Ken Bartholomew

In my testimony about God’s mercy in cancer, I mentioned that about six weeks before my diagnosis, my friend Ken Bartholomew passed away. Ken, his wife Ruth, and their three children joined the teens and me on multiple mission trips to Manitoba, and they always so graciously opened their home for our after-mission-trip parties to reflect on God’s goodness and look at everyone else’s pictures. They served in whatever way they could: helping little kids with their daily craft, listening and offering comfort to our teens as they served the children, and teaching novices (like me!) how to fish. Ken was in the boat when I caught my first fish–a 24-inch walleye.

You might be wondering how the two of us fit into one little boat. (See it in the background?) Actually, there were three of us in the boat. Warren Ironstand, the pastor whose church and Native American reserve we were assisting, was also there with us. (Good thing, too. Had he not been there, I would have had to throw the fish back. Then again, Pastor Warren said I could pass for native.) Anyway, he was no small guy either. So yeah, it was a crowded boat.

But even that reminds me of God’s work of grace in Ken’s heart. About a year before he passed away, maybe a little more, he came up to me very burdened that his weight was not glorifying to God. Though he struggled with it most of his adult life, he told me that he resolved to grow in his personal discipline–and he invited, no, insisted on my holding him accountable for it. Over the next few months, we talked about the matter multiple times. He was so excited when he was able to button his sportcoat and had lost fifty pounds. God’s grace wrought transparency, humility, and discipline into this brother.

God gifted Ken with a beautiful tenor voice, and he faithfully employed it to serve God’s people wherever he was sent. He had an unusual ability to connect with those who loved mid-twentieth-century music as well as those who favored more contemporary pieces. He served our congregation by singing, not only during corporate worship services, but frequently for funerals. That, of course, required setting aside his regular work in order to testify of the grace of Christ to the bereaved. I loved Ken for that ministry.

Thanks to the work of some of his friends, Ken’s voice will still be heard. Though as far as I know he never recorded a CD in a studio, some of his recordings from various settings (e.g., corporate worship, funerals, various programs) still exists. These friends, who operate a studio here in Greenville, took it upon themselves to clean up these recordings, add instrumentation, and publish a twenty-song CD of Ken’s work. This was a surprise to his wife, and the proceeds (apart from covering the bare minimum of production costs) will go to her.

I encourage you to drop the $15 necessary to add this CD to your collection. I think you’ll find it to be an edifying reminder of God’s grace to us. (We’ve already used the title track, “Finally Home,” in funeral services, at the request of grieving family members.) Some will appreciate the older songs more, others the newer ones. That’s just what Ken would have wanted–a focus not on the older or the newer, but on the Christ whom he loved.

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