No matter how old you are, you always need someone to look up to. But the older you get, the harder heroes are to find.

I’m not sure this generation can recognize a true hero. Today’s media touts the latest sports or movie superstars and “American Idols.” But there’s a big difference between a superstar and a hero.

Superstars are a dime a dozen. They come and go as fast as the weather changes. The walk and talk of a hero stand the test of time. Heroes don’t have to be perfect, just consistent.

I guess I’ve always had an attraction to hero figures. Every little boy needs someone to look up to and emulate as he grows. In my life, I’ve had the blessing of some excellent heroes. I’ve written about my admiration for Roy Rogers and for my granddad Scott, who was about as upright a man as ever walked this Earth. God also gave me heroes in the ministry like Harry Clifton and Avery Willis. When I needed an example, all I had to do was look at their lives. Each of these men would be embarrassed that I mentioned him as my hero, but their characters prove they earned the title.

This week, I gained a new hero when I had the privilege of leading revival services at Emmanuel Chinese Church in Lenexa, Kan. How I came in contact with these wonderful brothers and sisters is a story in itself. Last fall, I was teaching a workshop on my book Rite of Passage Parenting at the National Bible Bee in Nashville, Tenn. After the workshop, two women from Emmanuel struck up a conversation with me that moved into a friendship. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, Dorothy, Toto and I found ourselves in Kansas.

Upon my arrival, the pastors of the church took me out to eat at a restaurant owned by a church member. I sat across from a man who wasn’t Chinese, but had served as a missionary to China. He introduced himself as Pastor Carl and asked if I had ever been to that wonderful country. I told him a little about my ministry there.

Pastor Carl leaned across the table and said, “I was serving as a missionary in China when the Communists took over on Oct. 1, 1949. There were 21 missionary families; 18 of them left and came back home, but three families stayed in that part of the world and tried to figure how to spread the Gospel.” He began to tell stories of traveling on an ocean vessel for six weeks to get from one city to another and what it was like to be a missionary before the days of modern conveniences.

As he talked, I realized this man had laid much of the foundation for today’s missionary work. When he shared about his ministry, his eyes glowed. His passion for the Lord and His work blazed like a fire, and his calling sounded as clear in his spirit as the day he received it.

After dinner, we drove to the church. When we walked in, Pastor Carl looked at me and said, “Let’s pray for tonight’s service.” I then had the privilege of hearing a man pray who has done ministry for more years than I’ve been alive.

There is something special about a senior saint’s prayer. It has the freshness of today seasoned with years of doing battle for souls. After our prayer, Pastor Carl sat beside me, leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Let the Spirit move you.” I knew he meant, “Get out of the way, young preacher, and let God do His work.”

I can’t begin to tell you how much of Jesus this older man showed me during our time together. After the Saturday evening service, he told me he wouldn’t see me the next day. He was speaking in another Chinese church that Sunday and lifting me up as I preached.

His sparkling eyes told me he couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come so he could again preach and teach God’s Word. Sunday morning, the church passed around a big birthday card for the congregation to sign. It was a surprise for Pastor Carl, who will turn 96 this week. As I sat there, I realized I had found a new hero.

Help your kids find heroes in their lives. You won’t discover them on some contest on television, but if you look at your church’s senior adult group, I bet you can find one or more with Pastor Carl’s faith and passion. Don’t let the world’s changing focus dictate the people your children admire. Instead, point them toward heroes of proven character and calling.

P.S. Happy 96th birthday, Pastor Carl!

Walker Moore is president of Awe Star Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, email, Phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827).