Owen Cooper was an elder in the first church I pastored on my own from 1988-1990 in Roma, Qld. I was energetic and full of community service ideas for the small church. Most people appreciated my enthusiasm but were busy with life and just keeping the church going. This frustrated me.
That’s where Owen was God-sent.
Owen ran a saddlery and leather business. I soon learned that whatever my issue was, I could talk to Owen. He’d keep stitching a saddle while listening intently. He understood my zeal but asked questions or commented from a new perspective that would challenge me. Ideas, breakthroughs, disappointments—all were shared with Owen in his shop. His calm, down-to-earth and good-humoured wisdom centred me.
"Owen was God-sent . . . His calm, down-to-earth and good-humoured wisdom centred me."
Owen was a great guitarist. I loved to play but was not very talented so Owen encouraged me and we played together in church. Others, including his wife Leora, joined in and the church enjoyed it.
Barrie Collins was the CEO/CFO for Adventist Education when I became president of the WA Conference in 2003. He was an excellent support and showed me how to have a clean desk (not that I have succeeded). I appreciated his thoughts on stewardship and health. I personally benefited from his financial advice as did many pastors and teachers. Barrie was always cheerful and his love for Jesus, the Church and our complete message was obvious. Barrie ran an efficient board and helped me understand the business side of the Church. His views were always worth listening to in meetings, as were his stories of life in the army in Rhodesia and working for global accounting firms. He was a man of great discipline.
Both Owen and Barrie died recently. Yet I am certain that, because of their faith in Jesus, Owen and I will play the guitar and Barrie and I will eat vegan food together after the resurrection. And I will listen to more of their godly wisdom.