A basic understanding of many Christians: Christians pay their debts. However, some debts cannot be paid. Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote of a debt that could not be paid: "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another..." (Romans 13:8). We never "love enough" to pay our indebtedness to God's love and Jesus' love.

In the summer of 1996, four people traveled from Fort Smith to Oxford, Mississippi, to meet the Chadwells. The Chadwells did not know they were coming. The visit was brief. They drove many hours to talk to us perhaps ten minutes. The four were Mat and Jo Griffin, and Paul and Jonette Shirley.

In November, 1996, Joyce and I came to Fort Smith to work with you. It is no exaggeration to say that we came because we were touched by the elders. Mat contributed significantly to that positive impression.

Mat and Jo Griffin The congregation cannot possibly grasp its debt to Mat and Jo. [Each time an elder unselfishly honors his commitment, his wife makes a sacrifice.] Fifteen years is not a long time, unless you serve unselfishly, lovingly as a shepherd. Then, fifteen years is an incredibly long time.

To serve as an elder with a heart filled with love is a difficult challenge. Elders deal with so many needs, problems, crises, and hard decisions that are unknown to most. It is hard to care, be compassionate, feel concern for people, as need after need, problem after problem, crisis after crisis, challenge after challenge arises. It is easy to "burn out," to diminish concern for people, and to become pragmatic and "matter of fact" as weariness, needs, and demands increase. Caring hurts!

In the four years I have known and worked with Mat, I watched his love and his sense of caring grow. I watched him learn from the past so that he could be a greater blessing to the present. I often wondered how a man could care so much.

Great caring can easily become passion. A passionate person easily can become confrontational. Passionate, confrontational people can be difficult "team players." If any of our elders said, "Working with Mat was difficult," I would be amazed. Mat cares deeply, but his spirit is quiet.

As Bob Null said with great appreciation Sunday, Mat has a big heart. Big hearts bring helpful perspectives to a congregation and its leadership.

Mat is not "retiring" from an active, involved role in West-Ark's life and work. He will pursue his heart's passion among us. He loves to encourage and strengthen family units. Leading "His Needs/Her Needs" is a work of joy and love.

Thank you, Mat, for blessing us with your faith and love.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 11 March 2001

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