The calendar is often spoken of in terms of “Seasons”. We’ve experienced a ‘teaser’ of sorts recently with unseasonably warm days followed by frigid temps. I would like to speak to a ‘season of sorts’ today. Over twelve years ago I received a phone call from Ed Spivey. In his distinctive deep voice he began to explain who he was and that he represented a Director of Missions Search Committee in Etowah Association. I remembered Joe Godfrey, then pastor of a church in Pleasant Grove, AL, contacting me about sending him a resume that he would forward on to Etowah Baptist. Assn. Upon the completion of the process, Roy Cordle, the chairman of the search committee extended the invitation for me to become Director of Missions. Thus on August 15, 2005 I began one of the greatest ‘seasons’ of my life. I’ve could never have dreamed of, much less that I would be called to serve such a great ministry. Serving as Associational Director of Missions for these 12 years has truly been The Highlight of my 34 years of ministry. Some of you remember those rough challenges incurred in the early years. I’ve always been driven by a commitment to deal with every situation in a God-honoring Christ-like manner. Later when the financial crisis hit from 2009-2011, we persevered, however, not without difficult decisions, but God always ‘showed-up’ in His perfect timing as we walked by faith. In recent years we’ve had to make further adjustments, again, God has brought people to our staff that have taken this ministry to new heights. EBA has never been about an individual or personalities. As I’ve said many times, the churches of EBA are the Association. The Lord has always been at the helm of this ministry and I pray it will continue. Integrity is essential in this position as George Y. Williams led E.B.A. for 26 years, Bob Thornton for 12 years and it has continued throughout my tenure, as well.
There are so many people who have come alongside me and encouraged me, provided wise counsel and made a lasting impression on my life. First, my precious wife. Carol is my best supporter, confidant and partner through nearly 46 years of marriage. There have been times when I would have given up, but through her perseverance I stayed the course. My precious daughters, Janice and Ginger have always been encouragers even in their younger years when they didn’t understand what ministry was all about. Bob and Miss Faye Thornton have always been such caring close friends over these years. Walter Thweatt, Dianne Lowe, Gail Wells, Betty Sullivan, Cheryl Conklin and Bro. Ben Hope were very patient with me in the early years. Vince Whittington became my Team Leader years ago and has been a wise mentor and prayer partner to me. I have had the great privilege to work with some of the finest pastors and staff ministers anywhere in the SBC. I’ve always sought to be an encourager but I have received much more in return. Now, as to the current staff. In spite of having to make major adjustments, The Lord has assembled a totally dedicated staff that is ready and skilled to come alongside EBA churches to assist them in becoming Great Commission churches. Associational Missions and Ministries continue to change in scope and practice therefore, Richard Bradfield, Eric Sexton, Sherre Wells, Emily Hamilton and Kali Copeland are proving they are up to the challenge by positioning themselves on the cutting-edge of associational work. Have I accomplished all that I set out to do? No, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t desired to so over the years.
Therefore, I’m entering into a new ‘season of life’. Today, March 21, 2017, I am submitting my retirement as Associational Director of Missions, effective September 4, 2017. As I enter this new ‘Season of life’ Carol and I ask for your prayers and we pledge our continual prayer support for this great ministry. In the months ahead I will continue to fulfill my calling to EBA and to further dedicate myself to making this transition a very smooth one. In the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.
I thank you for allowing me this very distinct honor and great privilege to serve you these 12 years. All glory goes to God, the author, sustainer and in His timing, the finisher of our faith. May the Lord bless each of you in great way!
Respectfully submitted, Gary C. Cardwell