In a presentation to the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington during the Reagan era, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson mentioned that his pickup basketball game had improved as he moved into middle age. Donald Hodel, who was serving as Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, was listening.

"I too had the same experience of improving my basketball with age," Hodel told Christianity Today. "So I dropped a note to Dobson, inviting him to play basketball when he visited Washington, D.C." Hodel and his wife, Barbara, also were attracted to Dobson's concern for helping families ground themselves in Christian principles. Before the

Reagan years, the Hodels seemingly had it all. Then one day two grim-faced police officers showed up at their front door to tell them their son was found hanging from a tree. On his 17th birthday, he had committed suicide.

Sometime later they came to Christian faith. "It took the death of our son to wake us up," Hodel said. It also made Hodel, still hurting, open to discussing his burden with Dobson.

Hodel is now attempting to help a hurting Dobson through some financial challenges at Focus on the Family.

In April the organization announced the appointment of Hodel, 68, a board member since 1995, as unpaid president and CEO. Dobson will remain chairman of the board of directors. Focus said the move would relieve Dobson of day-to-day responsibilities and allow him to spend more time writing and speaking.

"There is no one whom I admire more, and I look forward to working closely with him in the days ahead," Dobson, 67, told staff members at the expansive Focus facilities in Colorado Springs.

Difficult years

Recent years have been difficult for Dobson and Focus. Thirteen years ago, Dobson ...

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