- Tuesday, February 27, 2024

As the leader of Focus on the Family, the world’s largest parachurch family-help organization, my dysfunctional background made me an unlikely person to ascend to the presidency of the ministry in 2005 – and take over its National Radio Hall of Fame broadcast in 2010.

But God has a plan – and a sense of humor.

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Growing up in Southern California, my stepfather abandoned me and my siblings within hours of my mother’s funeral. I was just 9 years old.

Standing beside my mom’s grave sporting my best corduroy pants, white shirt and blue clip-on tie, my stoic demeanor belied my devastation. My biological father would die of alcoholism a few years later.

My childhood is full of some tough memories. Memories of a broken home, broken promises and dreams that just didn’t come true. But landing at the Reil residence on T-Circle Drive in Morongo Valley, California, I was somewhat optimistic that my new foster home would be normal.

As it would turn out, I had gone from bad to worse, especially when my foster dad accused me of trying to kill him by pushing him off a cliff. Keep in mind we lived at the bottom of a valley, and I was just now 10.

To say that living with the Reil family was “strange” would be kind. Each night the family gathered around the table to roll cigarettes and smoke together. An AM radio would crackle on the counter. We’d chase chickens and then butcher them with the swing of an axe. One of the family’s boys married an older cousin – and another teenage boy in the family regularly tried to flirt with me.

My early life has been influenced by many people, but none greater than my football coach, Paul Moro.

“Coach Mo” as we called him, was a great football coach — but he was so much more. He believed in me long before I believed in myself. I believe God introduced me to him for reasons far more important than the gridiron. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that the Lord used Coach Mo in a way that changed the trajectory of my life.

Paul and Joyce Moro started to ask me to come over for dinner regularly. He took a real interest in me as a person. He and Joyce paid for me to go to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp at Point Loma University. I accepted Christ there.

Coach Mo made a difference in my life. It wasn’t my dad. It wasn’t my stepdad. It wasn’t even my foster dad. They had all failed. No, it was this football coach my sophomore year who called me out to be a man. Not just an ordinary man, but a man of character. He taught us about character and the author of character, Jesus Christ.

My wife, Jean, and I met at a mutual friend’s wedding. We’ll be married 38 years this August. We were young, idealistic and not only in love with one another, but we were also both in love with the Lord. Our love has only grown deeper over the years. Like any couple, we’ve had our seasons of challenge, but we’re committed to one another. She’s been a great gift to me. We read the Bible together and we pray together. Raising our sons together has been the privilege of our lives. I’m looking forward to growing old together and cannot imagine life without her.

As president of Focus on the Family, I’ve been passionate about helping couples with their marriages and parents with their children. I am proud of how Focus encourages abortion-minded women to carry their babies to term, helps find forever homes for children in foster care – and equips our constituents to engage the culture winsomely and effectively.

Challenges like those I faced growing up are ever present and pressing. The center of the war on the family and children is a push to divorce sex from marriage, procreation and parenting. There’s also been a multi-decade’s-long campaign to redefine marriage, as well as the reality of male and female. Bad policies may exacerbate bad times – but this rolling revolution is what’s at the heart of our cultural crisis.

But the good news is we don’t have to be idle observers watching the meltdown and the madness. The Lord has given us breath and opportunities to point people, and our culture, to Him. The way Coach Mo did for me.

“Study the history of revival,” assured the late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers, a former Focus board member. “God has always sent revival in the darkest days. Oh, for a mighty, sweeping revival today!”

May it be so.

Watch Jim share his testimony:

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its daily radio broadcast, heard by more than 6 million listeners a week on nearly 2,000 radio stations across the U.S.  He also hosts the podcast ReFocus with Jim Daly.

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