BY SHERYE S. GREEN
Changing Lives Through the PRISM of God’s Love
In a stage of life generally reserved for retirement, Ron Mumbower is engaged in a creative professional endeavor. Refreshed through a new outlook on life, he has discovered great freedom in giving himself permission to change. Well known throughout Mississippi and beyond, Ron founded the Summit Counseling ministry of First Baptist Church of Jackson (First Jackson) and served as its director for over thirty-five years, managing a team of thirteen counselors. Exhilarated about learning new things he never thought he would, this marriage and family counselor has embarked on a compelling journey with the formation of PRISM Consulting.
Long intrigued with kaleidoscopes, Ron found the perfect symbol for his new ministry in these cylindrical objects. Kaleidoscope literally means “beautiful form to see.” Designed in 1816 by Scottish inventor David Brewster, this creation has fascinated children and adults alike. Much more than a toy to Ron, the kaleidoscope epitomizes God’s hope and transformational power.
The name PRISM was selected because Ron loves collecting kaleidoscopes and because he felt the word kaleidoscope was too long. “All it takes is a turn of events and the entire picture changes. What a metaphor for life.”
Equipping and empowering missionaries is one of PRISM’s primary objectives, a purpose especially dear to Ron’s heart, as one of his sons serves in the mission field. “The needs of those serving the Lord are no different than anyone else’s. One benefit PRISM affords its clients is to provide respite, love, encouragement, or a listening ear that does not try to fix but simply listens.”
PRISM partners with multidenominational, mission-sending organizations and with ministers serving across the globe in various capacities. The ministry’s three goals are to encourage, train, and empower those who work in missions or ministry. “The term consulting is used instead of ministry because in many places in the world, the term ministry would compromise security.”
God has artfully arranged pieces from different stages of Ron’s life, some with smoother edges than others, into a heart that can certainly identify with myriad concerns faced by his clients. Many bits of colored glass have come together to form the person Ron has become—son, brother, husband, father, counselor, pastor, student, teacher, caregiver, widower, single parent, newlywed, business executive, entrepreneur, servant of the Lord.
Ron grew up in a Christian home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His family attended a Southern Baptist church where his dad was a deacon and his mother worked for a period as the church secretary. The oldest of three brothers, Ron developed a great interest in missions at an early age. “I felt God knocking on the door of my heart when I was ten. I was always intrigued by stories of missionaries.”
After claiming Christ as his Savior at age sixteen while at a youth revival, Ron clearly heard God’s call on his life two years later. Time away at a youth conference confirmed his decision. When the pastor announced Ron’s determination to give his life in service to the Lord, a female friend sitting next to him tapped him on the leg and congratulated him. Four years later, Ron would walk down an aisle to marry that same friend, Karen Maxwell.
“I attended Oklahoma Baptist University as a mission volunteer, majoring in History and Secondary Education. Karen and I were married in 1976 after I graduated. I taught high school, while she completed her undergraduate degree.” Ron found a mission field in his students.
After Karen completed college, the couple moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where Ron began work on a Master’s Degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I took my first counseling class, and everything fell into place.”
“All of us,” Ron shares, “are called to be His examples in the world in which He has placed us, to use our time, talents, and resources to tell the good news to those who are restless, forgotten, and overlooked. I always felt God called me to the church. I firmly believe I was called out by Him to be in the ministry. That calling is as strong as my salvation experience. For me, it started out in teaching and moved into counseling.”
Once his Master’s program was completed, Ron was encouraged by his professors to complete his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Counseling. While in seminary, Ron also served on the staff of Southcliff Baptist Church. When Southcliff lost its Counseling pastor, Ron was asked to fill the position.
Dr. Ted Dowell, Ron’s doctoral advising professor, began traveling to Jackson two weekends out of a month to discuss how First Jackson might begin a counseling program. Upon Dowell’s recommendation, First Jackson called Ron to be the church’s first Counseling/Family Minister. “Karen and I accepted, and we moved to Jackson in January 1983. We arrived with Ryan, our eighteen-month-old son, a second child on the way, and a verse, ‘Build up, build up, prepare the road, remove the obstacles from my people’ (Isaiah 57:14).” Ron and Karen’s second son, Alan, arrived a month later.
“By 1985, both our family and First Jackson were expanding. Our third son, Evan, was born that same year. The Counseling Ministry moved into new facilities in the main church building. God continued to grow our ministry, and more counselors were added.” Ron and Karen’s fourth son, Landon, was born in 1988.
Ron, in addition to his work with the Counseling Ministry, was named Pastoral Care Minister of First Jackson in 1998, joining the church’s senior staff. Four years later in 2002, the church’s Christian Life Center was built, and the Counseling Ministry moved to the new facility. The ministry’s name then was changed to Summit Counseling. Life for Ron, both personally and professionally, was full and rich. Neither he nor his family could have possibly foreseen what lay ahead.
“In the fall of 2003, Karen was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. By January 2004, the disease had progressed so rapidly that she became paralyzed from the waist down. We had three sons in college, and a fourth who was a junior in high school.” Eleven months later, Ron returned home the evening of Saturday, December 11, 2004, after having sung in one of the choir’s performances of Carols by Candlelight. “Karen was not feeling well, and Landon and I were helping her get ready for bed. Soon afterward, Karen passed quietly into eternity in our arms.”
Ron explains how shell-shocked he felt. “I am now a widower, a single parent after twenty-eight-and-a-half years of marriage. It is my job to get Ryan, Alan, and Evan graduated from college and to get Landon graduated from high school.” Two years later, Landon completed his secondary education and headed to college. “All of a sudden, I am all alone in the house. What’s next, Lord?”
In the first few years after Karen’s death, Ron worked hard to maintain balance in his life, serving as director of Summit Counseling, as the Pastoral Care Minister for First Jackson and parenting his sons, now growing into godly, independent young men. “I was not looking for marriage, but in October 2006, I asked Kathy Robbins out on a date, a lady who had served on my Counseling Committee. Believe you me, dating at 18 and at 52 was so different!!!”
The next May on her 50th birthday, Ron asked Kathy to be his wife. They were married on October 6, 2007, and will celebrate their ten-year anniversary this fall. Ron says of his wife, who was single until their marriage, “Kathy learned to live dependent on the Lord and was willing to wait for His timing.” Kathy says her mother, who had passed away by the time her daughter’s wedding day arrived, had always told her she would marry a minister.
For the next six years or so, Ron’s work at First Jackson continued. A series of events, however, some of which had occurred years before, began to take their toll. Ron made the decision to retire in April 2014 from Summit Counseling and from First Jackson’s staff.
“I had taken care of people all my life. My father was killed in a car accident in 1992. My mother died six years later in 1998 from complications from chemotherapy for breast cancer. Karen died six years after Mom. I was the oldest member of the church staff, having been through three leadership changes. I was exhausted, and I had not taken care of myself. It was time to do something different.” In 2016, two years after his retirement, Ron founded PRISM Consulting.
Ron and Kathy are both involved in PRISM. Kathy, like her husband, holds a graduate degree in counseling. She served as a Youth Court Counselor for over twenty-eight years in Rankin County. She also brings a unique viewpoint to share, as she was single for so long. Since PRISM’s founding, the couple has traveled to Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and Europe, leading marriage enrichment retreats and family counseling sessions.
Ron Mumbower has seen before his very eyes how the transforming power of Christ can change a life. “God gifted me through all of my experiences as a child, teen, young adult, and even Karen’s death, to come alongside hurting, broken people and to bring understanding and encouragement in difficult and changing times, like the kaleidoscope.”
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.