If Bob Spradling had decided to become a lawyer, no one in Cape Girardeau would have been surprised. After all, his father, Albert Spradling Jr. was one of the great attorneys in the history of southeast Missouri, and his brother Al Spradling III, not only became a prominent lawyer, he also served as mayor of Cape Girardeau for two terms. Bob’s father was the youngest member ever elected to the Senate and served several terms.

Bob actually had no choice in his career because God chose it for him. He surrendered his life to Christ as a teenager after persistent invitations from a friend to attend church, and at the young age of 18, Bob was called to become a minister. He began as pastor of a small rural church, then attended seminary in New Orleans, and eventually returned to southeast Missouri to pastor a church when at the age of 35, he was called to become pastor of Maywood Baptist Church.

Bob is viewed by many as the spiritual leader of Western Independence and he likes to mention that there are 60,000 people living within four miles of Maywood, many of whom do not have connection to a church. While he can’t reach them all, he is racing to reach as many as he can.

I first met Bob Spradling as a young lawyer. He was chairman of the Personnel Committee for the city of Independence and I had a very difficult hearing in front of the committee representing an employee who had been fired. I lost the case, but that was the employee’s fault, not Bob’s.

In 1995, I joined Maywood the Sunday after I married my wife. The last 19 years have been the best years of my life in large part because I married a beautiful Maywood lady, but also because Bob Spradling has been my pastor.

Bob is probably best known in the community for his work on the school district annexation issue in 2007.

The annexation would never have happened had legislation not been passed that led to a critical vote in Independence and Kansas City. While Bob would absolutely deflect any attempt to glorify his efforts in this process, the successful annexation would never have occurred had God not ordained it to happen and called Bob to lead it spiritually.

The annexation was miraculous in many respects and it succeeded so God could change lives. It is ironic that Bob Spradling, from a family of lawyers, was chosen by God to play the critical role in perhaps the most significant legal event in the history of Independence.

His leadership did not stop with the annexation. His leadership has led church members to do marvelous things at Korte and Fairmount elementary schools. Maywood has also had the largest contingent of any church working in the schools initially in Extreme School Makeover, and then in Project Shine, undoubtedly saving the school district several hundred thousand dollars.

Tomorrow, Bob Spradling celebrates his 30th anniversary at Maywood. Bob does not like such attention, but this will be a special day for him for other reasons. It is also a day when two young ministers will be ordained in the church. One of them is Jake Taylor, one of the rising stars in ministry, who has been selected by the church body to succeed Bob. Bob isn’t going anywhere, because God has plans for him at Maywood and also because we won’t let him leave.

The other minister being ordained tomorrow is a young man named Josh Monk. If you don’t believe in miracles, then I invite you to examine the life of Josh Monk. Seven years ago, Josh was in the throes of addiction and was living outside the law. Josh was developing his leadership skills in an outlaw motorcycle gang. The extent of sin in his life was overwhelming and horribly destructive. In his life of lawlessness, he honed his leadership skills because of his personality and his brawn.

Josh met the Lord at Maywood Baptist Church and he is now using those leadership skills in a different way. Bob has spent the last six years mentoring Josh, many times at a local gym lifting weights. They have spent countless hours together, because Bob has seen in Josh the potential that can be used by God to help transform Western Independence. Josh will be sharing his story tomorrow morning at 8:30.

Every Sunday morning, Josh leads a Bible Study class of at least 75 people, most of whom have a similar background to his. The church is full of people that Josh calls knuckleheads. Most of them are recovering addicts and while I don’t know all of their stories, they all tell stories of destruction. Amazingly, the older members have embraced the knuckleheads. No judging, just loving at Maywood because that is what Jesus did.

On any given Sunday, at least one life is transformed and many Sundays at least one knucklehead is baptized. One miracle follows another at Maywood and we have come to expect them. Josh and I are going to write a book about it someday, because the stories should be told.

In the Gospel that bears his name, John states in the last verses that Jesus did many other things as well and if every one of them were written down not even the whole world would have room for the books that would be written. I believe that John was not just talking about the three years Jesus was engaged in ministry, but all of the things that He has done since then. Maywood would have a few shelves in that library John was talking about.

Bob would have undoubtedly been a successful lawyer. His commanding presence and golden voice would have been incredibly persuasive in the courtroom. That would have been a waste of God’s gifts. God has given unto Bob so that he can give unto us. We are truly blessed.

Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com