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News for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Music Minister Overcoming Adversity
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

KINGSPORT — To say 2013 was a difficult year for Allen Bowling would be a huge understatement.

In May of last year, Bowling stepped down after nearly 13 years as minister of music at Colonial Heights Baptist Church here.

A month later Bowling was diagnosed with a brain tumor that later was discovered to be between the size of a golf and tennis ball. The tumor also was found to be malignant.

Bowling said doctors expressed surprise that he did not suffer a stroke before the tumor was discovered in the right frontal lobe of the brain.

Bowling’s doctors have confirmed that the large brain tumor was the contributing factor to Bowling’s changes in behavior prior to its discovery a month after his resignation.

The Memphis native had the tumor removed in July and spent nearly two weeks at one of the foremost brain trauma centers in the United States (in Atlanta) following the surgery. He is continuing his therapy.

Despite giving up his ministerial position and battling brain cancer, Bowling knows he is blessed.

“According to the doctors I should not be here today. I should have died due to the size of that brain tumor,” he related.

Nearly six months after the tumor was removed, doctors say Bowling’s brain is healing, he said.

Bowling said it could still be up to a year before he is “semi-normal.”

Despite the trials he has faced, Bowling has tried to maintain a positive outlook.

“God has gotten me through this and He continues to be with me day by day,” he observed.

“It’s been an uphill struggle,” he continued.

“There is still a long way to go and I’m praying for God to work a miracle in my life,” Bowling affirmed.

Though he had insurance the medical bills have mounted and it has put a great deal of stress on his entire family, Bowling admitted candidly.

“I know that God has not abandoned me because of His Word. He is in control of my life. I’m just trusting Him.”

In addition to his faith in God and the love and support from his family and friends, Bowling also has had tremendous support from his fellow church music ministers, especially those who are members of the Tennessee Men’s Chorale, led by Paul Clark, director of worship and music ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

“This group has helped keep me going,” he readily admitted.

Bowling is especially grateful for the ministry provided by Scott Andrews, worship pastor at First Baptist Church, Sevierville.

“Scott has been a pastor to me and my family when we did not have one,” he said, noting that Andrews has made multiple trips to Kingsport to minister during the past six months.

“I will do everything possible to remain with the Chorale because of what they mean to me. They are like family,” said Bowling, who was president of the group when tragedy struck last summer. He is still considered an officer of the group since he is the immediate past president of the TMC.

Bowling has been involved with the TMC for nearly 30 years. Prior to moving to Colonial Heights, Bowling served as minister of music at First Baptist Church, Smyrna, and Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis.

“The TMC has been a huge part of my life,” he said.

Bowling attended a recent meeting of the TMC’s officers and leadership group in Brentwood even though he really didn’t feel well.

“I wanted to be there for the fellowship. That’s how important this group is to me,” he said.

Bowling also is important to his fellow music ministers.

“Allen is an integral part of the Tennessee Men’s Chorale,” said Michael Brown, minister of music at Grace Baptist Church, Tullahoma, and current president of the TMC.

Brown, who completed Bowling’s term as president before assuming his term, expressed appreciation for Bowling’s work as president before his illness.

Brown can relate to what Bowling has gone through, at least in regards to the cancer.

Brown was diagnosed with cancer himself last summer.

“God has provided tremendous support through this group for both Allen and myself,” Brown observed. “I can’t imagine not having the TMC as a support group,” he added.

During their recent meeting, the officers voted for the TMC to provide funding for Bowling to accompany the TMC this fall on their missions trip to Italy, providing Bowling’s doctors give approval for him to take the trip.

The trip will be especially meaningful for Bowling because he has been part of the TMC’s previous trips in the past.

Bowling’s prayer is that he will eventually be cleared by his doctors to return to the music ministry.

Because he still can’t fully control the left side of his body, Bowling has not been able to play the piano which he enjoys doing.

Though he does not know what his options will be once he has fully recovered, Bowling would be open to serving as a part-time music minister if a full-time position is not available.

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” Bowling said. “It’s killing me not to be able to do music the way I want to and the way that I know that I can,” he added.

He noted that he especially misses leading worship and working with choir members. “That has been one of my biggest frustrations.”

Yet, he continues to trust God.

“I don’t know what He’s doing but He will do something,” Bowling affirmed.

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