The memorial service for Roni and Charity Bowers began with a prayer offered by a close friend of the Bowers family, Jim Kramer. His words brought focus to the service when he asked God:
Michael Loftis (ABWE President) on behalf of the ABWE family extended love and prayers to the Bowers family members. He said, "Our hearts are broken as we grieve with you today, but our faith is not shaken. He also said,
Dr. Loftis shared a message from John 11, reminding us of what Jesus said of Himself, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" This was Jesus question. He wanted us to understand that in the deepest, darkest, most sorrowful hours of life there is a lesson He wants us to learn as He seeks to build our faith. Weeping with us, Jesus asks, "Do you believe in me?"
Jeff, along with Pastor Dave Buckley and his son Jeremy,
visited the Bowers family in Peru recently. Kristen
Adams, daughter of a missionary family in Iquitos,
traveled along with us. Four weeks ago
tonight we were in Orellana, where Jim and Roni sang a
beautiful duet, which some may have seen on the national
news. I want to share a few memories and
impressions of our time together.
Charity was a beautiful baby. I had seen her briefly in December, and she had really grown! With all the people around her, and the constant activity of the week on the river, I was amazed at how quiet and content she was.
But even good little babies have ways of letting Mom know what they want. Roni had Cory and Charity move so Pastor Dave and I could sleep in their bunk bed. During our second night there, Charity woke right after she went to bed, and continued this cycle all night long. Roni was up almost all night. It was clear that Charity did NOT want to sleep on the floor. The next night, Charity got her bed back!
I spent the last five nights of our stay as bunkmates with her. Most mornings I woke up early. It was enjoyable to lie there and listen to Charity wake up and quietly play in her bed. Charity was a precious gift from God to Jim and Roni.
learned a lot about Roni in the week we ministered with
them on the river. One thing we learned quickly was
that Roni was FUN to be around. She loved life, and
she loved to laugh.
An example was when Cory showed Jeff and Jeremy his playroom down in one of the storage compartments of the houseboat. The only way in was through a small trap door in the floor. Roni walked by and saw Cory in the playroom and asked Whos down there with you? He said, Jeremy. Pastor Dave asked Cory, Whats Jeremy doing? Cory answered in his little matter of fact voice, Pickin' chiggers, (like what else would he be doing?). Roni laughed so hard she had to sit down.
Roni had a servants heart. Her main focus in ministry was to do everything she could to make Jims work easier. She did that well, but she did so much more. Several times during our stay Roni voiced frustrations that she felt like their work was not accomplishing much. What we saw was a life and ministry that touched the Peruvians in a deep way. People have come to Christ and believers have grown through her faithful service. Roni was an example and an encourager to the women in the villages. She selflessly met the needs of us gringos during the week. She made a special effort to praise and encourage Kristen during our stay.
After our week together, it was clear to us that God had uniquely prepared Roni for her work in Peru as a wife, mother and missionary. She served others joyfully, and shared her faith openly with her words and her life. Roni loved her husband, her children, the people of Peru, and most of all, she loved the God she faithfully served.
Chuck Porter, former missionary in
the Amazon region of Peru, shared his memories of Roni
ministering to and loving the Peruvian women and
children. He closed with this verse: "We
were gentle among you just as a nursing mother cherishes
her own children, so affectionately longing for you, we
were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of
God, but also our own lives because you had become dear
to us." He finished by saying, "That was
I have heard the story of Jim
Bowers' loss of his wife and child who were shot down.
Its one of those stunning things in life. You
wonder what God is doing, and of course, we know that God
never makes mistakes. He knows exactly what He is
doing, and suffering is never for nothing. It says
in 1 Thessalonians 3:4, "We are bound to suffer
hardship," and Samuel Rutherford points out to us,
It is ordinary. It is a part of the cross.
"Suffering makes pleasure more poignant. It
can only reveal the depth of Christs love."
He has given to you, Jim, the cup of suffering, and
you can share that with the Lord Jesus who said,
"The cup the Father has given to me, I have
received." In Philippines 1:29, Paul says,
"It is given to you not only to believe but also to
suffer." Im tempted to ask,
"So what else is new?" All of us, in one
form or another, are required to suffer. Some of us
accept it graciously, trustingly; others rage against God
about it. But God has reasons for needing those two
precious people in His heavenly home. He has not
forgotten you, Jim, or any of the others who are gathered
around with you. Surely He has work for you to do
that would not fit anyone else. It says in Psalm
90:12, "Teach us to number our days aright that we
may gain a heart of wisdom." It is my prayer
that the Lord would do just that for you and for all
those who share your sorrow.
George MacDonald, the Scottish writer, wrote, "Were it not for suffering, millions of human beings would never develop an atom of affection. It is folly to conclude that a thing ought not to be done because it hurts. There are powers to be born, creations to be perfected, sinners to be redeemed all through the ministry of pain that could be born, perfected and redeemed in no other way."
Id like to conclude with a
beautiful poem written by Martha Snell Nicholson:
"I stood a mendicant
(a beggar) of God before His royal throne
I took the gift from out
His hand, but as I would depart
This is a strange, a
hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.
I took it home and though
at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
I learned He never gives a
thorn without this added grace,
Roni taught me many things by the
way she lived her life. One was to trust God, even
through tears. Tears were no stranger to Roni.
At the time that I met her, she had a constant ache in
her heart because she longed to be a mother. She
longed for a child to have and to hold. I remember
her saying, "My arms are empty, Pam, and it
hurts." But she didnt turn away from God
in her hurt; she turned to Him, confident that His way is
best. Thats Roni. Through her tears
she had a rock solid commitment to and confidence in her
Savior who had gone all the way to the cross for her.
Roni asked me to pray regularly with her for a child, and
for months we did. Gods marvelous answer was
Cory, you are Gods gift to your mom and dad. When God was thinking about how to answer your parents' prayers, He chose you, and worked out all the details so that you could be with them. You are one very special guy.
Her story ends where all believers' stories endlooking into the face of Jesus.
God never wastes a hurt.
Steve Saint was deeply moved by the
occasion and the testimonies. When he came forward
to share, he began by asking that he be excused
because he really wanted to speak to the one person in
the audience with whom he could identify the
Steve Saint added this comment for the grown-ups.
In life many of us Christians have tried to preach and have tried to believe that the life of a believer is all joy and no pain. That isnt so. And weve tried to believe that for those people who dont know the Lord as we do, their life is all pain and no joy, and that isnt so. You know what the difference is (and its taken me a long time to learn it)? For them, the pain is fundamental and the joy is superficial because it wont last. For us, the pain is superficial and the joy is fundamental.
A good friend of mine wrote a song taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 and I give this to you. He wrote,
The Peruvian ambassador asked if he could speak. He communicated his "sentiments and deep emotions, telling how the Peruvians had such great respect and strong feelings of love for Roni. Everything she did was done with enormous love and consecration, even to the poorest members of the population. He emphasized how much we commend her love and sacrifice. . . We regret this tragic loss. Most sincere sentiments, sorrow, and sadness on behalf of the government of Peru. May God bless you.
|Text of Jim Bowers speech at Michigan
. . . I
want to thank all of you whove prayed for Cory and
me during these past eight days. Youve been
so good. Youve prayed and helped in so many
meaningful ways. Its just unbelievable how so
many people have come around us and been there for us.
Were overwhelmed by the e-mails. I just took
a little time last night to read 100 or so of them, and
it was so encouraging. Some people didnt know
what to write and others knew exactly what to write.
Once in a while I came across an e-mail from someone that
knew Roni. That was very encouraging, the things
they had to say helped remind me of her. A lot of
you have called, too. Im sorry for those I
havent been able to answer and also those e-mails I
certainly wont be able to answer for some time;
Ill be reading them for a while yet. But
thank you so much!
Youve done a good job in
assuring usCory and methat you love us.
We know that you love us. Many of you traveled a
long distance to be here tonight. Ill have to
mention at least one who came. One of Ronis
best friends came from Russia to be here tonight. Thank
you, Toni (sp?).
I want to start off by thanking
those who were on the scene that first day. Sorry
you cant be here tonight; maybe youre
watching by television. First of all, my good
friend and excellent pilot who is in surgery right now.
And while Im at it, Id better thank Bobbi;
shes here. She wanted to be there, but she
couldnt be because Kevin wouldnt let her.
Shes here. Thank you, Bobbi, for those
wonderful words, too. Were praying for you,
Kevin. You all can stop praying for me now for a
minute and pray for Kevin, okay? Hes in
surgery right now and apparently hes a little late
in coming out. He has lots of surgeries ahead.
I look forward to seeing him soon.
I also want to thank our friends in
Huanta; and the police in Pevas nearby, who were the
first officials on the scene; and the Peruvian Air Force,
who were there about four hours later. Maybe since
this is taped, I could just thank them directly. [Spanish
I also want to give special thanks
to Shawn and Tim . . . they were the DEA agents on
God sent on that plane to be with us. They
didnt know why there were going, but they were a
welcome sight. They gave us a sense of safety
amongst the Peruvian officers, and protection and also
comfort. They were surprised to see us.
I also want to thank the U.S.
Embassy personnel, the ambassador, for all that they did.
They just took care of us.
I might as well say thanks to
Continental Airlines for giving us the red carpet
treatment at their expense. Thank you.
And to all our dear friends: Youve
made this as smooth as possible right from the very first
gunshot. What can I say? Thank you.
Most of all I want to thank my God. Hes a sovereign God. Im finding that out more now. . . . Some of you might ask, Why thank God? Of course, now after hearing some people speak tonight, youre realizing why, maybe. Could this really be Gods plan for Roni and Charity; Gods plan for Cory and me and our family? Id like to tell you why I believe so, why Im coming to believe so. I didnt believe that at all during the incident of the tragedy, or the day or two after that. But I began to see some things and Gods hand at work. Ill let you come to your own conclusions.
I have a list here, and this is a
partial listits less than half--because of
time, but Id like to read a list of things and you
tell me if this was of God or not. Of course there
could be some coincidences, but you tell me with this
half a list if that couldve been a coincidence.
And. of course, theres lots
more. Maybe some other time youll hear the
other details; some of them are even better.
Im convinced that God directly intervened to spare Kevin and Cory and me, because He still has some kind of work for us to accomplish. I think He did that also to wake up sleeping Christians, including myself, and maybe most of all, to wake up those who have no interest in God (or little interest). And I say tonight: Wake up! I have a new perspective, of course.
Id like to shift my focus
briefly away from these events of last Friday to some
personal recollections of my wife and Charity.
We knew Charity as a precious gift
from God; that was our main feeling about her. Those
of you who held her and played with her most recently and
saw her older will agree with Cory and me that Charity
was as perfect as any baby could be. She was
beginning to crawl. She was picking herself up in
her crib and on the chair. She was getting
everywhere. I had to make some special arrangements
for the doors so she couldnt get out. She had
her first tooth. Charity and Cory were having a
race to see whose tooth would come in quickest.
Many of you have been helping to take care of Charity, sending formula from the States. I calculated shes had over a barrel of formula: 60 gallons. Thats a lot. She was growing and, compared to the Peruvians, very chubby but very healthy. She was the delight of all the Peruvians along the river. It was fun to show her off, and they just loved holding her.
I have lots to say about Roni.
People tonight have said great things about her. And
on the television, I havent had a chance to see,
but theyre saying, Everybodys talking
But whats interesting and
youll all agree, those of you who know her,
youd still be saying many of the same things about
her even if she were here tonight, if you had the chance.
I suppose youre all making up for me not bragging
enough about her. Those of you who knew Roni know
how special of a person she really was. I was
grateful I knew her even more, and I know that shes
even more incredible than you may have thought. I
was the fortunate one to have her, though I certainly did
not deserve her.
Id like to say some things
about Roni that might be interesting to you. She
was, to me, an excellent co-worker. I would have
liked to have another man to travel the river with, to be
a team, but that wasnt possible. . . . We
worked together. Not only did she care for my
needs, as that was her main ministry, but we worked
together . . . as a beautiful team. And she was
used greatly of the Lord to help me in the ministry.
She was a wise counselor, many times without even knowing
it. And I suppose I have to thank my in-laws for
that. They taught her many things that affected me.
And, most of all she was my best friend. Im
happy to say that tonight.
Some other things that youll
all agree about Roni: she was very loving. She
tried to accept everyone, no matter what they were like.
She worked at that, and helped me with that. She
was grateful; she had little interest in possessions.
(She would have to, to live on a boat. She planned
to for the rest of her life in the jungle.) She was
very humble, not interested at all in receiving
recognition for anything. She was preoccupied with
always doing what was right in Gods eyes. Even
though she didnt always live up to that, it was a
big concern of hers and a big example for me to follow.
Roni taught me so much and Ive often wondered what
I would be like if not for her example.
Roni did several things well. She wasnt all that talented as far as many people would say in the worlds ways, but she was in some very special ways. She was incredibly consistent in her loving discipline of Cory from the very beginning. . . . She was a good person, so her parents must have been very consistent in discipline. She gave 100% of herself to Charity. She thanked God for that gift every single day. She was an excellent schoolteacher. I listened to her, and tried my best not to annoy them and to bother them, although I got in the way a lot. But she was very consistent and serious. She was concerned that Cory get a good education.
And she was a very effective teacher
of the Peruvian children, helping the Peruvian women
understand biblical truth better. They absolutely
loved her. Its very hard for them tonight.
We heard that many of them are making the long trip from
their villages to be there tonight at the memorial [in
Iquitos] thats going on right now. Many more things
I could say, of course. . . .
Id like to say a little bit
about us, about Roni and me. A couple of months ago
I decided it was time to make a list again, a list of all
Ronis good qualities that would help me start
complimenting and encouraging her more frequently. What
Im telling you tonight are things shes heard
me say before; of course, not as often as I should have.
And I thank God that He gave me that opportunity before
it was too late. God put that on my heart to make
that list. Im very grateful for that.
It was very obvious to both of us
that God brought us together, and many people who knew us
at the beginning of our marriage would say the same
thing. During our 15 years together, our
relationship steadily grew closer and stronger. And
we were fortunate to have received good counsel during
that first year of marriage. The counsel was this:
in order to have a successful marriage, we needed to
learn to put God first (or to love God more than we loved
each other.) It sounded silly at first. We
worked at it. And it may sound strange to some of
you, but our most enjoyable times togetherRoni
would say this, tooin recent years were the early
mornings we spent praying and studying the Bible. In
fact, we found our wake-up time gradually getting earlier
and earlier because we enjoyed that time so much
together. It became a significant part of our life
and our relationship. Ill cherish Ronis
Bible and her journal; theyre full of personal
notes to herself and to God. And I pray that God
will often bring those things to mind, those good
insights that Roni shared with me so often. They
were very special. I only wish I had written more
of them down. I miss her!
Now, what will the future hold?
What will I do now? Life will continue to be
difficult without Roni and Charity. I will miss not
seeing Charity doing all the things I expected to enjoy,
and I certainly will miss Ronis wise counsel, godly
example, and many other things. It seems pretty
obvious to me that God has chosen Cory and me to
represent Him in a bigger way, a lot bigger than I would
have imagined. Im sure God wants me to serve
Him in a new way now; only He knows. As another
missionary wrote (the apostle Paul, who encouraged me
with these words, as he did his original readers): When
I am weak, then I am strong. Meaning, I
dont feel equipped to do this new ministry,
whatever it might be, but Im glad for that. Because
thats when God can really use me His way, and
Im looking forward to it.
Humanly speaking, Roni and Charitys death were exactly what Bobbi said: absolutely senseless. Wouldnt you think they should be one of the last ones to be shot to death? You know, thats comforting to me. Some of you might think Im crazy. I knowIm learningthat Gods ways are sometimes, and even often, inhuman. How could something so terrible be so good? Of course, I could say that now and next month it may be quite different. But I believe the truth: many good things have happened, and many more are to come.
Some might be wondering, What
good has happened, and what good is there to come out of
this? Theres nothing good about this?
Although in my ministry experience . . . I found that God
gets most peoples attention by allowing them to
experience some kind of crisis. . . . It wakes us
up. Of course, this is not a crisis for Roni.
Before you start to think that Ronis some super-saint, I lived with her, so I know better. Some people, maybe some people watching on TV, would think, Well, thats great. You know shes in heaven; look how she lived. Sounds like she was some super person, wasnt she? And, yes, she was.
So therefore, its
obvious shes in heaven. Who couldve
lived better than Roni? I sure cant! So
thats why we know shes in heaven, some
might say. God didnt say that.
What would Roni want me to say
tonight? Ive been trying to think of that.
Id like this to be her night and to say what she
would have said.
One thing I want you to know: Roni
has forgiven the pilot who shot her. Shes
forgiven . . . whoever might have made their mistake, and
so should I. And I have. How could I not when
God has forgiven me so? God will continue to
forgive me no matter what I do because of Christ.
Those people who did that, simply were used by God. Whether you want to believe it or not, I believe it. They were used by Him, by God, to accomplish His purpose in this, maybe similar to the Roman soldiers whom God used to put Christ on the cross.
I think Roni would say to believers tonight, those of you who know the fact that Gods Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. But more than that, youve decided to leave that in Gods hands. Youve said, God, Jesus death is good enough for me. I dont deserve to know you; I dont deserve to go where you are, because I was born a sinner, separated from you. But you provided a way, and I trust that. Im trusting in that way, which was Christs sacrifice. He died for me. Thats what Roni lived. She believed it with all her heart. And thats why I know shes in heaven. . . . So what would she say to you fellow-believers, you her brothers and sisters tonight, here in Muskegon, and those of you around the world? What would she to you? . . . I think she would say, Wake up, those of you who are sleeping spiritually.
Im sure she has a different
perspective now, doesnt she? I wondered at
first how could she not be sad for Cory and me? Shes
not. She knows that our suffering and our struggles
are temporary. And theyre very brief,
compared with [eternity] when everythings perfect.
. . . Id still think she would be worried about us,
but shes not; she knows how it ends and she knows
we can deal with it, especially with all of your help and
with Gods comfort He gives with His Holy Spirit.
And Hes given it in a great way.
To you who are planning to follow
Ronis footsteps, or are there already, serving the
Lord in full-time work, most of all those of you serving
in a faraway place like Roni did, what would she say to
you? . . . I think shed say something along the
lines of, Stay close to God. And to
those of you who are thinking of going to the mission
field someday, she would say, Obey. If you
feel God is asking you to do something like that,
dont run from Him; just obey. Or at least
seek to know for sure and do it.
And then, of course, theres a
group of people, maybe not many here tonight but all
around the world, people who dont know Jesus Christ
as their Savior, who have no confidence that they would
go to heaven one day. Theyre trying hard,
some of them, to please God, but they havent
admitted their guilt of rebellion against God. What
would Roni say to you? Maybe something that
Ive said many times to our Peruvian friends . . .
I would think she would say something like, Please,
all of you, please, please dont leave matters of
eternity up to chance. The most important issue of
our life we leave to chance. Isnt that
. . . So I ask you tonight, in
Ronis behalf, those of you who dont know the
Savior that Roni knows and is enjoying tonight, please
seek God, and God will show Himself to you.
Steve Green recorded a personal message for the service that recognized the ministry of Jim and Roni Bower's on the Upper Amazon of Peru. His thanks for their testimony and commitment served as an introduction to a presentation of recent pictures from their houseboat ministry set to Steve Green's recording of "I Will Serve The Lord."
Steve's Personal Message:
Along with friends, family and loved ones who are gathered, I wish to extend my deepest, heartfelt condolences. In times like these, perhaps we sense most keenly that mysterious union of belonging to Christ, of being knit together as His body. All over the world, thousands of believers are lifting you up in prayer, and sharing in your grief in a way that far surpasses human sympathy. Also in times like these, the hope of the gospel shines brightly, and provides hope when hope cannot be found in any other place. Thank you for serving our Lord so faithfully. You lived in obscurity. You served Him in obscurity, but you are highly favored in His sight, for: "Beautiful are the feet of those who take the gospel of good news." Thank you for your part in the Kingdom. May the Lord continue to surround you with His comfort and His grace.
I Will Serve The Lord
through the centuries
And though their
journey led them
I will serve the
Uncertain days now
For should our
journey lead us through
I will serve the
The honor and the
I will serve the
Vocal Selection: "Make Me In Your Image," Corey Emerson
Congregational Song, "I Shall Know Him," led by Corey Emerson
PERSONAL COMMENTS: JIM BOWERS
Recorded greeting and vocal selection, "I Will Serve the Lord," by Mr. Steve Green, Recording Artist
For more information, visit www.abwe.org.