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Monday Memo - June 29

Many of you ask me regularly about Tim Bowers. Tim has served as the leader of our staff for about 15 years now. Last September, he suffered a stroke. I recently asked Tim and Cheryl to give us all an update on how they are doing and what they are learning from this season in their lives.

On the crisp morning of Friday, September 26th, we were sitting on our front porch enjoying a cup of coffee together before our day got underway. Ironically, we were chatting about the toll that ministry had on us - spiritually, emotionally, physically. A conversation from the previous day had spurred us to reflect on whether the sacrifices were worth it. We went back inside the house with our thoughts unresolved other than that if believers aren't willing to be uncomfortable for others, needs will go unmet. Moments later, our house was filled with firemen and paramedics and our world was turned upside down as Tim experienced a massive stroke caused by a tear in his left carotid artery. In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed as we walked through the darkest time of our life, marriage and family, we were deluged with your outpouring of love and care for us. We had no needs that went unmet, as you stepped to the serving plate as a body and ministered to our family and the larger Grace Fellowship family. We don't have words to express our gratitude adequately.

After several weeks of hospitalization, Tim came home to the challenge of recovery. From early on in this process we were told that if you have to have a stroke, the area of Tim's brain affected has the greatest recovery success. Always, always when they would make that statement it ended with, "but the brain heals VERY slowly." Tim has no physical limitations and was back taking long walks within a few days of being home. The stroke primarily hit his language center causing aphasia. We made the decision to use speech and occupational therapists in Asheville. Traveling three days a week gave structure to our schedule for those long, gray days of winter. The "two steps forward, one step back" nature of those months was the most difficult season we have ever endured. In God's grace, upheld by the lifeline of your prayers for us, Tim made amazing progress. A follow-up CT scan after several months showed that the large blood clot had completely cleared out, allowing full blood flow to the brain, a development that we had prayed for earnestly but had been given little hope would happen.

We had a timely conversation with Tom the week before Easter about moving into the next phase of recovery. He encouraged us to wrap up the "first half" of recovery, the trauma and acute emotional and physical challenges of the stroke and put them on the memory shelf. We made the decision to come out of hiding and started getting involved again with our dear ones here in Johnson City. We've been attending services, started serving a little and have shared meals and coffee with so many of you. We've moved Tim's therapy to local providers and that has been a positive change. We're hosting a "Storying" small group in our home with three other couples who have had strokes and it has been a huge blessing. Experiencing Tim's insight and leadership of the group has been a balm to my soul.

So what does the future hold? If we've learned anything through this process it is to stop making predictions. Tim's speech continues to improve and his mantra is "let's just keep going." He knows that he loves being a pastor and wants to be able to return to his passion. We know that our sins are forgiven and that we will all ultimately experience complete healing. Our marriage is stronger than it's ever been and we have experienced an intimacy with God that has forever changed us. Please continue to pray for courage and discipline, for patience in the process and hearts open to what He wants to teach us and where He wants to lead us.

These are two very special people in the GFC family! Let's continue to pray for and support them and their family as the recovery progresses!

Grace and Peace,

Tom Oyler
Lead Pastor   



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