After 35 years, today is officially Bob Stephenson’s last day as Treasurer at the CGGC office. We’ve known this day was coming for months, and are well prepared for the transition, but how do you capture the last 35 years in a few comments? Well, who better than the man himself? Below you’ll read Bob Stephenson’s own reflection on his time at the CGGC, and what it all meant to him. Take it away, Bob.
Reflecting over these 34 plus years it has been a blessing to remember the times and relationships I have had the privilege to enjoy. I have had the privilege to serve under 5 Executive Directors (all but 1), 24 department directors, at least 55 support staff people, and at least 62 missionaries (count only includes those as employees) and missionary interns. A great deal of credit for any degree of success I have been credited for is because of these staff personnel. In particular, I would like to thank Kris Cupp, the late Linda Barclay, and Darlene Mattox who served the church and myself in extra special ways.
I want to say thank you to persons who have contributed immensely to my professional competency through the years: Jim Thomas and Robin Ridge who have been great resources for accounting changes that relate to matters of financial statement reporting and benefits administration issues. Doug Bonnoront and the late Dick Barchent of Merrill Lynch with respect to managing our investments. And on a macro training level, Richard Hammar of Church Law & Tax, the late Dan Busby of ECFA, Dave Kram of Wycliff Bible Translators, and various staff of Capin Crouse.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family through the years for their support. Like all of you love your children, I love and am proud of daughters Mandi, Sarah and Nancy; and their spouses Alg, Ryan and Chad. And I want to thank my wife Cheryl, for putting up with the work schedule involved. She has also helped me to address various items to help improve balance in some areas of my life.
But most of all I want to thank God. I attended Camp Otyokwah (Great Lakes Conference) as I grew up, and while attending church camp my Junior year of high school, I made a commitment to serve the Lord full-time. Such commitments can sometimes be “put on the back burner”, and upon high school graduation I entered Wittenberg University thinking I was going to major in pre-law. After my first year, I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Business administration, and particularly accounting, seemed to resonate with me. I graduated with a BS degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting. After working for a large printing company and a chemical company, I began to recall the commitment I had made while in high school and feel what I would later realize to be a call to serve the Lord. I entered seminary for one year but due to a key life experience just prior to entering seminary, and the reflection that seminary introduced, it was decided that we were not ready for seminary and serving the church at that point in time.
I returned to the business accounting world again by going to work for The Tappan Company, who was owned by AB Electrolux of Sweden. Beginning as senior International division accountant, I also served as a special financial analyst accountant for the US based appliance division, a brief stint on the internal audit staff, and then became the senior corporate accountant reporting to and serving as the right hand person to the CFO. Soon after joining The Tappan Company, I obtained my CPA license, which I maintained until the end of 2022. AB Electrolux decided to purchase White Consolidated Industries and merge The Tappan Company into White Consolidated Industries. WCI was about 4 times the size of The Tappan Company, so the merger made sense. I was charged with training all WCI and The Tappan Company’s foreign subsidiaries with the financial reporting that AB Electrolux required of its world-wide companies. After accomplishing this large task, I became a division controller at a custom cabinet making division of the former Tappan Company located near State College, PA known as the J-Wood Division. In those years, The Tappan Company and Merrillat Corporation competed for being the largest cabinet companies in the United States. Not long after serving at J-Wood Division I began to sense the Lord’s stirring in me again. Although informed I was being groomed to become the controller of the cabinet group (6 different divisions from coast to coast), and then to become a President of one of the divisions (their history was to promote from the financial background), I just felt like I should be honoring the commitment I had made back in high school.
During this time of wondering whether to continue on the professional career track, Dave Draper called me. We had met in seminary as students approximately 8 years prior and we had not had conversation since I departed WTS after the one year of education for the M. Div.. Dave was employed at WTS and would later become its President. He stated he had no idea why the Lord put my name on his mind, but he thought he should make contact and see what was going on in my life. After this conversation, the stirring I already had been experiencing, and some further reflection, I made the decision to return to Seminary.
Early in 1988 I informed my division President (who I reported to) of my decision to re-enroll at WTS in the Fall and he tried to hold on to me. I continued to work for the J-Wood Division as its Controller until the end of June. During this time period, I was contacted by Mr. Connard Chambers who was the Ohio Conference Administrator at the time. He said he knew I was coming to Findlay, that I had three small children and intended to work full-time and attend seminary. He said he also knew my background and wanted to know if I was aware that the denomination’s Treasurer had passed away (the late Everett Falk) and thought I should “put my hat in the ring” for consideration. I decided to do so and the day after moving to Findlay, I met with CGGC Administrator Bill Reist, the Commission on Stewardship and the lead partner of the CGGC audit firm for an interview. Soon afterward I was offered the position by CGGC Administrator, Bill Reist.
After two years of serving as the CGGC Treasurer full-time and attending WTS part-time pursuing an M. Div. degree, I reached a point that “something had to give”. The schedule was too demanding. I also did not like preaching, and I had little time with the family. It was during this time of reflection I spoke with some people, including Dr. Richard Wilkin (former CGGC Administrator) and Darrell Prichard, who both said to me, “Don’t you realize, you have your ministry.” I had always thought commitment to full-time ministry meant being a pastor. I guess pastoral ministry and missionary service was all I was accustomed to think God called people to. I suddenly realized that God had prepared me along the way for serving the church via administration of the church over these past 34 plus years.
Not too long after making the decision to cease my pursuit of a M.Div. degree, I found myself in a situation where a prominent church leader of the time had taken exception to my calling to question the ethics of some financial administration by his conference. This leader wanted me to be removed from office. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Administrator Bill Reist who stood in the gap for me at that time and chose not to fire me. Had Bill not made that stand, I certainly would not have served the CGGC anywhere near this long.
At one point in time the staff was going through a very dark period. During this period, I had decided to float some resumes and was offered a position in industry. But I did not experience a release from the Lord concerning the call I had previously received. So, I did not end up taking the position that was offered.
For better or worse, I am so thankful I have been able to serve over these 34 plus years. Thank you all for your patience with me, and for forgiving me of my shortcomings. I have been blessed in innumerable ways and will truly miss the working relationships we have all been privileged to experience during our time of serving together as CGGC staff. I have so many great memories of working with various pastors and churches. And of course, from time to time, I was privileged to attend local conference sessions and enjoyed sharing with all of you.
I pray that you will all be vigilant in your relationship with the Lord, and seek His guidance in your personal lives as well as His guidance for the CGGC. Remember to love one another and build one another up in the Lord. I will remember to pray for all of you in the years to come.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Robert E. Stephenson
CGGC eNews—Vol. 27, No. 17