|Birth: ||Sep. 27, 1944|
|Death: ||May 8, 2006|
Pastor of Coggins Memorial Baptist Church
Friends and family recall Coggins Memorial Minister By GLEN BAITY, The Dispatch
Nine days ago, the Rev. Lowell Askins, 61, passed away at his home after an extended bout with cancer.
His friends and loved ones said goodbye to him at a crowded memorial service May 10 at Coggins Memorial Baptist Church and earlier this week gathered to offer their fondest memories of the man who led them, loved them and dedicated what would be his last years to their spiritual growth.
There have been tears, to be sure, but also laughter, as those who carry his memory try to live by the example he set. "'Worry' was not in his vocabulary," said Claudia Askins, the minister's wife.
"One thing he always said was that worry was taking something out of God's hands and putting it into ours," said Rachel Rutherford, one of the couple's three children. And Askins, as described by those who knew him, was a man who never hesitated to place himself in God's hands.
He served churches in Illinois and Missouri before coming to Coggins Memorial in the summer of 1990. There he raised three children, Rachel, Craig and Teresa, and welcomed seven grandchildren into his family.
Askins found in Coggins Memorial a thriving spiritual community, Claudia said, and a congregation ready to place an inordinate amount of trust in their minister. "This group of people is amazing in their dedication to their service of the Lord," Claudia said.
David Shaffer, Coggins' associate pastor, came to the church in 1994. A friend and colleague of Askins' from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Shaffer said the minister told him about that dedication and all the good it was capable of doing. "He told me he had to be careful what he asked for, because he just might get it," Shaffer said with a smile.
Some of the things the minister asked of his congregation included a day care center, which started in 1995, and a Hispanic ministry, started in 2001. "He was constantly looking forward," said Shaffer, which is why Askins requested memorials go to the church's building fund: He wanted to ensure that the work he took up in 1990 continued after his death.
"Lowell was a student of the word of God. He studied diligently before preaching," Shaffer said. "He was always in tune with what God wanted him to preach." Those who studied with him spoke of Askins' encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and his ability to apply it, practically and immediately, to church members' lives.
"You could ask him anything, and he would take it seriously," said Jack Byrd, a lifelong Coggins member and deacon of the church. "He could unfold scripture so beautifully."
His friend never preached the same sermon twice, Shaffer said, gesturing to a bank of file cabinets filled with Askins' observations on matters of faith, each of them meticulously filed (Askins' perfectionist tendencies were the subject of much playful kidding over the years, Claudia noted) and unique in its own way.
Though congenial and quick to laugh, Askins approached his work with the utmost seriousness. His favorite theme was the ever-developing nature of the relationship between the Christian and God. "Overall, (he) was encouraging people to have a closer walk with the Lord," Claudia said. "He wanted people to grow in that relationship."
Claudia said she remembered many instances - Askins called them "Ah-ha! moments" - in which those he led gained a particular insight into their faith, and those moments reinforced his love for his calling.
"He was particularly pleased with any time one individual would come up to him and say a sermon or a series of sermons had awakened in them a new aspect of the Christian life," Claudia said.
"It was evident God and his word was Lowell's first love and that he was anointed by God to teach the scriptures and minister to people," said Shirley Swing, who sat on the search committee that brought Askins to the church 16 years ago. He was similarly renowned for his ability to sense need in his congregation. "There wasn't a single time in 16 years that I needed him that he wasn't there," Byrd said. "A lot of times, you didn't even have to call him ... I don't know how he knew, but he did."
In 1997, the members of Coggins Memorial would return the favor after doctors detected the presence of a rare form of cancer in Askins' right kidney. The church rallied around their minister while he underwent surgery, and those who surrounded Askins throughout the ordeal saw a battle fought with improbable bravery. "There was never a down time," Claudia said. "I can't remember any time (he had) regret." The operation was successful, granting the minister his lone desire: more time to do God's work. "He came back with a whole new purpose, to lead this congregation and reach out with the gospel message," Shaffer said. Prayer, he added, became a particular focus after that first operation.
Askins remained cancer-free until late 2004, when the disease resurfaced in his left arm. He underwent a series of treatments, culminating in his hospitalization three weeks ago from pneumonia. Still, Lowell Askins remained upbeat and faced his illness without fear. "There were two times that he saw me (after he entered the hospital), and both times, he looked me in the eye and said, 'Jack, I'm going to be all right,'" Byrd said. He recalled numerous occasions on which he accompanied Askins to the homes and hospital beds of terminally ill patients and said the minister always succeeded in eliciting laughter, no matter what, and always left behind a strong message of God's presence. It was a gift Askins would use until the very end. "He saw (his illness) as an opportunity to witness to a doctor, or another patient with cancer that he otherwise wouldn't have come into contact with," Rutherford said.
Claudia said she and her husband talked about the illness, but he never gave himself over to self-pity. "It wasn't 'why me,' it was 'why not me?'" she said, adding that her husband knew "the Christian life doesn't save you from hardship." It was an insight bespeaking his intricate understanding of the Christian faith, but for all the nuances he illuminated for his congregation, Lowell Askins' mission, as he saw it, was as simple as it was important. "He just wanted to serve as long as God allowed him to," Rutherford said.
Sadly, exactly four months to the date of Lowell's death, on Sept. 8, 2006, his wife of 41 years, Claudia, 62, passed away abruptly in her sleep.
"God used them, and they are missed," said the Rev. David Shaffer, the associate pastor and best friend to the couple.
h/o Claudia L.
Lexington City Cemetery
North Carolina, USA
Plot: Section V
Created by: Kathy Merris Mills
Record added: Aug 16, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15389159
Rev. Askins you were a great comfort to our family when my grandma passed just a few short week before your own passing. You are sorely missed by many.|
M. R. Lawson
Added: Sep. 8, 2007