Living a Ministry of Presence

Lee Lowery, 81, lived his life in service of others, constantly moving around the country. That all changed when his daughter decided she wanted him and his wife, Leona, nearby and helped him settle down in Washington State. Lee spent his work life as a pastor, helping people find meaning and hope in their lives, so he didn’t take to sitting around his home. That isolation, coupled with his waning health and mobility challenges, prompted his daughter look for care options, and led her to Full Life Care’s Snohomish County Adult Day Health program in Everett. Her father’s gregarious personality helped him make friends and thrive in the center’s social setting.

“Coming here means I get to chat with friends and help them out,” says Lee. “I’ll spend hours just chatting with people about their lives. Being able to connect with anyone is something I learned throughout my work.”

Lee was born in Texas, but moved to Saginaw, Michigan, in the 1940s with his family – which grew to include his parents, seven brothers and two sisters – to follow the automotive industrial boom. While living in the Midwest, Lee’s neighborhood was visited by Mennonites, and he was immediately drawn to them.

“They walked into our neighborhood and treated us with respect,” says Lee. “This is the 1950s; you didn’t see a lot of white people walking into black neighborhoods like that. They talked to us like our problems mattered and that our community mattered, I respected that and wanted to be a part of it.”

Enamored with the Mennonites, their faith, and their acceptingness of all people, Lee quickly became a devout follower. He gave up his promising boxing career because the Mennonite faith abhors violence and decided to attend Goshen College, a Mennonite university, and became a pastor.

“Boxing ain’t no way to treat another human being. I decided to stop fighting my fellow man and start fighting the devil.”

Eventually, Lee’s religious work took him to Chicago, where he preached to people on the street. Committed to spreading his message to those that needed it most, Lee would speak until two or three in the morning with whoever would listen. He described this as the “ministry of presence,” explaining people often just need someone willing to talk with them and hear their issues.

Listening and talking with people always came easy for Lee, which made moving to Everett and spending so much time alone in his home such a challenge. That all changed when he began attending Full Life Care.

“It sometimes felt like the walls would be closing in on me, that’s how lonely I felt,” says Lee. “Now, I’m happy. I get to sing, I get to spend time with my new friends, and I get to listen to them. Most importantly, I get a chance to cheer people up again. I love it here.”

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