Many credit me with being the first employee hired at Grace Family Church. I am actually the second person. Pastor Craig hired Mary Auten as an assistant when the church began twenty-one years ago. I was the first pastor hired on the one-year anniversary, which brings me to the mere twenty-year mark.
Mary is a great part of our heart that makes GFC what it is today. In fact, GFC would not be where it is today if Mary hadn’t been such a vital part of what we do. She believed in Pastor Craig’s vision from the beginning. Whether it was in a strip mall picking up beer bottles before service, a 7th Day Adventist church loading and unloading supplies or growing the Van Dyke Campus, Mary was usually there. Serving with a smile and loving people in their journey to follow God.
One of favorite memories of Mary was when we were in the strip mall. Having moved in from Orlando, I was a huge Orlando Magic fan and even had a life size cut out of Shaquille O’Neal. I brought it to my office and set it up in the corner. It was so tall it came very close to the ceiling tiles in our offices. One morning, I came in and Mary was pretty angry with me. Apparently, when she came into the office that morning, she turned off the alarm and went down the hallway to turn on the lights. As she passed my office, the morning light cast a huge outline around the Shaq cutout. Thinking there was a giant intruder in the office, Mary ran out of the office and called security. When they went to investigate, there was a cardboard-thin Shaq smiling at them. Needless to say, Mary was not happy.
Mary announced that she is going to retire at the end of 2015. She is ready to settle into being a full time grandmother. Even in writing this, it hits close to home. Mary has been such a great part of the Bonham family. She has been a cheerleader for my kids and a source of love for all of us. We have shared some tremendous highs and lows with her. Casey used to mow her lawn and made sure he did a meticulous job because it was for her. We all love her and consider her one of us.
Mary Mary is amazing! You know someone is special when your heart smiles and tears up at the same time.