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August 3, 2002
Column #1092

Focus on the Family Celebrates 25 Years

     Colorado Springs, Col. - How did Focus on the Family grow from a weekly radio show aired by 34 stations into a giant ministry 25 years later, with 80 other ministries and a radio show now broadcast on 3,000 radio stations in North America, and in nine languages on 2,300 more stations in 107 countries heard by 220 million people? 

     The simple answer is the genial but passionate Dr. James Dobson whose shows regularly put a spotlight on some of the best answers for America beleaguered families. What can be done about public schools which often promote anti-Christian values? In the early 1980s Dobson invited Dr. Raymond Moore to describe home schooling as an answer. It was almost unheard of at the time. Today there are now more than a million American kids being home-schooled.

     Millions of men no longer live with their families. Coach Bill McCartney came on the show to describe his dream to hold a series of rallies in football stadiums, calling men to honor their promises to God, their wives and children. The Promise Keeper movement was launched.

     "Mothering young children can be extremely difficult," says Elisa Morgan, founder of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). She developed a key answer, helping these young mothers to recognize and meet their own needs in order to become better parents. When she told her story on the show in 1984 Focus helped spark the creation of 2,200 MOPS groups in America and abroad.

     Every day 10,000 calls or letters come to Focus headquarters in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, with a clear view of Pike's Peak. Most requests are for the tape of a show or for a book described by an author. But many deeply hurting people ask for help - with a rebellious child, in a battle with pornography or for a marriage that is disintegrating. Tapes or books are sent out at no cost, and grateful people respond with donations that now total $130 million a year.

     "We have attempted to respond with compassion and care to the needs brought to our doorstep," Dr. Dobson says simply.

     One woman called after her husband committed suicide, and her 10-year-old discovered his body. The distraught widow had no family or close friends to help her. Though not a Christian, she heard of Focus on the Family and wrote for advice.

     The Correspondence assistant sent an encouraging note and had a counselor call her who spoke to her for an hour. A few days later she received two boxes. The mother's box included a Bible, several booklets and a copy of Dr. Dobson's book, "When God Doesn't Make Sense."  Her son received a children's Bible, a couple of "McGee and Me" videos, some "Adventures in Odyssey" audiotapes and several children's books. 

     The boy began to read his Bible, watched the videos and listened to the tapes. God spoke to him and on his own, prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He told his mother what he had done and added, "Mommy, you need Jesus." His mother sank to her knees and accepted Christ. 

     At a deeper level, however, the ministry is an answer to prayer, initially the prayer of Dobson's father, James Dobson Sr., with whom he shared an unusually close relationship. In 1977, his son was a psychologist on the faculty of the University of Southern California School of Medicine and the staff of Children's Hospital. He had just written his first book, "Dare to Discipline," providing a biblically-based child rearing advice which had sold a million copies. His father, a minister all his life, read and commented upon his son's book when in manuscript.

     At that time his father had prayed around the clock for three days for his brother-in-law who was dying, and for himself, humbly asking God to give them both more time to serve Him. On dawn of the fourth morning, he felt the Lord responded, "You are going to reach millions of people for Me, from coast to coast and around the world. But it will be not through your efforts... It will be through your son!"

     James Dobson Sr. has a massive heart attack the next day, and died. His son did not hear about the prayer until 1985, when his aunt told him about it. "In one clear moment, I understood why so many doors have miraculously swung open for Focus," Dobson told 1,000 of us who had been invited to the 25th anniversary celebration.

     "This is not our ministry. The organization belongs wholly to God. It was His idea, and He `owns' it. We are simply stewards of the opportunities and resources He sends our way."


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