Jim Lowden Jr. ‘56 – Milwaukee Bible Institute
You may want to grab a cup of coffee before you begin this read, but I promise you it will be worth it. Spanning decades of ministry, Jim Lowden Jr. gives a lifetime example of how God can use someone who is trained in the Word and willing to serve. If you’re an older alumnus, you’ll enjoy hearing names you may be very familiar with and see how many things “came to be” throughout decades of ministry. Most of all, you will see that the mission of Grace Bible College, now Grace Christian University, has been fulfilled through Jim Lowden’s life – a graduated Godly individual who was prepared to serve Christ and did so through Church and society.
At 85 years old and retired, Jim Lowden, Jr. is presently the Patriarch of the Lowden Family. Jim and his wife, Lois, currently live in Alabaster, Alabama, and have four married children. They, in turn, have given the Lowden’s ten grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Jim graduated from Milwaukee Bible Institute in May 1956 with a three-year Diploma with a Bible Major and Minors in Greek and Christian Education.
The MBI Years
“There were no sports played while I attended Milwaukee Bible Institute. I was co-leader of the Boys Club at Fundamental Bible Church with David Noebel for one year. I was a regular speaker at the Westside Mission in West Allis, WI and preached a couple of times at the much larger Milwaukee City Rescue Mission.” Jim also recalls, “David and I also directed and taped the weekly radio program that was sent to various radio stations in rural areas of the Southeast USA.” During Jim’s last year at MBI, he served as an RA in the new Men’s Dorm in Milwaukee and Business Manager of the Yearbook. In addition, Jim was the Student Pastor of the Lake Villa, IL Bible Church for several months during his last year at MBI. “I sang and traveled with the Choir for my first two years. I was a member of the Summer Gospel Team in 1954, served on the Student Council, and was a member of the Speech Club all three years in school.” If Jim wasn’t busy enough, he also ministered at the Salvation Army Sunday School and sang or spoke at the Waukesha Old Peoples Home on numerous occasions. Lastly, he worked 20-30 hours per week to pay for his school bill.
Jim recalls one of the most memorable times for him at MBI was when five missionaries were killed by the Auca Indians in South America just before our class graduated in 1956. “Dr. H.B. Prince was our speaker and he was so eloquent and his message was so moving and challenging that all but three members of my class felt led to go to the mission field as the Lord led them.”
When Jim was asked about a particularly inspiring faculty member, Jim said, “Pastor Bob Johnson was very inspiring and challenged me to be all that God deserved. As a young man, I was very much influenced by Pastor Charles Baker both as a person and as a teacher. His Theology and Pastoral Theology classes were very challenging and inspiring. “
When asked about a particular class that prepared him for his life of ministry, Jim said, “Probably my Homiletics classes with Dr. Hallman. He taught me to think, plan, and speak. This training has helped me in nearly every ministry the Lord has used me in over my lifetime. Dr. Hallman and my 7th-8th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Walsh did the most to teach me to think on my feet and to only speak when I knew what I needed to say.”
A Godly Individual Serving Christ in Church and Society
Jim began ministry right after he graduated from MBI in late May 1956. “Pastor Hallman recommended me to fill the pulpit for Pastor Lange in Mobile, AL while he was gone on a long overdue vacation of five weeks. That was an experience and a half. I had assumed I would preach Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday night Bible study and prayer services. Consequently, I had prepared ten sermons and a study of the book of Philippians.” Jim continues, “My hostess, Mrs. Watkins had other ideas about how to use the visiting preacher. I was informed by her that I would be expected to teach the high school Sunday School class and conduct the Sunday evening Youth meeting and go with her to speak at the TB Sanitarium, or other places she had arranged for me to speak after lunch on Sunday.” Monday was a day off for Jim and that was spent visiting various attractions in and around Mobile. Then, Jim learned that Mrs. Watkins had arranged for Jim to teach a Tuesday morning Ladies Bible Study. Wednesday was Bible study and Prayer meeting later that night at the church. Thursday was spent visiting the sick in hospitals and sermon preparation. Friday was frequently a day when he would speak to various groups such as the Ladies Auxiliary at the Mobile Rescue Mission. Saturday Jim was programmed to speak at the Mobile County Women’s Jail Service at 4:00 P.M. and then at the Men’s Jail Service at 5:00 P.M. Jim recalls, “I had to do my study for all these extra messages [I assumed I could not preach or teach the same message or Bible study twice since Mrs. Watkins took me to all these meetings and I figured she would think I was a poor preacher if I repeated messages].”
Jim was honored when Pastor J.C. O’Hair called him upon his return home from Mobile in mid-July 1956 and said he was sick and wondered whether Jim could fill in for him and teach his Wednesday evening Bible Study at North Shore Church in IL for the month of August. About a year or so later, Pastor Raymond Reich from Riverdale, IL called and asked Jim to interview to become their Youth Director at the Grace Church in Riverdale, IL. “I had enrolled at the University of Illinois, Undergraduate Division in 1957 and was living with my parents in Chicago. Therefore, the Youth Director positioned at the Grace Church in Riverdale seemed God’s direction for my life at that time.” Jim spent the next three years initiating and developing that youth group [ages 13-20] from 12-15 teens to an average of 40 every Sunday evening. “The Lord also used me to establish a Grace Youth Rally every month for churches from Milwaukee to Central Illinois that featured interchurch Bible Quiz Teams from most of the participating churches during those three years. My last year at Riverdale , thirteen of my Seniors chose to attend Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids, MI the following fall. One of those students was Dale DeWitt who ultimately became Professor Dale DeWitt at GBC.”
Jim’s father was a Missionary Evangelist and when Jim graduated from the University of Illinois [Champaign-Urbana} in June 1961 his father asked Jim to travel with him in ministry to 13 countries in Europe and the Middle East. They left for their first meetings in the newly divided Berlin, Germany on Thanksgiving Day 1961. “In Berlin, the people we’re dealing with the newly constructed Berlin Wall that had overnight cut them off from work, family, and friends. Huge apartment complexes sprung up to house the refugees and we linked up with a missionary from Great Britain to begin a children’s ministry similar to Child Evangelism Fellowship in the USA.” Jim remembers, “I had brought Flannelgraph Bible Stories to use with children and youth if the opportunity arose and we began a CEF type meeting every Wednesday afternoon at the facilities the complex made available to us. We began with 30+ children the first afternoon and it kept growing until we had to divide it into two groups because we were running between 120 and 135 every Wednesday afternoon.” Jim recalls how he kept the children from 6-13 years old and his dad took the teens and several adults who had begun coming due to the enthusiasm of their children. God blessed the Lowden’s with a good number of decisions for salvation. After a three months stay, they left due to meetings scheduled in Munich, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Beirut, Lebanon, and Jerusalem. Jim provided the special music because he was able to sing in German, having had a total of 4 years of German in high school and at the University of Illinois, and his dad preached. Jim recalls how his father pulled a switch on him in Athens, Greece – “He arranged for me to preach in the Athens area while he went to Thessalonica [Salonika] to preach because of our lengthy stay in Berlin had put us behind schedule.”
Upon Jim’s return to America in the summer of 1962, he went to work for his Uncle as a manager at the Fred Harvey Oasis on the Illinois Tollway in Belvedere, IL. Jim stayed with this company and rose in the ranks to First Assistant Mgr. when God began working to get Jim back into a new form of ministry–Teaching in Public School! “In the fall of 1964, God arranged for me to get my required Education courses in one year by attending two Universities at the same time. This schedule included my Student Teaching requirement. I was hired by Maine Township High School South to teach two AP History courses in the summer of 1965.
A New Opportunity at Grace Youth Camp
God then had other plans for Jim. “God arranged for Jack Sonneveldt of Grace Youth Camp in Grand Rapids, MI to contact me and to present a new ministry opportunity as the founding Manager of Michigan Grace Youth Camp at Mears, MI.” (Many of us remember Grace Youth Camp and many will now know this as Grace Adventures.) “He also arranged for me to get a teaching position at Central High School in Grand Rapids for the 1965-66 school year,” Jim says. As a public school teacher, Jim was awarded an “Outstanding Teacher of Social Studies” award by a national Social Studies organization. “I had a few articles about teaching Social Studies with explanations of several methodologies I had developed that were published in national Social Studies magazines during my seven years at Burton Junior High School in Grand Rapids.”
“God was moving me around like a Chess piece to accomplish His plans for my life,” Jim says. Several girls in Jim’s classes were residents of the Christian Youth Home for Girls right across the street from Central High. One of the girls came in early one day and asked Jim to “adopt” her so she could get out of the home. “I reminded her that no Judge would allow a 30-year-old Bachelor to adopt a 16-year-old girl. I told her if God led me to a single, Christian young woman and we married we could possibly consider her adoption request if that was God’s will. This student kept after me to meet her Activities Director at the home, including bringing ‘stolen’ pictures of this young lady to entice me to call her for a date. Finally, I called this young woman and we arranged a date (actually two dates because she was so pretty),” recalls Jim. God led Jim and Lois to continue their relationship and on June 10, 1967, they were married by Pastor Vernon Schutz, Pastor of the Berean Bible Church in Wyoming, MI. Jim remembers, “I had become the Men’s Residence Supervisor/ Asst. Dean of Men at GBC in the summer of 1966 and continued in that capacity until my wife and I bought Professor DeWitt’s house in Wyoming, MI in 1968 when we learned that our first child was on the way.”
On The Move Again
Lois and Jim continued to minister to the Junior High youth at Berean Bible Church while she worked as Dr. Ray Reich’s Assistant and filled in for vacationing or sick staff at the Christian Youth Home. “I was teaching full time at Burton Junior High school, Coaching Wrestling and Track, Chairing the social studies Department at Burton, Serving on various academic committees for the Grand Rapids School Board and the GREA Teachers Union,” said Jim. “I also began work on my MA in Curriculum Development and helped develop a new Social studies course for Grade Eight. I earned my MA Ed.-Curriculum Development in June 1971 and immediately was accepted in a Doctoral program in Secondary Education and Administration at Michigan State University.” Jim endured one long year of Secular Humanism in class after class and decided that God might have other plans for him when Pastor Bill Root came up to Jim one Sunday at church and asked whether he would be interested in becoming Principal of Greystone Christian School in Mobile, AL. Lois and Jim prayed for God’s leading and felt peace about calling to set up an appointment. Wayne Webb was Pastor of Greystone Bible Church which sponsored the school. Wayne had been Jim’s Youth Pastor as a teen at North Shore Church in Chicago. “He and I had worked together both at North Shore in a youth ministry for ages 9-12 and at Grace Youth Camp of MI.” This seemed like a positive opportunity and after accepting this position, God blessed Jim’s four years as Principal of Greystone. “I was able to lead the School Board and families in accepting their first African-American student with no major incidents even though the original incorporation documents clearly stated that it was a school for White children only. The IRS activities and letters we had begun receiving helped me sell this action as both biblical and practical.”
During Jim’s last two years at Greystone, God opened up an opportunity for him to fill the pulpit at Grace Bible Church in Biloxi, MS two Sundays per month. Some months Jim preached every Sunday. Jim also found fulfillment through his Chapel ministry to the students at Greystone and God blessed His Word with over 200+ decisions for salvation, recommitment, dedication, and surrender to serve wherever the Lord might lead during his four years as Principal.
In 1976, Jim was asked to resign his Principalship and take the position of Executive Director of the newly incorporated Alabama Christian Education Association, Inc. This organization had never existed before July 1976. Jim remembers, “Lois and I prayed because the offer was contingent upon my being able to raise my salary of $16,000.00 yearly plus travel expenses.” Trusting God to provide, Jim tendered his resignation which was accepted by Pastor Bob Grube, who had replaced Wayne Webb in the fall of 1975. Two years later the ACEA was able to pass legislation that Jim helped draft that exempted church-operated schools from being under the State Department of Education and established the right of parents to Homeschool as long as they were under the umbrella of a Church School Co-op. This law is still valid in Alabama.
In 1988, Jim resigned as Executive Director of ACEA, Inc. to take a position offered to him by the President of the American Association of Christian Schools in Washington, DC. Jim recalls, “This was one time I ran ahead of God as I reflect back on events. Moving from a state association to a national association seemed to me to be a logical progression in my ministry. What I did not pick up on was that certain Board members of this association were planning to remove the Founding President of the association and him giving me this new position was a fly in the ointment for them.” Consequently, when this group made their move the following February, Jim was notified that his services were no longer needed. Jim contacted several ministry possibilities and the Lord opened the opportunity in a new direction back in Alabama. Jim became Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute of Alabama with responsibilities to raise funds, educate churches and their congregations to the threats against churches and personal religious liberties. Jim served there until he resigned in 1998. Since that time he has served the Lord by teaching Sunday School classes and preaching occasionally in churches.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
When asked how Jim feels that Grace made an overall impact on his life and specifically his time at MBI and Grace have impacted his lifelong ministry, Jim replies, “My basic foundations and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ began at Milwaukee Bible Institute. The excellent foundations in Bible, Theology, and N.T. Greek has provided me with the ability to exegete the Bible and is, perhaps, the greatest benefit I got from attending MBI. A close second would be the preaching skills I learned from Dr. Hallman. Pastor Bob Johnson, Dr. Baker, and Pastor Elifson gave me first-hand examples of Godly men who pastored.”
The Lowden’s now enjoy continuing to serve the Lord and spending time with their family. The eldest son, Jim III, works for Alabama Blue Cross/Blue Shield as a Customer Service Rep. for Government employees. His wife, Linda, operates a Home Daycare. Their second son, John David, also works for Alabama Blue Cross/Blue Shield as a Large Group Sales Manager where he has been the #1 Large Group Sales Manager for the past four years. His wife, Penny, homeschools their three daughters and their ten-year-old son attends Evangel Christian School in Alabaster. Their daughter, Jennifer teaches in a Christian School in Birmingham, AL. Jennifer’s husband, Charles, is a Cabinet Maker and Remodeling Superintendent for the company for which he works. Their son Joseph Paul served in the U.S. Marine Corps for sixteen years before retiring as a Staff Sergeant due to physical disabilities suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now drives a truck for Mrs. Stratton Foods to various places in the Southeast U.S. His wife Sarah works for a dental office and they have two little daughters, Mae Tyler and Libby Lee ages 2 and 1.
By Ami Walker | Alumni Relations Department
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