Today, I'm remembering with thanks all the wonderful women I've worked for. Or with. Decades ago they would have been called secretaries; now we prefer administrative assistants. My first coworker was Dorothy. When I first moved to the College Church, I was 27 and was WAY over my head. She was much older than my mother and gave me much-needed guidance several times. It was before the days of computers (at least in most work places), so she typed everything. After a Jimmy Allen meeting, if 200 people responded, she'd faithfully type 200 letters to encourage them. After Dorothy was Brenda. Funny, loud (in the good way), competent. One of those laughs you don't forget. But didn't last too long because Harding stole her away from me. Or I should say, a wonderful opportunity came open on campus. Then came Cecelia. A dear friend. She and Rowan are two of the best folks I've ever known. He's still working at Harding and serving as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church in Searcy. Cecelia, "Uncle Travis," Jody and I had a blast together in the office. I remember thinking when we decided to leave Searcy that one of the worst parts was not having her in the next office every day. When I moved to Abilene in 1991, Brenda worked with me. What can I say about this godly woman? When I've called her the "church mother" it's only because she nurtures everyone in her path. Shortly after this she became a full-time minister. (If I'm forgetting someone else here, it isn't intentional!) Camille was a calm, steady, spiritual presence in the office. She made everyone glad they'd called or dropped by. Like others to follow, she wasn't there long enough because when her husband finished at ACU they were off. Then there was Trellis. Working with Trellis, who had such a passion for the people of Haiti, was a constant reminder that what we're doing isn't just about "building a church." It's about participating in the kingdom of God that is breaking in through Christ. Trell was joyful and deeply spiritual. It was while she worked with me that we made the big transion to powerpoint (in 1994). I still remember that one funny little typo that slipped past us both. We became better proofreaders after that! Deana was next. What can I say? Those who follow this blog have choked laughing over her comments many, many times. She is the daughter of a minister and now the wife of a minister (plus an accomplished writer herself). Witty, fun, godly. My biggest mistake was in not asking her to actually write my sermons for me. I've asked her to write something that I'll put at the end of this article. Any time I see her or Chad in the audience, I just want to smile over great memories. Then Lora and I worked together while her husband was in school. She was the organizational whiz I needed to bring greater order to my life. She's one of the most put-things-in-a-place-where-you-can-find-them people I've ever know. Chemaine was next--again working here while her husband was finishing up at ACU. Our lives intersected in ways I didn't even known about. When she was a teenager, she was in a car heading toward Youth in Action in Alabama, where I was speaking. She was in a horrible wreck that dramatically altered her life. A less courageous person might have wilted. After they left Abilene, she wrote to tell me she and Roger had given their firstborn my name as his middle name. She was incredibly, wonderfully kind. And . . . then Gina. My dear friend. If I preach until I'm 100 I'll never work with a better person. Her maiden name is Cope, though we know of no relationship. Her husband, Mark, is one of my elders (though quite a bit younger than I am) and is an amazing minister to students on the ACU campus. Her kids, Casey and Patrick, are wonderful. And it was her niece, Sarah Lynn, who ministered to me during a time of deep loss -- through her voice, her worship leading, and her spirit. Gina knows what my weaknesses are and she constantly makes me look better. When I'm tired she steps in. When I'm testy, she smiles and makes the calls that I'm in no mood to make. When I'm traveling too much, she kindly tells people who call "he'd love to, but he can't" and then tells me that I declined the invitation. Does she work for me or do I work for her? I couldn't really tell you. I've told her that I'll stay at Highland as long as she will. For several years now she has made me appear to be a better minister than I really am. Diane and I are leaders of the Gina Fan Club. And now . . . a few words from my dear friend (and former coworker) Deana. I invited her to share a bit about my type-A quirks. (I wasn't asking for the kind words at the end, but thanks, my friend. You and Chad will always be special to Diane and me. You sat on the other side of the wall during the darkest time in my life and helped me survive in my ministry. In fact, you had to take over a few of my jobs for a while--like signing letters!--because I couldn't function. Gracias.) It was fall of '94. My husband Chad was starting his last undergrad semester at ACU and I didn't have a job. Whenever Chad would start to panic, I would remind him that God would take care of it. Then God called. And his voice sounded a whole lot like Brenda Chrane's. Would I like to work in the Highland office? Answering phones and keeping up with Mike Cope? It sounded great. I started the day after Labor Day. Answering phones was a breeze. Keeping up with Mike Cope was a different story. He was known as Mike, the Amazing Disappearing Minister. I was convinced he had a trap door under his desk or in his office closet that led to the outside. I even went in there and looked for it a couple of times. Once I saw Mike walk into his office and close the door. Just as the doorknob clicked shut, the phone rang. It was Jack Reese. "Deana," he said desperately. "Please tell me Mike is there. I have to talk to him right now." "Well, you're in luck," I said proudly. "He's right here." I buzzed into Mike's office. "Mike?" Silence. "Uh...Mike?" Crickets chirping. I got up and went into his office. Lights out; computer off. Mike was gone, and he wasn't coming back. Mike's disappearing acts were something I got used to. I also grew accustomed to his outbursts about the temperature in his office. This was in the old building. In the dead of winter, I would sit freezing at my desk by the front door. Mike would come charging out of his office and say, "Do you want to guess how hot it is in my office?" Then, while Abilene's Arctic winds blew everything around on my desk, he would prop the front door open and say, "I'll come close this in a minute." Then he would disappear. Sometimes for days. The real fun started when I had to take calls from salespeople. Mike didn't have the heart to tell these guys no, but he didn't have the stomach for their sales pitches, either. So they just kept calling back. I got to know one guy named Norm pretty well. Sometimes they tried posing as Mike's friends, hoping I'd put them through. "Let me talk to Reverend Cope. He's an old friend of mine," they'd say. I thought everybody knew the Church of Christ has about as many reverends as topless nursery workers, but apparently, these guys didn't. Mike also had a hard time saying no to speaking engagements, even when he had promised to quit traveling so much. One day, a coordinator for a major lectureship was on the phone. Mike was on his way into his office to take the call when he turned to me and said, "Will you come sit with me and hold my hand and make me tell him no?" At the time, I thought he was kidding. Looking back now, I don't think he was. Mike is one of those people who tries to be everywhere, all the time. (Except for when he's trying to be nowhere, which I've already addressed.) I tried to help him out with that. He showed me how to sign his name in one of his blue pens. He was fanatic about this certain kind of pen and had them stashed all over the office. When signing his name, he was "Mike Cope" to most people and "Michael W. Cope" to people who had written him up in some brotherhood rag. "Just don't make it look like a girl signed it," he would say. As Mike's assistant, I was privy to all kinds of sought-after information about him. At one point, I had his date of birth, social security number, driver's license number and all of his phone numbers -- including the ever-elusive cell phone number -- memorized. And I knew that he liked his files numbered with the multiples of three going up the right side. I also witnessed the heartbreak of that year. I remember staring through tears at a blank computer screen pretending to work while Mike sat on the other side of the wall from me -- lost in grief over Megan's death. I remember every 21st of November, Mike. I want you and Diane to know that. People have asked me what it was like to work for Mike. It was, short of staying home to raise my children, the best job I've ever had. He was adamant about calling me his "co-worker," never a secretary. I worked with him, not for him. He's the definition of the Type A personality, but he puts all that energy into the work of the Lord. It's his passion. "He has the best heart," I tell those people. "I love his heart." And I always will. Now if I could only get the guy on the phone. Thanks, Deana. When you call just lower your voice and tell the receptionist you're Norm the Sales Guy. That'll get you right in! (My cell phone is 325-668-. . . well, you know.) I've been blessed to work alongside all these wonderful, godly people. My life has been richer and my ministry has been stronger because of them. Anyone else want to tell about a coworker who has blessed your life?