I first met Bob Spradling as a young lawyer. Bob moved to Independence in 1984 so it must have been shortly thereafter that I met him. Bob accepted an appointment to be the chairman of the Personnel Committee of the city of Independence, which meant that he was called upon periodically to hear appeals from city employees who had been disciplined or terminated.

I represented a city employee who had been terminated and so we appeared before the committee. We lost the appeal. Frankly, the defeat stung, but it was the correct decision.

As the years passed, I heard my mother talking about this minister from Maywood Baptist Church. My mother served on the board of the Blue River Baptist Association and for a time was the parliamentarian. Over 130 Baptist churches belong to the association. Bob Spradling was the moderator of the association during a tumultuous time, and my mother had much respect for Bob. The feelings were mutual.

I did not personally meet Bob until I married my wife in 1995. My wife had attended Maywood Baptist Church for a few years, and when we married I had agreed to join her church and leave First Baptist, where I had been a member for almost 30 years. Our marriage caused my three step-children to leave the schools they attended and so I was not going to ask them to change churches too. It was a good time for me to switch churches, and so I joined Maywood the Sunday after Kim and I were married. For the past 23 years, Bob Spradling has been my pastor.

When I first joined the church, it was very similar to First Baptist. Services were held on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. Baptists like to eat, so a meal was served every Wednesday evening.

I particularly enjoyed Bob’s sermons. Bob went to seminary in New Orleans and spent his early years in ministry in Louisiana. His sermons were filled with stories of people from his ministry down south. Bob was from Cape Girardeau. His dad was a prominent lawyer and former Democratic state senator when there were Democrats in southeast Missouri. His brother was also a lawyer and later became mayor of Cape. Bob attended college in Cape Girardeau, but never aspired to be a lawyer.

Bob loves to tell the story of the persistent urging of a friend who had invited him to church on numerous occasions. Bob finally relented and gave his life to Christ that very night. After graduating from seminary and serving as a minister in New Orleans, Bob moved back to Charleston when he was called to be the pastor of Maywood.

While Maywood was like so many other Baptist churches toward the end of 20th century, the winds of change were blowing, and the Holy Spirit was leading Maywood in a different direction.

When Bob was first called to Maywood, the desegregation case was heating up. In 1985 a federal judge, Russell Clark, ordered the desegregation of schools in Kansas City. Van Horn and the feeder schools in western Independence were in the Kansas City school district and were subject to the court orders. While some may disagree, desegregation was a failed experiment and had a devastating effect on western Independence and Sugar Creek. Bob Spradling’s church was in the middle of the devastation.

The church managed to thrive under Bob’s leadership, but Bob knew that if life was going to change in the church neighborhood, he was going to have to change his church. I consider it an incredible blessing to have been a member of a church that not only embraced the neighborhood but was willing to change the entire focus of its ministry.

Last Sunday, Bob occupied the pulpit. He retired at the end of December, but Bob Spradling did not really retire. As he says, he is just not getting paid to be a pastor of Maywood Baptist Church. God brought Jake Taylor to Maywood and Bob has been mentoring him. The best days of Maywood lie ahead.

Bob spent most of his sermon last Sunday talking to many members of the congregation who were not there 23 years ago. A significant number of the members come from a background of addiction. Many of the leaders at Maywood also come from this background, and Bob spent most of his sermon preaching to those on the road to recovery. Maywood has fully embraced all who come, and Bob would tell you that it has been pure joy being the pastor of such a great church.

Bob has achieved much in his years at Maywood. City and school leaders know that Bob is the spiritual leader of western Independence. It was nearly 12 years ago that the election took place to bring the schools from western Independence and Sugar Creek into the Independence School District. The vast improvements to the facilities and quality of education are beyond amazing.

Many worked to make annexation possible, but Maywood Baptist Church and Bob Spradling’s office was the command center during the entire campaign. Many deserve credit, but no one will ever convince me it was not the prayers led by my pastor that made this happen. Maywood is a place where miracles happen almost every Sunday, but the miracle of that annexation was a catalyst to make it all possible.

Bob deflects all praise. He is a humble servant of God and gives the Lord all the credit. We all pray that Bob is able to continue what God has called him to do for many years to come. I pray that I can be right there with him.

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