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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Milestones – Part 1

Milestones. We all have them in life. Those ‘defining moments.’ Those ‘at this moment in time something big happened in my life’ times. Could be good. Could be bad. Could be in-between. Maybe it’s a ‘stake in the ground’ moment. Maybe it’s a ‘from this moment forward my life has changed’ moment. Maybe it’s a ‘not big to anyone else but huge to me’ moment. No matter what you want to call it, we all have those times in our lives where we take some stones, pile them high, and leave a marker on the road of our life. A milestone.

I’m having a milestone today. I’m celebrating the successful completion of the first 50 years of my life. I’m ‘golden’ as of today! 🙂 But there’s been a lot of tarnish on that gold that had to get buffed off. And a lot of that painstaking work took place through some significant milestones that have shaped me into the person I am today. I’d like to share a few of them. Milestones can be internal or external. Sometimes it seems the most profound milestones are the ones that happen internally.

Milestone # 1: Coming to Faith in Christ

I was raised Catholic. Went to Catholic school from grade school through high school. I had a LOT of religion. What I was missing was a relationship. I was always the ‘religious one’ of the kids. I even remember riding to 8th grade on the bus and thinking as we passed the convent ‘someday I’m going to live there.’ My biggest milestone happened May 31, 1985, when Buddy Hurwood took me to a Petra Christian rock concert in Dayton, OH. I realized what it took to be in a RELATIONSHIP with God and I entered into one that night. That single decision would set the stage for every other milestone to follow.

Milestone # 2: Graduating College

Both my older sister and older brother had attended some college but had not graduated. I was the first person to go to college and finish. Just finishing was an accomplishment! Each year I said my goodbyes, not knowing if I could afford to return. After my first year Mom and Dad had said they wished they could help me but they couldn’t pay for my college. I told them ‘no offense but I don’t want your help. That way if I screw up it’s MY money going down the tube, not yours!’ I finished. Getting there was a struggle. Ed Hyland, the Dean of Students, was hands down one of the most influential people in my life (and I’ve told him just that personally). He was my confidant, my counselor, my cheerleader and my coach. He inspired me to go into my chosen field of Student Services. SO much more I could say but I’ll leave it at that for now. The biggest thing that happened was my senior year when I told Ed something I had never told anyone. That would start a HUGE domino in my life – all for the good. It all started with him just listening. What a blessing!

Milestone # 3: Earning my Master of Science degree

When I graduated college I had a couple choices: be Asst. Mgr. of a Kinney Shoe Store in Defiance, OH; return to Defiance College for one more semester to finish my secondary methods and student teaching; go to grad school. I applied to one grad school in the country, interviewed for 2 graduate assistantships, and was offered BOTH! I STILL remember getting the first offer and after hanging up the phone saying to Mom and Dad through tears “I’m going to graduate school!”

What was coolest was during the interview process. I remember walking back from the evening interview for Student Activities (Residential Life was the next day). As I got closer to the guest apartment I heard 3 sentences and I knew it was God speaking to me: “I want you here for a reason. Don’t ask why. Just trust Me.” I knew it was all a formality after that!

I’ve often thought back to those sentences. Sometimes I think I can see how the tapestry has woven together with the threads that started there. Sometimes I can’t. And when I can’t I go back to those three sentences. They still ring true today.

Milestone # 4: Working at Kanakuk Kamp

During Grad School my life intersected with this guy named Joe White. He is the President and Owner of Kanakuk Kamp in Missouri. We were writing for 3 years before we even met. The nice thing about working on college campuses is you pretty much have your summers free, so I was accepted to the staff at Kamp a year after I graduated grad school. Those 5 summers spent in a 100 degree kitchen feeding 400 hungry kampers and staff with no air conditioning were 5 of THE best and formative summers of my life! I learned SO much about myself there, and it was through Kamp that God began to disciple me, break me of me, and let Him recreate me. To this day I take great pride in being part of Kamp. It’s beyond belief!

Milestone # 5: Friends and Music

It was through those years at Kamp that a number of very special friendships developed. Kamp has a lot of ‘familiar faces’ come visit and sing (aka: Christian musicians). Through various means God has blessed with some ongoing friendships with some of those musicians. It doesn’t matter who they are. Music is just how they pay their bills. I want to know the PERSON, not the performer. Through the ministry of those musicians – and through their music – God has worked on my heart. They have encouraged me, prayed with me, let me pray with them, shared their heart with me and let me share mine with them….they’ve just become ‘special.’ For quite a while every major turning point in my life happened at a Christian rock concert. I’m thankful to say God used the music of many people to speak to me in a language He knew I’d hear.

Milestone # 6: Ministry and Missions

I think all the years leading up to 1994 were the ‘warm up.’ That was the year I went into high school youth ministry, coordinating national and international conferences. It was the time of my life! I LOVE large event coordination. I had been able to use some of my friendships through kamp musicians to do some concert promotions while working on the college campus, and now I got to use those skills full time in ministry. Support raising was NOT my thing. I’m a poster child of what NOT to do. But God was faithful. As always.

From high school ministry to going on church staff, I loved being in ministry. I felt most free. Evangelism and discipleship became most important to me during that time frame. There was NOTHING like being in the band leading 200 teens in fervent worship. Sometimes I think teens have a better handle on unadulterated worship than adults do. They inspired me, challenged me, made me laugh, cry, and learn how to love and live on a whole different level.

Then in 2005 I went on a mission trip with To Every Tribe ministries in Los Fresnos, TX. David Sitton knew I was ‘hooked’ before I even got there. He had come to speak at my church and I had opportunity to share my large event coordination gifts with him to help him with something. I was eager to meet him.

I had been in Venezuela in 1997 and Honduras in 2004 (more on that later). Being in Latin America was like being ‘home’ for me. I felt comfortable and loved the culture. There is a simplicity to life that is missing in the US. They have people and not things. We have things and not people. They are a LOT richer than we are!

As a result of that trip to Mexico (no running water or electricity and I was LOVING every minute of it – hurricane relief after Hurricane Emily hit where we were planning on going) I believe the Lord put on my heart a desire to serve Him full time through the ministry of To Every Tribe. My ultimate goal is to be on the state-side staff and be a part of the ‘sending team’ to help mobilize missionaries to the unreached people groups of Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

Stay tuned for Part 2……it only gets better!

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