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Q & A with Elder Charlie Kowalski


How long have you been a member of Wheaton Bible Church?

God led us to WBC about fifteen years ago, shortly after we moved to the area as newlyweds in 1999. Over a couple of months we visited many different churches in the area, but none felt like home.

One afternoon, when my wife and I were eating lunch at Panera, we saw a college student reading his Bible in one of the booths. We went up to him and asked him where he went to church. He said Wheaton Bible Church and told us where it was. We visited the very next Sunday. The teaching was phenomenal, and for worship that week they had a banjo on the platform. My wife, being from the South, thoroughly enjoyed that. As the banjo was played, we looked at each other and agreed we didn’t need to visit any other churches. This was the one for us. (I don’t think there has been a banjo on stage since that day!) 

Describe a couple memorable experiences you’ve had at Wheaton Bible Church.

One very memorable experience was the Sunday when I was baptized. I had been baptized as an infant in the church my family attended, but as I grew and personally committed my life to Christ, I had never taken that step of obedience and made the decision to be baptized. It was a scary and amazing experience to stand in front of the congregation and profess my faith in Christ, to share God’s story in my life with all who were there, and then be baptized. (While Baptism is something that Jesus modeled himself, it is amazing how sin, self-doubt, and Satan can work to try to stop us from being obedient in this area.)

Elder Quote 2

Another special experience was when our family made the decision to host a Neighborhood Bible Club. We did not feel prepared, and we were not sure where the kids would come from or who would volunteer to help. After weeks of prayer and planning, we had forty volunteers in our garage, waiting to see how many kids would come, and by the end of the week we looked around at a backyard full of kids. Our neighbors are still talking about the club and the impact it has had on them and their children.

How has being a part of Wheaton Bible Church had an impact on your life?

When we first started attending, I had no idea what a “small group” was, let alone what it meant to participate in one. But almost as soon as we became part of the Ambassadors Adult Community, we also got plugged in to a small group. I can honestly say that this was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Kim and I have been involved in small groups with other couples ever since and have made some good friends through that experience.

Later I was asked to join a couple of different men’s small groups with a focus on discipleship, including a Top Gun group. It is an amazing experience as a man to realize that you are not the only one who faces certain struggles, and to see how prayer and encouragement from others—along with God’s grace—can get you through some tough times.

God challenged me a few years ago to step out and lead additional men’s small groups. At the time, that was something I was not sure that I could do, nor did I have any idea how to put a group together. I quickly realized that I was right where God wanted me, because the next thing I knew, men came out of the woodwork to be part of the group. Now I currently co-lead a men’s Top Gun group, and my prayer is that we can have many more small groups like this to help all of us take a step closer to knowing who God is and how much He loves us.

How and when did you accept Christ as your Savior?

I grew up attending the Catholic church and went to parochial grade school and high school. But the truth was, my faith didn’t really mean anything to me. Studying the Bible in school was really just like taking a math class. At the same time, I was lacking confidence and self-esteem. I was the oldest of three kids, and my younger siblings were superstars. My brother was involved in every sport and was good at all of them, while my sister was the valedictorian of her high school class. I wasn’t sure who I was, and I really struggled with feeling that I was worth anything.

My response was to grab all the stuff I could, trying to fill that empty place in my life.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-five that I truly found out who Jesus Christ was and made the commitment to put Him first in my life.

Elder quote 1

I remember the night a friend asked me, “If you were to die right now, do you know where you would go?” That question broke me as I knew I wasn’t good enough to go to heaven. My friend quickly explained that it wasn’t about being good enough but rather about trusting Christ for my salvation and making him Lord over my life. Shortly after that, I accepted Christ during a Mercy Me concert at a church in Dallas, Texas.

Interestingly, even before that night I had already made plans to get together with my former college roommate, so he was the first to know of the decision I had made to follow Christ. His response was, “That is awesome! I have been praying for you for seven years.” Sometime later I learned that since the time her daughter was a baby my mother-in-law had been faithfully praying for her future son-in-law. So all the while I had been wandering around, there were at least two people who had been praying for me. God heard their prayers and answered them!

Do you have a favorite Scripture passage?

There are a couple I lean on fairly regularly. The first is Philippians 4:6–7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Before committing my life to Christ, I would often lie awake at night worrying about things: What if I lose my job? What if this project at work goes bad? And I still have a sleepless night every now and then. But when I sincerely pray through this verse and trust God’s plan, I experience peace and a true contentment—no matter the circumstances.

Another favorite verse, which actually builds off the first one, is Proverbs 3:5–6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This verse reminds me that God has a bigger plan than I do, and that I need to trust that what comes my way is from Him and is better than my plan.

Tell us a little about your work.

Following a career in management consulting, I joined Quaker Oats (now owned by PepsiCo) in downtown Chicago just months before Kim and I were married. I have worked for PepsiCo for the past fifteen years in various roles. I am currently the director of North America for supply-chain systems.

Describe your family.

Kowalski on rocksKim and I first met on a warehouse floor, each wearing ear plugs and hairnets as we were implementing software for a company in New Jersey. It was my first day working for that consulting company, and we had both been assigned the same client. Less than six months later, we became engaged and were married less than a year later. We have been married just over fifteen years and have been blessed with three wonderful boys: Brayden, who is thirteen years old; Bryce, who is eleven; and Barrett, who is six.

If you could speak with each member of the congregation, what would you say?

For this question I feel that God is calling me to speak to the men in our congregation. First, if you are a husband or a father, know that I pray for you almost daily! I might not know you personally, but I pray for all the fathers and husbands in our church. There are so many distractions in our world that try to stop us, limit us, or even cause us to question our role as the spiritual leaders of our families. If God can take me, a very simple, quiet man, and use me to read the Bible to my kids, pray with my wife, and teach them what God wants from us, he can do that for each of you. I would urge you, no matter where you are in your spiritual walk, to take that step of faith to be obedient to what God wants from you. Just open the Bible one evening and start reading at dinner or bedtime to your wife and/or kids. You will be surprised what might happen and how God will bless that simple act of obedience!

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2015 by in Spring/Summer 2015.

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