The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

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Jim Daly: Focused on His Family Now

By Shannon Woodland with Tim Branson
The 700 Club"I think I’ve lived in just about every family type you could live in--traditional family with a mom and dad, single parent mom, step father, foster care, single parent dad, my brother, sibling, and at the very last year of high school, I lived on my own."

This is not something you would expect to hear from the president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly ... but, it's true. His autobiography, Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family, proves that growing up in dysfunction doesn’t necessarily ruin you for life.

Jim and his brothers and sisters watched their parent’s marriage fall apart. Their father, a recovering alcoholic had started drinking again. 

"I remember that one night I was about five when it all broke loose. He had a hammer, and he came into our house drunk, and he was pounding this hammer on the floor sitting in this reclining chair saying, 'I’m going to kill your mother. I’m going to kill your mother.' "

The police arrested Jim’s father that night, and that was the last time Jim saw his father for many years. With Jim’s father gone, the responsibility of raising five children weighed heavily on Jim’s mother. But soon a new stepfather took command of the household.

"But he loved my mom. If there was a positive thing about Hank [Jim's stepfather] he loved my mom dearly, but equally he did not like the kids," he remembers.

Within a year of Hank’s arrival, Jim’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. He was eight- years-old. Jim hoped for some semblance of home, but she died in a matter of months.

"And I remember reaching into that casket and touching her hand, and it was so cold. It was unreal, and I just pulled back and I said, 'I don’t believe this is my mom, and I took that rose and layed it in there and I said, 'Mom, wherever you’re at, I love you.' "  

What happened next was insult to injury. Stepfather, Hank was too distraught to attend the funeral. He sold everything in the house and abandoned the kids. 

Four of the five kids, including Jim, landed in a dusty desert town with a foster family who basically lived in a shack and threw their garbage into a ravine.

"What kind of opinion or idea were you starting to form at this point of your life about adults and adulthood? It’s fairly open at nine and 10- years-old. You are trying to figure out what’s it all about. But I can remember the day before my mom died. I’d heard that she had become a Christian. And so that was sitting rattling around in the back of my mind." 

After a couple of years with the foster family, Jim was finally reunited with his father. Jim was hopeful. But it was short-lived. His father’s alcoholism drove them apart. Jim never saw his father again.

"And it was a couple of years later that I really felt it ... I mean, when I sobbed and realized what I had missed not having a dad," he says.

700 Club producer Tim Branson asks, "How did all of that stuff manifest itself ... who you became and how you were in life?"

"I think a couple important things ... I can’t explain it other than the Lord’s mercy. Somehow as a child, I was able to say that there are those bad decisions. The way these adults were behaving, it didn’t feel like it was my fault. I felt like generally I was a pretty good kid. And so somehow the Lord allowed me to see that," answers Jim.

That journey started for Jim when he was 15. Jim was invited to a fellowship of Christian athlete’s football camp where he discovered he had a deep need for God.  

"And I said that’s me, I’m that person. And I accepted the Lord that night. And I wobbled along. It wasn’t that everything is perfect. I was still a kid living with my brother, and now he was divorcing his wife. We batched it through my high school years ... most of them, and so that was kinda different. I had to manage having literally no boundaries as a high school student and trying to find my way as a Christian with no real parental authority.

Other Christians came into Jim’s life to teach and encourage him. Most of all they loved him, and Jim began to realize that God had a plan for his life.

"And I just started talking to God and I felt what he was saying to me was, 'Hold on, don’t lose hope ... something’s going to be there.' And wow, I had no clue this was the plan He had ... Focus on the Family? It’s am amazing thing."

Jim joined the Focus on the Family staff in 1989 and for over two years has served as president. His wife of 20 years, Jean, and their two sons share a much different life than the one Jim remembers growing up.

Tim Branson: What do you want your kids to know that you didn’t know growing up?

Jim Daly: Yeah, two things ... that I love them and that I’m proud of them. I think I want to stay connected with them in love, and I’m really proud of them.

Tim Branson: What do you want people to take from your story?

Jim Daly: A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a 13-year-old boy. He had heard about the story and read the book. And he sent me an email and said two days ago, 'My dad disowned me and left my mom. And now your story gives me hope.' That’s what it’s all about. It’s hope for somebody who sees no hope in this life.

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