Memories of a Man of God
A Tribute to Ewalt W. Bartel
By his son
My fondest memories of my dad are not memories of his wealth or position, but of his character. Let me identify a few instances of character I observed in man years of watching this man’s life up-close. He is now with the Lord.
Dad believed that one of the most gratifying experiences a man could have was to go to bed bone-tired, with the knowledge he had put in a full day’s work. He instilled that value in the lives of his sons. His hands revealed it – they were covered with calluses.
I remember, as a young man, watching him sharpen a sickle-blade for a mowing machine on the farm. I thought to myself – “Will he ever finish that blade?” But he kept on, meticulously sharpening it. Finally the magic words came – “That’s good enough.” I’ve asked myself over and over again in life, “When am I willing to say something I do is ‘good enough?”
Thrift and Resourcefulness
The hard years of the depression taught him this. I am convinced we were to only farm in the country that had a tractor with a cracked head that had been repaired with a kind of epoxy. Dad used a lawnmower that had once had a bent crankshaft that he had straightened himself using a pencil and a hammer. He drove a pickup he had built with spare parts from other wrecked vehicles.
Toughness and Tenderness
As strange as it may seem, Dad evidenced both of these character qualities at the same time. I can still remember how after we had gotten stuck on the way to a haystack with the truck after a blizzard, to get hay for the cattle, he pulled off his gloves in sub-zero temperatures to put on the tire-chains. I also recall as though it were yesterday seeing Dad, without even giving it a thought, reaching down and picking up a brood sow that had fallen out of a stock trailer and putting back in the trailer (a lifting feat of at least 300 pounds … only adrenalin and brute strength!). Yet I can also fondly remember the tears of the same man falling silently on his Bible as he would read it during his daily devotions after chores on the farm.
Dad believed in righteous living – in integrity even when it hurt. He thought people who claimed to be Christians should avoid “even the appearance of evil.” He believed that a “clean mouth” came from a “pure heart” and he practiced it. He believed in the absolute necessity of a “born again experience” to reach heaven. He believed passionately in the power of prayer and would tell us boys over and over again how he “prayed through” when Mom was on the brink of death and how God healed her. He believed in the miraculous – God’s power to do anything! He believed these things passionately!
Sensitivity to God
Dad believed that whenever God spoke to your heart you should respond. During more than one “altar call” at our little church in Western Montana, I remember cringing as a teen when my Dad would raise his hand, step to an isle and walk forward. I’d find myself saying, “Aw com’on Dad, you’re a Christian – you’re right with God, why do you need to go forward?” But he felt he needed to, there was something in his heart that wasn’t quite like it ought to be – there was a need he had that only prayer would solve. Today, I find that sensitivity and honesty with God very attractive!
A commitment was like a solemn oath to Dad. His marriage vows were inviolable! He paid his bills and would never entertain doing otherwise. Church membership and regular church attendance were not negotiables. I remember after more than one Montana blizzard, pushing the family car to the main road, and then traveling to church to discover that we were the only ones that had braved the storm. My Dad gave God the tithe and our offerings even when it hurt. Faithful – the man was faithful!
The Power of Prayer
And Oh could Ewalt Bartel pray! PJ, my youngest son, was getting ready to leave for the Marines just a few days before Dad died. I took Him in to have his Granddad lay his hands on him and pray for him. A stroke had confused Dad’s thinking. But after PJ’s Granddad poured out his heart to God that day and we got in the car to head home, PJ said to me, “Dad, its incredible, his mind can be confused, but when Grandpa starts to pray you can feel it!”
Would you allow me to express my feelings about my Dad this way? “Dad, I want to be a “man of God” just like you! – Steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 15:58)