It was five years ago that I found myself sitting in the basement of one of our district churches. Across from me sat the bulk of the Northwest District pastors. Their eyes looked up from the exam before them. Then, down again. Then, back to me again. I shifted nervously in my seat, awaiting their questions.
Sitting at the helm of the meeting was the chairman of our district examining board, Pastor Greg Howell. Half-way through my review I felt much the same way I did when my tired GMC pickup tested “the hill” in Sunnyside. Eventually, fear gave way to gladness, and I made it to the other side! Pastor Greg was a great encouragement throughout the exam process. A week or so later he sent me an email saying I had passed and would be recommended for licensure. Happy day!
That’s one snapshot of the Greg Howell I knew. His far reaching but quiet, behind-the-scenes influence has left a profound impact in the Charis Fellowship. I am just one of countless many he helped along the ministry path.
Another snapshot I have of Greg is his involvement with youth ministry. I had the privilege of serving alongside him on our district youth council. There he seemed to always have an eye for the upcoming generation and a desire to seek out ways to encourage and disciple them. He was constant in looking forward and enthusiastic for youth ministry. He was especially passionate about the ministry of Clear Lake Grace Brethren Camp and spent many summers serving there.
A few years ago, I saw him share his testimony with a group of campers at Camp Clear Lake. With tears in his eyes, he explained how he attended the camp as a teen, and it was there he felt the Lord lay on his heart a call to ministry. That night a young Greg Howell threw his stick in the fire, symbolizing a commitment to serve. That’s how camp became for him an important way to tithe his time. He explained this in his Timothy Letter, written at a Focus Retreat in 2014: “Tithe your time, pay forward, or repay those who went before or invested in you. That’s why I invest every year in summer camp ministry.”How many hundreds of teens were impacted by Greg’s investment of time at camp? Only the Lord knows, and He gets all the glory!
In his forty plus years of service as pastor in the small town of Goldendale, Wash., a local district leader, Fellowship Council member, and camp director, one truth is clear: For Greg, it wasn’t about him, it was all about Jesus. Again, from his Timothy Letter:
There will be days when you say or think:
“I thought that the church would be bigger (at least by now), or the people kinder, or ministry would be easier.”
But it’s not about you, it is all about Jesus. In fact, your whole ministry, life, and faith are not about you, but really all about pleasing Jesus!
Don’t copy me, except where I mimic Christ–otherwise you will pick up all my bad habits and few of my good ones…love people, love Jesus…be a student of the Word.
Written by Pastor Collin Cufman. Collin serves as associate pastor at Grace Brethren Church in Sunnyside, Wash. He also serves as chairman of the youth council in the northwest district and was recently elected to the Fellowship Council. This article was originally published in the 2021–2022 Year in Review.