This year, we are saying, “Good-bye” to good friends.
I don’t know about you, but I hate good-byes most at Christmas. Everyone seems so happy. They are enjoying their friends and family. And you are saying, “Good-bye!” It doesn’t go with the season.
At our church on Sunday, we said, “Good-bye” to Mike and Cheri Bowen and their family. They have lived here almost 13 years. Since they arrived with their 2 preschool daughters, they have had 2 sons. Their children have now grown to the ages where their oldest is a junior in high school and their youngest is in first grade. That is a long time in one place!
Their family has been a blessing to our church. They will leave an empty hole felt by all ages including the many kids who grew up with their kids.
Mike came from seminary in Dallas to us. We had two assistant pastors before him who were a disappointment on some levels…I won’t even go there right now.
We were especially wounded from the last assistant before Mike. It was with trepidation that we (as a church) called him. We hoped we weren’t the ogres some thought we were. We really didn’t think so, but sometimes you begin to wonder.
Mike and Cheri arrived with a heart to serve.
They also came with the desire to get to know everyone. And they did. They formed alliances with people I would never have expected, in ways that were surprising. They truly loved the people in our church. I was challenged by their attitude. I realized there were things I hadn’t done to reach out to people in my church in love. I often lived as if people should know I loved them. Duh! How would they know if I didn’t go out of my way to show them.
As I (the senior pastor’s wife at the time) saw the people in our church through their eyes, many of my attitudes toward some changed. There were people I tended to back away from. I knew I would never be close to them and when I got near, it seemed that things never went well…so I stayed away!
You know those passages in Scripture that talk about avoiding those you don’t like, staying with those you do and only doing good things for those with whom you are comfortable?
Oh, I guess they aren’t in the actual Bible are they? Here is what it actually says.
It just happens to be be where many of us live, particularly at church. Then we wonder why church is not the warm loving place it needs to be. Could it be that we aren’t doing the things we need to be doing and being with the people in the church who are different from us?
Through the ministry of Mike and Cheri, I learned a lot about loving everyone with a whole and cheerful heart. No, the way I do it doesn’t look the way they do it, but I definitely have grown in that area through my contact with them as we worked together as a team for a few years and more recently as we have returned to town and been friends. But back to the Bowens..
Cheri loved to put on parties but it was difficult to do them at her house because of space issues. She turned her home upside-down despite the inconvenience. It was then that I realized I hadn’t put myself out enough to serve the elders and deacons in our church. I knew I wanted to have them over, but I was paralyzed by what to do and how to do it! Cheri loved to organize the parties so we had a few in our home. It was fun for each of us. I enjoyed having everyone here in my house and she enjoyed planning the parts of the party that helped disparate people get to know each other better.
I also learned a lot from Mike’s teaching. My temptation at first was to tell myself, “He is young and has young children. He hasn’t lived through raising teens. He doesn’t know what I have lived through. Yada, yada.”
But I realized that if I wanted to grow in my faith, I needed to make use of all the teaching available in our church by Godly leaders, not just those who fit my narrow paradigm. I could still use discernment and even ask questions, but I needed to enjoy the new dimension his teaching brought to our church as well!
Fortunately, I did. I did learn a lot and it added new dimensions to my faith and knowledge. As I discussed things I was learning with Ron, it was helpful to him as well. He and Mike were different people for sure, but they had a great working relationship. The years they worked together were great.
We kept up after we moved away for four years and he and Ron met erratically together since we returned as well. More recently, they have been getting together to test out every place that serves hamburgers so they can decide on the premier hamburger spot here in Tyler!
The church Mike will be pastoring in KY is very fortunate…and one of the elders was a teen in a church where we served! How is that for a small world?
Mike and Cheri, Michaela, Marie, David and Nathan…we will miss all of you.
- We will miss the joy you show as many of you sing in the choir.
- We will miss the genuine love you have shown to everyone here at Fifth Street.
- We will miss your presence.
But we know that this is a good move for you. This move is bound to have rough patches. Your girls and David are the ages our girls were when we moved to Tyler in the late 1980’s. They too, had been in the same christian school for many years and came to a public school.
They did fine, but the adjustment wasn’t always easy. It was a test of faith…for each member of the family. We all grew from the move and our faith grew as well. Its genuineness was tested and became true. I know this will be the case for you all as well.
We will be praying for you all…with love.
PS. No, this wasn’t taken on Sunday. Between Bowens and us, we were visiting too many people and I couldn’t get a photo with them all together. This was from awhile back.