Paul and Shirley Lanham
Born October 12, 1936 to Lawrence and Florence Henry Lanham, Paul did not select compromise as an option when it cam to values, personal direction and beliefs. In a time when college expenses seemed prohibitive to many young men Paul persisted. After graduation from Central High School (Shelby Township, Indiana) in 1954, Paul enrolled in Cincinnati Bible College, Cincinnati, OH. The quest did not come easily for Paul to earn the needed cash, he mowed yards, housed tobacco, worked factory jobs and picked tomatoes. Such determination resulted in a ministry degree four years later.
Shortly after graduation, Paul was en route to Brazil, South America to minister to the spiritual needs of a society and culture totally diverse from his simple, Hoosier lifestyle. He did not even know the language, but that did not stop the enthusiastic new missionary.
During his many visits back to the U.S. and his southern Indiana roots, he often chuckled about his initial struggles with the new vocabulary. Sometimes what he received wasn't exactly what he wanted. But the new Christian ambassador joked that he at, used or wore it anyway ... including a new buzz haircut. Paul thought one of his newly-acquired words meant "that's enough," but to the Brazilian barber it translated "shorter, shorter."
Not only did he give his bet to his missionary endeavor which was sponsored by approximately 100 Church of Christ affiliates across the U.S. Paul also became part of the Brazilian community and family network. He and wife, Shirley -- a native of Midway,, OH whom he married in June 1956 -- adopted four Brazilian children: one son, Charles wo now resides in Texas and three daughters, Anna, Karen and Sharon, who all live in Brazil.
In addition to their own family, Paul and Shirley opened up their home and hearts to numerous foster children. Not too many letters ago, Paul told his sister that several had dropped by to visit and say thanks once again for the spiritual nourishment and sanctuary of love he and Shirley had provided.
Even on his visits home to the States, he never forgot his adopted people. Two years ago Paul took back 17 boxes of clothing for the many hundreds who depended upon his strength and guidance.
On the lighter side of life, Paul, too kept up his love for sports while in Brazil. Few, if any, basketball games, volleyball matches or fishing expedition escaped his attention. Only one recreation merited a higher billing -- entertaining and spoiling seven grandchildren. Most letters home included at least one grandchild story.
Paul, who also served as a professor of theology at a Brazilian college, always put the welfare of others first and tried to conceal his own pain. Like the big sycamore trees that line the creek banks along the Lanham homestead in Indiana, Paul could sway with the wind. When doctors first diagnosed him with cancer eight years ago, he vowed to go on. He "had people to help, classes to teach, and churches to build." Even with leukemia stealing his energy, just four month before hist death, Paul held 16-night revival in Belem, Brazil where he first commenced his foreign ministry.
Although his mission work, some 6,000 miles away, distanced him in miles from his six brothers and sisters, they never separated in spirit. Letters frequently crossed the international date line and visits home always called for big family gatherings, lots of good down-home cooking and many, many fond remembrances. Fort the Lanham family...Brothers and sisters are someone you grow up with, but never outgrow.
Until the very end, Paul enjoyed and cherished the camaraderie and love of his five surviving brothers and sisters -- Albert (North Vernon, IN); Virgil (Canaan, IN), Ana Faye Little (Mooresville, IN); and Fern Marie Melton (Canaan, IN). An older sister, Vivian, died in 1989.
"The beautiful autumn leaves dotting the nearby hillsides and creek valleys will soon succumb to snow and December chills, but their beauty -- like the spirit and love of Paul Wilbur Lanham -- will remain strong in memory.