Submitted By: Gary Rustad
Gary Rustad shares memories of his late father.
There are heroes in every conference, union, and division around the world — dedicated pastors and teachers on whose shoulders we now stand. But, my biggest hero of all would be my dad, Gary George Rustad.
My dad loved to take Sabbath naps. I remember waiting for him to wake with anticipation of the fun we would have. He needed this brief recovery from the many accomplishments that made him my hero; for him they were just part of what God called him to do.
First and foremost, my dad was my hero because he had the Bible written in his heart and mind. The Bible was his constant companion and he studied it faithfully. Through the years many church members and fellow pastors have come up to me and said, “Your dad knows the Bible better than anyone I ever met.”
My dad was my hero because he listened when the Lord called. Whether it was serving in Texas, Oregon, Kentucky-Tennessee, Hong Kong, or the Southern Asia Pacific Division, God led and directed his path. Dad lived by the verse, “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” Isaiah 55:9. When my parents received a call to pastor in Hong Kong, after much prayer they knew God was calling them as missionaries and they could not say no. Reluctant as I was, I soon realized that God had indeed called us to Hong Kong. My admiration for my dad’s connection with his heavenly Father grew even greater.
Though it was evident God was first in his life, my dad was my hero because he always took time for his family. From the time we were young, he made family vacations a priority and made Sabbaths a joy … nap or no nap. Many Saturday evenings were game nights, and often Sundays were spent throwing the football trying to wear me out.
My dad was my hero because he always enjoyed a good laugh, even at himself. From my earliest memories, l recall him laughing with friends, sharing corny jokes, watching Laurel and Hardy, or sharing humorous illustrations in his sermons. He lived out Proverbs 17:22, “a merry heart does good like medicine.” He often told the story about how my mom’s dad, “Papa,” would tell him that they were both in the “same business.” You see Papa was a nurse anesthetist and he’d always tease, “Gary we both put people to sleep. The difference is I know how to wake them up!” Retelling that always brought a good laugh from my dad.
My dad was also my hero because of his ability to “guard his mouth,” Proverbs 13:3. Whether it was controlling his tongue in a difficult board meeting, refraining from gossip or harsh talk about others, or never complaining about his Parkinson’s, he was always constant in his speech. I will forever be incredibly impressed with how well he knew that a wrongly placed word wouldn’t help anyone and he acted accordingly.
My dad was my hero because he was incredibly gifted with music. He was most happy when he was standing with his bass fiddle, sitting at a piano playing, or listening to his grandkids play. From growing up playing instruments with his own father and brothers, to the Sundown Vespers at Madison Campus, to “picking” with friends while in the Philippines as a missionary, music was part of him.
My dad was my hero because he believed firmly in evangelism. It was a highlight of my ministry to join him in holding evangelistic meetings in Thailand. He always believed that this was the main responsibility of a pastor, and he was always so excited to hear reports from a series I was holding or a Bible study I was giving. When I had the opportunity to begin to meet with prospective pastors for our conference, he would remind me, “Ask them about their Bible studies and evangelistic meetings.”
You can see my dad was my hero because his entire life was dedicated to living for the Lord. He lived over 20 years of his life struggling with Parkinson’s, yet pressed on with Bible studies, evangelism, and traveling the world to share the Gospel. But, the dreadful disease pressed on, and early Sabbath morning, February 13, 2021, my dad took his final Sabbath nap. We again wait with anticipation for him to wake on that great resurrection day, and pray his nap won’t be for too long (1 Corinthians 15:51-57) .
Rest well, Dad! Your nap will soon be over. Our plans together will last for eternity!
Georgia-Cumberland | April 2021