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James Allen Walker for WORLD

Leading men

Q&A | Author Rebecca Hagelin on remembering fathers, finding mentors, and setting up husbands

Issue: "Gulf toil," June 5, 2010

June is known for both Father's Day and marriages. Rebecca Hagelin, author of popular books including 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, spoke about her dad and how she met her husband, a career naval officer. They have three college-age children.

Your father was a pediatrician? He did a lot of medical missions work, in Central America specifically. When did you become aware of what he was doing and why he was doing it? I don't remember a time when I wasn't aware. He had a great love for children, which is why he chose pediatrics, and a great love for the well-being of families. One of my most vivid memories as a young child was being home alone with my dad. I was walking down the hallway and I heard this strange noise coming from my father's bedroom that sounded like deep, mournful weeping. His door was slightly ajar; I peeked around the corner, and my father, who was a Johns Hopkins--educated pediatrician, was on his knees beside his bed sobbing his heart out in prayer for one of his patients. My dad never knew I saw him, and I just slipped away and carried that memory with me throughout my life.

In college you had your own television show, and your dad, in a sense, gave you permission. For a while in college I really wasn't sure what I wanted to study. I always thought that my father wanted me to be a physician, so I started out in pre-med. That lasted three weeks because I just don't do chemistry very well. I thought, "Well, he probably wants me to be a lawyer." So I was in pre-law and that didn't feel right, and I went into psychology and that didn't feel right. I remember being very frustrated at home during my sophomore year and saying, "Dad, I really don't know what I'm supposed to study," expecting him to say, "Well, you need to be a doctor like me." But he said, "Well, why don't you do what you're good at? You're good at talking and communicating; why don't you study communications?" That was a gift.

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You write about finding mentors who can be a bit like fathers. Finding mentors is very important. Find older people who have walked on the path before you and ask them what mistakes they made so you don't make the same mistakes. Also, everyone can be a mentor: There are already people younger than you in your sphere of influence who are already looking for help. Make yourself available to be a mentor as well.

How do you find a mentor? Don't be looking around for the big mentor somewhere. Who in your life, or in your past that you can still make contact with, have you always admired? Maybe there's someone at church. You just say, "I don't want to make it up as I go along. In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Would you let me call you when I need help?" Just start looking at the people God's already put in your life.

I hear there's a story about how you and your husband Andy met. On the beach at sunset in Tel Aviv, Israel-the same stretch of beach halfway around the world for five minutes, and God arranged for our paths to cross. The first time I laid eyes on him he was wearing his Navy whites walking down the boardwalk. We talked for a few minutes, then I became very embarrassed that I had gone up and talked to him, so I walked away and went down the beach while the sun was setting, thinking, "Maybe he's watching me." So I daintily picked up my sundress and threw pebbles in the ocean. There's a ship on the horizon, the sun is setting . . .

Sweet-and the second night you ran into each other again. We walked and talked on the beach for four hours. I found out he was a Christian, he had the same political views, he loved and treasured his family, he was very smart. We wrote letters for four months.

At the end of that time he visited you . . . He said, "I'll never forget how you looked that first time I met you. You walked down the beach, the sun was setting, a ship was on the horizon, and its lights were coming up." I thought, "Poor guy, he has no clue it was a setup." But I would have fallen in love with Andy if I had met him in line at McDonald's.


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