Author Archives: Martyn Ballestero

What I Learned Watching Dad……from a child’s eye-view

This is my sister Sara’s writing of our daddy. I am the oldest she is the youngest. She described him so well I wish to share it with as many in Ministry that I can.

Marcia Ballestero

What I Learned Watching Dad……from a child’s eye-view

by Sara Starr Copple

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY DAD!!!

This Wednesday will be my Father’s birthday. I am celebrating by acknowledging the mark he left on my life and many others. He has been gone from us for almost 24 years.    He has not been forgotten. I often have people stop me and mention something he said or did or an attribute he had that is still an inspiration and a guiding light. I was the baby of 5 girls. His late in life child. :-) I missed a lot of the early days of he & mom’s beginnings. When I came along… his life was very busy and in full swing.  He had a full time secular job, was a full time pastor & District Superintendent of Michigan District and filled many capacities on the national level. My sisters were married when I was very young. I was raised like an only child. I think I was probably the most challenging one- out of 5 girls for my parents to raise. Mom & Dad had the same purpose and what I say about him…applies to her also. She was the one home raising us and being with us day to day….when she wasn’t doing her various and many jobs as the Pastors wife, District work, Office, Advertisements, Finances/accounting,  Music Director,  Decorator, Secretary, Planner……teaching or taking classes, Real Estate, Artist, Speaker, Teacher, Builder, Sales, Fund Raising…you get the picture.  We knew what it was to be diligent in all you do.  I know he thought I was pretty strong headed at times.  As I reached my teen years I was least afraid of my sisters to debate with him.  I had a lot of questions and wasn’t afraid to ask.  I already had older sisters that claimed the good child place–guess I had to make my own way.  :-)  I’m sure I kept him on his toes.  I think when he would get me going really good…..he would start laughing….because the realization came to him….that his own personality traits were coming back from his offspring.

I observed many things that I didn’t understand then or even know were rare & valuable lessons.  He didn’t sit me down and tell me what I’m going to share with you……  And, he didn’t brag to others or even to our family.  He just lived it.  He was a dedicated Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ first and foremost.  A pastor, preacher, pioneer of churches….I know that he was devoted–because I saw his life at home.  He didn’t use a lot of words in our home- day to day….but he walked each day in honesty– with intent and purpose.  He woke up early every day to go to work at the secretary of state office in Battle Creek.  He came home for supper and was off to prepare for an evening service or to care for the congregation or a district church function or pastors who needed his counsel.  Some of his secular work was investigation, presiding over hearings & giving judgments for people with too many points on their license. That’s where he got the tendency to be called, “the Judge”.  In my early teens I would have a little side job of bending stacks of car license plates back & forth -until they were broke in half to be discarded. Don’t remember what my wages were though. ha   So I can unofficially say I worked for the Michigan Secretary of States office. ha.  He taught me how to work hard and to take care of my family.  I was sitting at a friends house one day and had to listen to a gruff man complaining about my dad taking his drivers license away for having too many DUI’s.  Thankfully he didn’t know I was Mr. Starr’s  daughter and I didn’t share that info.

Dad was gone all day to provide adequately for his family and……so that he could put all of the income from the church–back into the church.  We had all that we needed growing up.  Medical, dental, clothing, good food…..all of the necessities were provided for and then some.   He never wanted us to have a feeling of doing without-because of the church or of saying we were not being provided for because of a Pastors’s lack of income and so that we wouldn’t be the brunt of peoples jokes and rude comments if they felt we had too much.  He did the extra job to make sure that we had what we needed with dignity. He wanted us to love God and the Church and not have bad feelings because our needs weren’t met or that we’d feel sorry for ourselves– as he’d seen some preachers kids go through in the early years. He couldn’t be said of- that he mishandled the Church’s money. He was ethical and he was giving. He was careful and honest with his business and finances. He would hurt himself before he would cause the church to have a bad reputation financially and wouldn’t take advantage of anyone else. He didn’t have a shady financial trail following him around. He made good on his word and made wise decisions. Carefully thought out and not ever rash.

I thought dad was too simple and conservative financially. But, now I can say….Wow, I was a lucky girl to have such a smart dad!  I remember how dad always bought used–American made cars.   #1- he was loyal to the Michigan Car industry.   #2-he refused to drive a flashy car or to spend money for a status symbol.  Dependable was all he required.  My first car he picked out- made me cry. lol   He went to an auction I think.  It was a $500- black Bobcat, no air, nothing automatic, no radio……hot in the summer, cold in the winter. I spun out more than once on the ice…the tires were thin and the car so light weight.  But, now I really don’t care what I drive. I don’t need a Mercedes to feel important. I leave the car buying to my husband. ha.  I don’t have to have new or the best of anything…..as long as it works.  I have a lot more possessions now than I did then.     But, I honestly could be happy without it–because I had a happy life in simplicity & careful economy.  He had humility–he was content with the simple things.  Mom decorated our home beautifully, creatively–but not with a lot of money.  She used her ingenuity.  Now decorating from my heart is my favorite. Don’t need brand names or a model home copy look. I like to pick things that are sentimental in feeling.  Because mom did. Love makes a home.  Our home wasn’t new and I would ask him often….”hey, why don’t you build a new house or get one in a nicer neighborhood where the new homes are–all the other Pastors seem to be living it up????ha.   He had no intentions of living high- even if he could-he wanted to live balanced and maybe even lower than most….he was pretty sure that’s what Jesus would do.  He had simple clothing–didn’t buy much.  Even if we bought him a fancy sweater he’d really feel it was too much.  He had a few same simple gray suits that he wore daily. Dad reminds me of Matlock.  ha.  He liked predictability. He taught me to be content with what I have.

I would go to conference, dressed nice….but didn’t know name brands to save my life.    My purses, shoes, clothes didn’t have a brand name–didn’t come from Nordstroms or Macy’s.  I remember being with pastor’s kids on a national level as they sported their designer wares with pride …….and status was sought after….I was very disinterested and didn’t understand it at all. That wasn’t a part of my world.  It didn’t mean anything to me.  My dad taught me there were more important things to give value to my life. Like loving  & serving people, learning new things,  enjoying good conversation, working toward goals, finding the gold in various types of  interesting people–and not in running after the “in” crowd of flashy personalities that seem to draw a group of eager followers…….but to cast my lot in genuine people who were loyal & sincere….they were always my favorite.    Sometimes they were the unpopular or maybe a quiet elderly friend who had many unseen, interesting skills and stories. One of my best older friends can cook a mean country breakfast and is an expert at wringing a chickens neck. ha. Those are the ones who I find interesting and who you will never hear them speak or read about their great exploits. Simple-but great. I looked for the ones who didn’t like you for outward reasons……IE. because of your popularity, what you could do for them or their name, because they think you have a good name or high financial status—or that they considered you important for their social climbing–rather I looked for those who liked you and were interested in you-just because….they liked you! ha.  I keep at arms length the back slappers, braggarts, and social climbers.  I guess because I watched that be a value to my dad.

He loved all people. He loved all cultures and he loved their different foods-he like to try something different. ha.  He treated all people as valuable. He loved the common man.  He was well loved in our city from the city officials to the drunk. He would stop for a young person that wanted to get his advice or see his viewpoint and give them his undivided attention.  He loved young people. He loved to spend time with young preachers.  He cared deeply for the poor, widowed, fatherless, prisoners….unknowing to me at that age…. there is a scripture that admonishes us to be thoughtful and attentive to people in need.  We often had drifters and addicts that would get our home address or the church’s and show up on our door step asking for money. If they were drunk….Dad would take them out to the local Big Boy for a coffee and a meal to sober them up before giving them cash that could be used for more alcohol.  At Thanksgiving he would load his car up with a basket of Turkey dinner fixings and drive them out to the poor families of our area. Years later the children of these families would grow up and be in the service industry in our city and do special favors for our family because they remembered my dad being kind to them as a child.  I remember as a really little girl–watching dad leave to personally deliver Christmas gifts to the disadvantage families he knew….. and I was crying with jealousy–wondering why those weren’t MY TOYS!!!!! ha.   Now, that I’m older….I can’t help but try to give something away every day.  I can hardly stand to hear of a need and not do something to fill it myself.  I look every child over to be sure they look whole,clothed, fed, and loved….if not that “Starr” trait seeks to find a solution if it’s at all possible.

He was my favorite preacher.  He hit the pulpit with fire and excitement and his thoughts were always a result of deep study and understanding of the Bible. He got his Masters’ from the University of Michigan early on and he used his education to study…but he said he didn’t use it to speak. He would speak very common and used current stories, humor and illustrations in a way that anyone could understand. He made me study all the preachers credential study materials to become a minister & take the classes– -he was hoping to have one preacher in the bunch.:-)  He had a love for learning and gaining new knowledge….he was the first person in his family to seek a University Level Education and wanted to be sure his younger siblings had the same opportunity. He went into the service to help pay for his education and sent his G.I. money home to his parents to help out with his younger sisters and  brother.  To be sure they had shoes and the things they needed and to help with college. He wanted to make sure they were all taken care of.    His interest was varied.  He loved sports but he never talked about it.  He’d listen on his radio in his car or on his own.  Of course UofM was his Alma Mater and team. He wasn’t artistic–but he loved art….he took me to museums in High School to give me an appreciation for art. We spent time at the Library and I gained his love for books & reading.  He wasn’t musical and couldn’t sing at all….but he coached me in singing….how to project my voice-to look people in the eye and connect and sing with feeling and passion.  He was a loyal friend. His best friend until he died was his old school buddy.   Howard Cole-an attorney-had shared many school experiences and memories…Howard wasn’t of our religious beliefs or a part of ministry-but the respect & friendship was a lifetime gift. We tend to lose tract of those who are not in our same career path or just like us.  But, they had a deep love and respect for each other that lasted through the years and he was there at dad’s funeral to speak in honor of him.  Loyalty to a friend—even if you are very different–was a trait I gained.  Dad liked good snacks–he could skip a hearty meal for a delicious snack……. and his all time favorite ice cream was Haagen Daz, Vanilla Swiss Almond….that is my number one favorite.  I guess because I remember sitting by him waiting for him to put a spoon full in my mouth and thinking it had to be the greatest thing he certainly acted like it was.  I can pass almost anything…until I see it’s Haagen Daz, Vanilla Swiss Almond and I can’t pass it up!!!!

My husband preached a moving sermon titled, “HUMILITY”  It wasn’t easy to preach.  It’s definitely not a popular subject.  Jesus wasn’t rich or famous….he was homeless and all about doing good to those he came in contact with and following the will of God above all –he was one that ate with sinners…..prostitutes and thieves……….Our congregation was greatly moved to examine our hearts and motives.  I told him- ‘you just don’t hear that preached anymore.’   Tom told me the mental picture he had when he thought of Humility…..was of my Father.  Dad did do many great things……….But he never twittered it, or facebook statused it or announced it or televised it….he just lived it in meekness and honesty.  Not many quote the scriptures on being meek or selfless….verses like–” Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own.”  Today it’s all about the Business Model of Ministry–Promote Yourself–Sell yourself–(guess they’ll hear about Jesus later???)   Try to look more Polished and Successful than your so called competition–Say it even if you haven’t yet done it–look it so others will think you are important….   Celebrity Status of Preachers is suppose to be the thing now….Promoting themselves and being braggadocios to get a following or gather members from other church’s instead of reaching for their own.  My dad exemplified an upright man of ethical practices, selflessness, faithfulness, justice, righteousness, meekness in strength, care for the lowly.  That is a very rare combination in our modern world.  I got very sad when I grew up to see the common thread of many Ministers is egotism…… pride and self promotion are the main traits of their ministry ……and then to find that ethics and honesty are not important to many today was disconcerting.  Mentally I look toward the shadow my dad casts and see that I had greatness leading me…. in the quiet/simple years of my childhood and didn’t know it.  Now, I realize all the richness that I have received early on.   Much more valuable than a monetary inheritance.  The Bible teaches us that…… a good name is rather to be had than great riches.  He gave me eyes to see the really important things…..that’s what I learned while watching my dad.

There is a very familiar Edgar Guest poem that says, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way;  The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear!”

Dad