longer went to church, nor did he pray.
One night in the city, the father had seen the preacher with a woman who was not his wife. The father told two of the church leaders. They said he was trying to harm the church, and soon it seemed that everyone in the church had rejected him. Later, others learned of the preacher’s meetings with the woman. The pastor was expelled from the church, but no one admitted that the father had been right. No one apologized for shunning him. The father became bitter and turned away from the church and away from God. He dressed for church on Sundays but stayed home to read the paper.
In time, the father became very ill. His heart was failing. No treatment was available in those times, for it was 1948. Only bed rest and pills were offered. He was dying.
The father had a son who had gone to a faraway place. The son was an evangelist who preached the gospel. He and his church had prospered. When the son heard of his father’s illness, he hurried to his father’s bedside. So urgent was his mission that he came a thousand miles in an airplane to his father’s house. His father must not die away from God.
The father was not an easy man. He had a strong temper, and he protected his grudge against the church more than any other thing. No one could speak to him about it. The son knew he must speak boldly and clearly in terms that would reach his father’s heart.
“Father,” the son said, “Are you ready to die?”
The father looked away and his eyes filled with tears. “What if God isn’t there? What if he won’t take me back?” the father asked.
“Why not give God a try?” said the son. “What can you lose? If God isn’t there, and you die, you’ve lost nothing. If he is there and you turn to him, he will accept you and there will be joy in heaven,” the son said, “And there will be great joy in this house.”
The father began to cry. With his son’s help, he prayed for forgiveness and salvation there in the bed where he would spend his remaining days. The son cried too, and so did all who heard. When the prayer was finished, a weight like a stone lifted from the father’s chest. He smiled at his son and his wife, and everyone cried and laughed and thanked God.
The father had come home.
As the father’s health worsened, he told visitors of his salvation. On his deathbed, he himself became a bold evangelist, unashamed of the gospel that had saved him. Many turned to God when they heard that even this angry father had found forgiveness, peace, and joy. When the father died alone in the farmhouse one spring morning, the family and all the church thanked God that the son had risked his father’s wrath to tell him of God’s saving love.
That son was Dr. Elmer “Mit” Kardatzke, longtime pastor of the congregation that became Central Community Church of God in Wichita, Kansas. The father was Frederick August Kardatzke. He and his wife Emma were parents of sons Harris, Carl, Forrest, Arlin, and Elmer, and daughters Lucille Webert, Elsie Stagner, Marion Gottke, and Verda Stackhouse. Their son Dr. Carl Kardatzke was a professor at Anderson College for many years.
For more inspiration to be bold in your faith, attend the Church of God Convention 2014, June 23–26, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For details about the convention and General Assembly, and to register, visit www.chogconvention.org/default.