'A healing process'

Pastor, son say church's ministries continue after Anita Maxwell's death

Steve Nash / Brownwood Bulletin
Kreig Maxwell (foreground) and his dad, Freedom Fellowship pastor Jim Maxwell, work on a cold Friday morning as they make upgrades to the Early church's children's ministry building, pictured behind them.
Kreig Maxwell operates a saw as he helps make upgrades Friday morning to the children's ministry building at Freedom Fellowship Church in Early.

EARLY — Kreig Maxwell couldn’t bring himself to move the keyboard out of the way that his mother, Anita, once played Sunday mornings at Freedom Fellowship Church.

He couldn’t move it even there was as no one to play the instrument since Anita Maxwell — who was also the praise band’s leader — died in September from kidney cancer, at  age 65.

“When she passed, I had the thought that I need to move the keyboard, because no one plays the keyboard,” said the 35-year-old Kreig Maxwell, who'd been a guitar player in the band. “For some reason I just couldn’t do it."

But there was someone to play it after all — Kreig. He decided to step up and play his mother's keyboard. He also became the band's leader.

Kreig Maxwell is one of Jim and Anita Maxwell's three sons. Jim Maxwell, who has been the church’s pastor since 2012, owns a construction company where Kreig also works.

“I thought it would be really difficult,” Kreig Maxwell said of playing his mother’s keyboard. “A lot of memories kind of flood me because I was so used to playing behind her.

“It’s been more of a healing process. It’s forced me to kind of rip the bandaid off, I guess you’d say, and face it head-on instead of trying to ignore what happened. Every week it’s gotten easier and easier and easier.”

Maxwell said his mother had written several songs, which the band had played when Anita was the leader. Kreig initially didn’t want to play his mother’s songs.

“I didn’t want to do her songs because of the pain it could possibly cause,” Maxwell said. “I told myself 'you’ve got to just push through.'” 

Kreig Maxwell said he started learning music from his mother when he was 12.

“It was a different perspective for me, to have to step up to the front and play her keyboard,” Maxwell said.

He knows his mom would be pleased at his new role.

“It’s a little bittersweet because I know she’d be happy but I also know she would wish she could’ve seen it herself here,” he said. 

Giving up wasn't an option

Anita Maxwell’s death rocked the church, but its ministries have continued, Jim Maxwell said. Saturday morning, the church held another of its drive-through food giveaways, with the food coming from a food bank through Troy Brewer Ministries in Burleson.

Upgrades are continuing at the church and the small building that houses the church’s children’s ministry. Plans are to add on to that building.

The church also hopes to build a food warehouse to hold food for give-aways.

There was no thought of giving up after Anita Maxwell died, Jim said.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “It was a shock to all of us. It was a hard, difficult transition, her being the worship leader, playing the keyboard, leading the praise team. 

“The positive side is she built a great team that has become very talented. They’re doing awesome. It’s just as good as ever. We feel the difference, we feel the vacancy but as far as the sound and the worship, it’s as intense as it ever has been. And a lot of the things we’re doing even now is just a vision that Anita had for the church, and we’re not going to let go of that. We’re not going to drop that. We’re going to keep going.”

'His grace is sufficient'

But carrying on after Anita’s death been trying, the 67-year-old pastor acknowledged.

“It’s been very difficult because she was involved in everything that we did,” Maxwell said. “So the transition for me has been kind of difficult. But we have such great support from all of the people and my family, and I’ve been occupied and busy and the Lord’s directing our steps. His grace is sufficient.”

In a video he posted on Facebook after his wife’s death, Maxwell said God has a plan and those left to carry on will honor that plan.

'Death is not the end'

“We know it’s appointed unto man once to die, and it happens to every living human being at some point,” Maxwell said at the church Friday morning. “Our time frame is sometimes different than what we want it to be from God’s time frame. But the only way to go forward is to accept the fact that God knows best and put our trust in him.”

Maxwell repeated a lesson he said he’d shared recently.

“The Lord promises peace that passes understanding, but I don’t receive that peace until I give up my right to understand,” Maxwell said. “That means I just have to trust. Even though I don’t understand it, I have to trust and that’s when peace comes."

“Death is not the end. We don’t sorrow as those who have no hope. We may sorrow, but we have a blessed hope and we know we’ll be reunited again.”