Strengthened: Ron Sommerdorf

by Jonathan Hamilton

This post is part of the “You Strengthened My Hand In God” series. The first post explained the series purpose.

“Who is this guy,” you ask? Other than boasting an incredible last name, which you can see, and dashing good looks, which you dear reader cannot, here’s what you need to know:

Uncle Ron is, as I explained a mere ten words ago, my uncle. He’s not an uncle in the most traditional way. You see, he was quite late to the party. He swooped in and gently, patiently unpeeled my Aunt Bonnie’s fingers, one at a time, from the life of singleness to which she clung. He won the day by wooing the maiden. What a guy.

Uncle Ron had to overcome all the typical hurdles that were laid down before a mere mortal durst enter from outside the compound and approach a Hamilton lady: the occasional veiled threat not-so-neatly hidden behind a wide, coffee-scented smile; or the “accidental” flat tire in the church parking lot; or the hand grenade (OK, two or more of those never actually happened, but we weren’t very nice to outsiders wishing to date a lady Hamilton).

But all of that is beside the point. The real question is, why is he included in this series of those I’m thankful for?

Enter pliable little Jonathan Hamilton.

Now, I knew Uncle Ron long before he was my uncle. He must have come along at some point in my preteen years, and by the time I was in high school he was teaching the boys Sunday School class. Lucky him. He happened to have this most painful of responsibilities (painful due to what comes next, not due to the responsibility itself) at a time when me and my epically disruptive compadres were “running the show” in Sunday School. Poor, poor Uncle Ron. We were not kind to him. As a matter of fact, when I realized last year that I would now be teaching a teen Sunday School class, my mind remorsefully flickered back to memories of my misbehavior and thought of what must be the coming payback, “And so it begins.”

But even though Uncle Ron surely knew that every Sunday he was in for a battle royale, he never came to Sunday School pre-angried, so to speak. No armor. No weapons. Just carefully prepared lessons from Proverbs. And boy did we need them. We also needed a sharp kick in the teeth. Thankfully, he did not see fit to provide that. With his frame, he could have done some real damage to us twits.

I’m thankful for his patience.

But even all of that is not the ultimate reason I chose to write about Uncle Ron. The main reason is rooted in something that Uncle Ron wrote to me a few years ago. Steph and I had already been living in Michigan for about six months, and my mom and dad bought me a nice study Bible for my birthday. Before shipping it to me, they each wrote a meaningful note in it, and had several other family members do the same. Uncle Ron wrote the last note in the cover of that Bible.

A few months ago, right around my birthday, I re-read these precious notes from family. I do this periodically, probably once or twice a year, often when I’m feeling discouraged in life or just plain homesick for family. As a matter of fact, the cover to that Bible already wore out (no, I’m not super spiritual, it was bonded leather). I paid what probably amounted to about three times the cost of the Bible to have it rebound last year, and insisted that those note pages be kept. You will get a chance to read portions of them in future posts, but first up are words of spiritual strengthening from Uncle Ron (copied here without permission and with my own nuanced punctuation and such for clarity, hopefully he doesn’t mind):


I’ll be brief – only two verses:

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 23:26 “My son, give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways.”

Give God your heart, and hide His Word in your heart, and serve Him with all your heart and you won’t be ashamed or disappointed.

I know you will remember all this from the Proverbs series in Sunday School.

In Christ, Ron

Put on the spot at a family gathering, Uncle Ron was ready to strengthen my hand in God from the only Source that can actually accomplish that task – God Himself, revealed in His Word. That is an example and a testimony worth striving for.

I’m thankful for the rich heritage God has blessed me with. I’m thankful for many family members who love Him. I am so glad that His Word is central in the lives of most of those I’ve been surrounded with my entire life. I am truly blessed, and I thank God for Uncle Ron’s part in that fabric of family blessing.