“We attended church, but we were at an arm’s length from a lot of things going on.” This was Kim Bowyer’s story when she and her husband began attending Birmingham First in 2000. Living in a community that is overwhelmed with full schedules and opportunities, this narrative is not uncommon for many of the members of Birmingham and Berkley First. Kim now serves on staff at Birmingham First as the Elementary Coordinator and enjoys the opportunity to live out her passion for service each and every day. So, what was the turning point for Kim that led her to this path?
“[My husband and I] tried Bible study and different services, but once we had two children, we really became more involved in everything. I joined the GRIP group for moms, and through my participation in that, that’s when I started to really learn about the rummage sale and its impact. I then began volunteering for other opportunities that allowed me to be engaged within the life of the church and not just attending church,” Kim said. She was also a Cub Scout master and leader which was the first way she began to lead both children and families.
The call to be involved in children and family ministry at Birmingham First came after a promise she made to God 6.5 years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. “In my struggle emotionally to deal with that, I was praying a lot and looking for answers and was very upset in the beginning. One day I had this sense of peace that came over me through prayer like I’ve never felt before. I was able to make a commitment to God to say, ‘You lead me in a path and I’ll just take it. I don’t know what it is, but in time let me know what you want me to do — basically serve or do.’” With a total blind faith, she said “yes” to the opportunity and it has grown from there.
Service and missions are a big part of Kim’s position. She makes intentional decisions to expose children and families to experiences and lifestyles that are drastically different from their “normal.” One of the biggest service opportunities is the Summer Mission Trip for 45C (4th and 5th grade Christians) that she has been leading for the past five years. This trip provides both an outlet for students to serve alongside Birmingham’s mission partners at Cass Community Social Services, Redford Brightmoor Initiative and the NOAH project, as well as give students an opportunity to explore the greater city of Detroit. Kim makes the intentional decision to take Lahser Road all the way from Maple Road to 6 Mile to see the drastic changes that occur within a couple of miles. “I try to point out and have a conversation about the drastic difference of the Birmingham community compared to the communities we go and serve alongside. I’ve witnessed some parents get very uncomfortable in my presence when I tell the children to look out the van window and tell me what you see.” The hope is to begin to have the students take notice of the differences and begin to ask bigger questions of why this may occur. By shifting the conversation from speaking poorly of these people to understanding that it’s just a situation and that all people go through hard times and what can we do to support people and provide a hand-up.“This doesn’t mean we give up hope, but continue doing what Jesus taught us, which is to be loving and care for our neighbors — they are our neighbors, too. It’s not just the person you live next-door to. Everyone is your neighbor, so what can we do to help others?”
Working alongside neighbors is a large emphasis in Kim’s service work with the kids. “I’ve learned through my experiences that when you want to help people, you just need to ask them ‘How can we help you’ instead of coming in with an agenda and imposing your thoughts and actions on them, but instead asking them what they need.” Kim has experienced a shift in many kids’ desire to interact with their own neighbors in Birmingham. A student came to Kim with money they had raised from a lemonade stand. Meaningful conversations were cultivated as they spoke with customers about what they were raising money for.
“If we never provided the opportunity here [at Birmingham First], we wouldn’t inspire lifelong givers,” Kim said.
These testimonies of youth serving within the Birmingham community and beyond are not rare to find. For example, one child offered a man a blessing bag (snacks, toiletries, and socks included). He so gratefully accepted and immediately took off his shoes and replaced his socks with the ones inside. These impactful moments are why Kim continues to make service a top priority for elementary-aged students and their families.
Additionally, this Thanksgiving marks the fifth year of the Turkey Drive for Brightmoor families to receive Thanksgiving food from the Free Store at Redford Brightmoor Initiative. This undertaking takes great coordination in figuring out how to store and transport hundreds of turkeys and dry goods, however this mission is not done alone. It’s an undertaking with the help of middle school and Spark kids. The CLC stage is transformed into a “grocery store” where bags of food are assembled. Conversations about differing Thanksgiving experiences arise as the kids take the time to intentionally evaluate why they are partaking in this missional opportunity. It’s yet another way Kim hopes to engage students in a more meaningful way of service. “It’s always great to see such a positive experience [during the Turkey drive] because I think kids’ lives are impressionable and changed so much when they can witness good happening and how grateful people are when they receive what we have been able to help provide them.” In the future, Kim hopes to receive more participation in helping with this meaningful ministry.
Birmingham and Berkley First offer a multitude of ways to be involved with service and missions in the local community and beyond. Kim notes, “Birmingham First provides a lot of opportunities to serve. I don’t know that everyone always takes the risk to get involved. I remember going to mission fairs early on and being ‘wowed’ by all the tables and opportunities, but just pick one that you are interested in. There are enough people here to fill all the roles, so just pick the one you’re interested in and start there.” Taking the first step to be involved can be risky, but you never know how much God will work within you and your life for the goodness of the Kingdom. This small step starts with your literal neighbor and ripples out from there.
Family and children collaboration is at the center of Kim’s mission. “If you want to make an impact on your child to not be self-absorbed and to only think of themselves, you need to expose them to opportunities to serve others, and if you don’t, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to impact the world … When parents are supportive of opportunities to serve others, that’s a key factor in kids serving,” Kim says.
Check out our missions page to learn more about the many opportunities Birmingham and Berkley First offer to partake in meaningful mission partnerships.