August 8 was Ray Leininger Day in the community of Bolivar and at First Baptist Church, where the pastor served for nearly 20 years.
Leininger is retiring from the pastorate – his last Sunday was Aug. 15 – and the congregation honored him and his wife, Judy, with Bible presentations in the morning worship service and a reception in the afternoon.
In the morning service, member Nancy Johnson recalled how impressed she was when Leininger as a new pastor made sure he visited every church family in his first year.
Carolyn Roberts, who presented Judy Leininger with a "Women of Faith" study Bible, praised the pastor's wife for her work in linking older women in the church with younger women in a "sister ministry" and realizing her dream of a women's ministry at the church.
Gustavo Nix, as he presented a study Bible to the pastor, recalled the pride in the pastor's eyes when son Andy made his commitment to overseas missions service in Belarus with his family and noted the example Ray set as a father.
During the reception, members and others from the Bolivar community lined up to share hugs, memories and a few tears with the couple, who will continue to make their home in Bolivar.
In retirement, Leininger will continue to tinker with his collection of tractors and practice woodworking, but the couple also will stay involved in an overseas English as a Second Language ministry in places like the Ukraine and Belarus. They have two trips planned for next year.
A mechanical design engineer by training, Leininger worked in that field for nine years before he entered the pastoral ministry, serving churches in Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois before coming to Bolivar in 1984.
He is a current Southwest Baptist University trustee and has served on the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board, the Committee on Order of Business and the Tellers Committee (chair).
Leininger served in various capacities in Illinois at the state and local association level.
Bolivar mayor Charles Ealy presented Leininger with a plaque noting his contributions to the community and declaring Ray Leininger Day. SBU president Pat Taylor noted his contribution as a trustee with a plaque and pointed out how the congregation and SBU had been intertwined since SBU's beginning.
Both houses of the Missouri General Assembly also approved resolutions on his behalf.