Michigan memorial service for Roni and Charity Bowers
Date: Friday, April 27 

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location:
Calvary Church
5873 Kendra Road
Fruitport, Michigan 49415 
 

Jim Bowers before the Michigan Memorial Service with Dr. Michael Loftis, ABWE President
Jim Bowers before the Michigan memorial service with Dr. Loftis, ABWE President.


REMEMBERING & CELEBRATING AN EXCEPTIONAL LIFE
Memorial Service for Roni and Charity Bowers


Roni and Charity Bowers Opening Prayer

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:

“As we listen tonight to the testimonies of Roni’s life, help us to understand what an incredibly committed servant Roni was, and help us to understand too what an incredibly great God she served.”

Dr. Michael Loftis, ABWE President 

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,

“Many people live and die without ever knowing the true purpose of their lives. Roni finished her course with joy.  She placed an exclamation point on the purpose of her life, which was to bring other people the good news of what it means to personally know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

“Missionaries are human.  They’re weak.  They suffer pain and loss.  They grieve.  They bleed.  But out of this suffering, out of this difficulty, God brings a beautiful message of hope to lost and broken souls all over the world.”

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?"

Bobbi Donaldson, wife of Kevin Donaldson who piloted the plane on Friday, April 20th

“The deaths of Roni and Charity were senseless.  The death of Jesus Christ seemed senseless at the time, but it turned out to be the most significant event in our history.”

“Roni met the Lord in the air.  Those of us left behind are sad.  But Jesus will come and we also will meet Him in the air and those left behind then will have a greater problem.  I’m glad I knew her.”

 Jim Cross, recent visitor to the Bowers' work in Peru

My son 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.

We 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 “Who’s down there with you?”  He said,  “Jeremy.”   Pastor Dave asked Cory, “What’s 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 servant’s heart.  Her main focus in ministry was to do everything she could to make Jim’s 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, retired Amazon houseboat missionary with ABWE

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 Roni.”

Elisabeth Elliot Gren, widow of Jim Elliot, martyed by Auca Indians in1956    

I have heard the story of Jim Bowers' loss of his wife and child who were shot down.  It’s 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 Christ’s 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."   I’m 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."

I’d like to conclude with a beautiful poem written by Martha Snell Nicholson:

"I stood a mendicant (a beggar) of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, ‘But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.
He said, ‘My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.

I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.”

Pam Hewiit, one of Roni's best friends

“Roni's love for God and people was contagious.  She lived for God’s glory, and to make His salvation known.  Because of this, His love flowed out from her to others.”

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 didn’t turn away from God in her hurt; she turned to Him, confident that His way is best.  That’s 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.  God’s marvelous answer was Cory.

To Cory:

Cory, you are God’s 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.

Roni taught:

“Life doesn’t always give you a storybook ending.  You do not always end up with the answer to your prayers that you desire.  God often chooses to do something different with your life than you envisioned.  But it’s ok.  He’s still God, and He still loves you. As long as your confidence in God remains strong in the midst of all the questions and myriad of emotions you will be ok.  He is the only one who remains constant, and life is good if you stay in His arms—God’s loving arms.  You may not understand where He leads, but you will be safe and secure with Him anywhere, even in death.

Her story ends where all believers' stories end—looking into the face of Jesus.

Stephen Saint, son of Nate Saint, one of the five missionaries martyred by Auca Indians in 1956

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 most…Cory.

Cory, my name is Steve.  You know what?  A long time ago when I was just about your size, I was in a meeting just like this.  I was sitting down there, and I really didn’t know completely what was going on.  But I was surrounded by people that I called Aunt and Uncle.  They weren’t all my family, but they really were like my family.  And my mom was there and Aunt Mary Lou and Aunt Barb and Aunt Betty (the lady that just talked by recording).  

And you know, I was trying to figure out what was going on.  We had just had Christmas, and here all these people were coming back to our house, and I thought, "Maybe we’re going to have Christmas again."  There were a lot of people crying and some people seemed to be sad.  But in the midst of all that, there were other people laughing and I knew that something good was about to happen; I just didn’t know what it was.  

You know, people have asked me about that, Cory, and I tell them that I didn’t really understand what was going on.  But you know, now I understand it better.  A lot of adults used a word then that I didn’t understand.  They used a word that’s called tragedy.  And when tragic things happen, adults do really interesting things.  They cry and sometimes they can be happy and sad at the same time.  And these people were saying that what had happened before we came to that church service was something tragic.  But you know, now I’m kind of an old guy, and now when people come to me and they say, "Oh I remember when that tragedy happened so long ago."  I know, Cory, that they were wrong.

You see, my dad, who was a pilot like the man you probably call Uncle Kevin, and four of his really good friends had just been buried out in the jungles, and my mom told me that my dad was never coming home again.  My mom wasn’t really sad.  So, I asked her, "Where did my dad go?"  And she said, "He went to live with Jesus."  And you know, that’s where my mom and dad had told me that we all wanted to go and live. Well, I thought, isn’t that great that Daddy got to go sooner than the rest of us?  And you know what? Now when people say, "That was a tragedy," I know they were wrong.

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 isn’t so.  And we’ve tried to believe that for those people who don’t know the Lord as we do, their life is all pain and no joy, and that isn’t so.  You know what the difference is (and it’s taken me a long time to learn it)?  For them, the pain is fundamental and the joy is superficial because it won’t last.  For us, the pain is superficial and the joy is fundamental.  

To Jim:

A good friend of mine wrote a song taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 and I give this to you.  He wrote, 

"This is not how we thought it was supposed to be.
We had so many plans for you.  We had so many dreams.
And now you’ve gone away leaving us with nothing
but the memories of your smile.
And nothing we can say and nothing we can do
can take away the pain, the pain of losing you.

But we cry with hope, and we say goodbye with hope
because we know our goodbye is not the end.
We can grieve with hope because we believe with hope,
there’s a place where we’ll see your face again."

To Cory: 

Cory, I had a little girl who had grown up to be a big, tall beautiful girl.  She was the only little girl that I had, and I loved her so much.  Just a few months ago she had been away on missions just like your Daddy and Mommy and you and your little sister were.  And when she came home, we met her at the airport.  We had these signs saying "Welcome home, Stephanie," (that was her name).  We lifted them up in the air.  One of my friends from the jungle was there with us and he had his sign upside-down because he couldn’t read.  Everybody was looking at us, even though we were in Orlando and people do funny things there.  And you know what?  We went home and we were having a party, a welcome home party.  And Cory, Stephanie got a headache and went to lie down.  My wife Jenny asked me to go in and pray for her.  And you know what happened?  While Jenny was holding Stephanie and I was praying for her, she died.  

And you know what, Cory?  We had just had a little grandbaby.  Stephanie’s older brother, my son Jessie, had just had a baby.  And when Stephanie came home, she wanted to hold that baby.  She was so excited, she wouldn’t let anybody else hold the baby because she wanted her chance with our little baby.  She loved babies so much.  And when I think of our Stephanie, one of the things that makes me saddest is that she didn’t get to hold her little niece very much.  And you know what I thought when I heard on the radio that your Mommy and baby sister had gone to live with Jesus a little sooner than we thought they would?  I thought, "Oh thank you, Jesus."  Because I’ll bet if there’s anything that’s like a problem in heaven, you know what it is?  It’s that my daughter Stephanie is just going to be bugging your mother all of the time to hold your little sister Charity.  Cory, we sing a song and I know you know it: "Jesus Loves Me This I Know."  You know that one don’t you?  You know what?  I’d like to change the second line to, "Jesus Loves Me, this I know, because 50 years now (that’s how old I am) have proved it so."  And Cory, I believe that when you’re as old as I am that you’ll understand like I do now, Jesus never wastes a hurt.  We can’t prove our faith nearly so well as we can right now.


Consul General Manuel Boza of Peru

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.”  

Jim Bowers, husband to Roni, father to Charity and Cory
Text of Jim Bowers’ speech at Michigan memorial service

“. . . I want to thank all of you who’ve prayed for Cory and me during these past eight days.  You’ve been so good.  You’ve prayed and helped in so many meaningful ways.  It’s just unbelievable how so many people have come around us and been there for us.  We’re 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 didn’t 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.  I’m sorry for those I haven’t been able to answer and also those e-mails I certainly won’t be able to answer for some time; I’ll be reading them for a while yet.  But thank you so much!

You’ve done a good job in assuring us—Cory and me—that you love us.  We know that you love us.  Many of you traveled a long distance to be here tonight.  I’ll have to mention at least one who came.  One of Roni’s 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 can’t be here tonight; maybe you’re watching by television.  First of all, my good friend and excellent pilot who is in surgery right now.  And while I’m at it, I’d better thank Bobbi;   she’s here.  She wanted to be there, but she couldn’t be because Kevin wouldn’t let her.  She’s here.  Thank you, Bobbi, for those wonderful words, too.  We’re praying for you, Kevin.  You all can stop praying for me now for a minute and pray for Kevin, okay?  He’s in surgery right now and apparently he’s 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 statements.]

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 didn’t 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:  You’ve 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.  He’s a sovereign God.  I’m finding that out more now. . . . Some of you might ask, “Why thank God?”  Of course, now after hearing some people speak tonight, you’re realizing why, maybe.  Could this really be God’s plan for Roni and Charity; God’s plan for Cory and me and our family?  I’d like to tell you why I believe so, why I’m coming to believe so.  I didn’t 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 God’s hand at work.  I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. 

I have a list here, and this is a partial list—it’s less than half--because of time, but I’d 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 could’ve been a coincidence.

Of the many bullets that penetrated the aircraft, not one of them hit Cory or me.  Despite the fact that one of the first ones made a big hole in the windshield in front of my head, coming from behind.  None of them incapacitated Kevin completely.

The first extinguisher worked, as some on my boat don’t, and it worked exceptionally; I was very surprised.  Without it, we all would have died.

Roni and Charity were instantly killed by the same bullet. (Would you say that’s a stray bullet?) And it didn’t reach Kevin, who was right in front of Charity; it stayed in Charity.  That was a sovereign bullet.

Neither Cory nor I were afraid.  Can you believe that?  We didn’t scream out or yell.  We were able to react quickly and think clearly throughout the entire event, as was Kevin.

Despite major damage to Kevin’s legs, he was still able to bring us to safety on the river, even though we were far from the river when it happened.

I had just enough time—and just enough strength—to get Roni and Charity out of that aircraft before it went under water.

And although we floated in the river for quite a long time, a canoe came just before it was too late.

We were shot down right over a town of witnesses, which helped at the very beginning, and some of them were very good friends of mine.

Incredibly, the town had a radio on which we were able to call for help.  That’s very unusual.  And the radio worked.  And my calls on that jungle radio to Kevin’s wife, Bobbi, at home, caught her at home; she answered the phone. Kevin’s pilot friend was at home also, and ready to fly to get him that very instant.

And the three of us who survived—can you believe this?—we’re very fortunate.  We have no sense of guilt for responsibility for Charity and Roni’s death, as would be the case if we had been careless or negligent somehow.  And it’s a great relief to me.

Both Cory and I are experiencing inexplicable peace right now.  Many of told me that won’t last, but I’m praying that it will.

Another incredible thing: our attitude toward those responsible for this—my attitude, Cory’s attitude, Kevin’s attitude, the attitude of our families, many of our friends, and many Christians around the world (and you can see their attitude; it’s different, isn’t it?  I’m not bragging about my attitude.  God’s given me peace.)

Also, one thing that convinces me that God did this to Roni and Charity is the profound this event is having on people around the world.  The interest in missionary work now I’m hoping will result in an increase of missionaries in the future.  I’m sure it will; people are challenged now to go and do what Roni did.

And most of all, those of you who are parents, the most significant aspect of this whole tragedy is that my son, Cory, still has an opportunity to trust Christ as his Savior.  We’ve been working on that for the past few months.  Many of you have prayed for Cory, and we’re still praying.  God spared him.  Keep praying.

And. of course, there’s lots more.  Maybe some other time you’ll hear the other details; some of them are even better.

I’m 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.  

I’d 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 couldn’t 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 she’s had over a barrel of formula:  60 gallons.  That’s 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 haven’t had a chance to see, but they’re saying, “Everybody’s talking about Roni.”

But what’s interesting and you’ll all agree, those of you who know her, you’d still be saying many of the same things about her even if she were here tonight, if you had the chance.  I suppose you’re 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 she’s even more incredible than you may have thought.  I was the fortunate one to have her, though I certainly did not deserve her.

I’d 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 wasn’t 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.  I’m happy to say that tonight.

Some other things that you’ll 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 God’s eyes.  Even though she didn’t 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 I’ve often wondered what I would be like if not for her example.

Roni did several things well.  She wasn’t all that talented as far as many people would say in the world’s 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.  It’s 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] that’s going on right now. Many more things I could say, of course. . . .

I’d 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 Roni’s good qualities that would help me start complimenting and encouraging her more frequently.  What I’m telling you tonight are things she’s 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.  I’m 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 together—Roni would say this, too—in 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.  I’ll cherish Roni’s Bible and her journal; they’re 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 Roni’s 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.  I’m 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 don’t feel equipped to do this new ministry, whatever it might be, but I’m glad for that.  Because that’s when God can really use me His way, and I’m looking forward to it.

Humanly speaking, Roni and Charity’s death were exactly what Bobbi said:  absolutely senseless.  Wouldn’t you think they should be one of the last ones to be shot to death?  You know, that’s comforting to me.  Some of you might think I’m crazy.  I know—I’m learning—that God’s 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?  There’s nothing good about this?”  Although in my ministry experience . . . I found that God gets most people’s 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 Roni’s some super-saint, I lived with her, so I know better.  Some people, maybe some people watching on TV, would think, “Well, that’s great.  You know she’s in heaven; look how she lived.  Sounds like she was some super person, wasn’t she?” And, yes, she was.

“So therefore, it’s obvious she’s in heaven.  Who could’ve lived better than Roni?  I sure can’t! So that’s why we know she’s in heaven,” some might say.  God didn’t say that.

What would Roni want me to say tonight?  I’ve been trying to think of that.  I’d 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.  She’s 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 God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross.  But more than that, you’ve decided to leave that in God’s hands.  You’ve said, “God, Jesus’ death is good enough for me.  I don’t deserve to know you; I don’t deserve to go where you are, because I was born a sinner, separated from you.  But you provided a way, and I trust that.  I’m trusting in that way, which was Christ’s sacrifice.  He died for me.”  That’s what Roni lived.  She believed it with all her heart.  And that’s why I know she’s 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.” 

I’m sure she has a different perspective now, doesn’t she?  I wondered at first how could she not be sad for Cory and me?  She’s not.  She knows that our suffering and our struggles are temporary.  And they’re very brief, compared with [eternity] when everything’s perfect. . . . I’d still think she would be worried about us, but she’s not; she knows how it ends and she knows we can deal with it, especially with all of your help and with God’s comfort He gives with His Holy Spirit.  And He’s given it in a great way.

To you who are planning to follow Roni’s 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 she’d 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, don’t run from Him; just obey.  Or at least seek to know for sure and do it.”

And then, of course, there’s a group of people, maybe not many here tonight but all around the world, people who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior, who have no confidence that they would go to heaven one day.  They’re trying hard, some of them, to please God, but they haven’t admitted their guilt of rebellion against God.  What would Roni say to you?  Maybe something that I’ve said many times to our Peruvian friends . . .  I would think she would say something like, “Please, all of you, please, please don’t leave matters of eternity up to chance.  The most important issue of our life we leave to chance.  Isn’t that ridiculous?”

. . . So I ask you tonight, in Roni’s behalf, those of you who don’t know the Savior that Roni knows and is enjoying tonight, please seek God, and God will show Himself to you.

Steve Green, recording artist

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

There marches through the centuries
The martyrs of the cross
All those who chose to follow Christ
To suffer any loss

And though their journey led them
Through the shadowlands of death
The song of their commitment
They rehearsed with every breath

CHORUS:

I will serve the Lord
I will serve the Lord my God
And if God should choose
And my life I lose
Though my foe may slay me
I will serve the Lord

Uncertain days now echo back
That strong and urgent strain
To count the cost, take up the cross
And join in the refrain

For should our journey lead us through
The shadowlands of death
May this be our hearts resolve
As long as we have breath

CHORUS:

I will serve the Lord
I will serve the Lord my God
And if God should choose
And my life I lose
Though my foe may slay me
I will serve the Lord

The honor and the privilege ours
With wounds we suffer by His side
And to the glory of the Lord
Those sacred scars we wear with pride

CHORUS:

I will serve the Lord
I will serve the Lord my God
And if God should choose
And my life I lose
Though my foe may slay me
I will serve the Lord

Jon Mohr / Randall Dennis
1991 Feed & Seed Music
J.R. Dennis Music (ASCAP)


Memorial for Roni & Charity Bowers
Order of Service, Fruitport, Michigan

Prelude:

"Grace" Corey Emerson (favorite recording artist of Jim and Roni's)

Service:

Welcome: Dr. Bill Rudd, Senior Pastor, Calvary Church
Prayer: Mr. Jim Kramer, personal friend of the Bowers family
Remarks: Dr. Michael Loftis, President, A.B.W.E.

Vocal Selection: "Make Me In Your Image," Corey Emerson

Tributes:

Mrs. Bobbi Donaldson
Mr. Jim Cross, friend of Bowers and recent visitor to their ministry in Peru
Rev. Chuck Porter, retired missionary (houseboat) on the Amazon River
Personal recording from Elisabeth Elliot Gren, widow of Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956.

Congregational Song, "I Shall Know Him," led by Corey Emerson

Tributes:

Mrs. Pam Hewitt, personal friend
Mr. Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, one of five missionaries martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956

Recognitions:

Dr. Bill Rudd, Senior Pastor of Calvary Church
Missionaries and families
Member of churches that support the Bowers
Government dignitaries

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.