Pastor Joe Bowman stepped up to help his community during the pandemic, and is now taking on a new role serving local college students.
Bowman, 45, is the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for the month of October and the newest member of the Highline College Board of Trustees, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this month.
“I love Highline College, I love what they’ve done over the years. The diversity is so great … and I have a deep passion for education,” Bowman said.
His academic advocacy is centered around the Federal Way Public Schools district, Bowman said. When word of an opening on the college’s board got around to Bowman, he decided to apply because of his commitment to local students.
“Federal Way Public Schools has been our deepest impact and our most valued partner as a church, and then for me personally,” he said. Bowman and his wife of 23 years, Pam, have four children between ages 7 and 13.
He is the son of two educators: his father was a professor at Western Washington University and his mother was a special education teacher and school principal. Bowman’s grandparents were also principals.
“Education is very, very deeply rooted in our family line, and especially people that are disenfranchised receiving education,” Bowman said. “Many of them put themselves in a position to teach in schools that were not of high esteem, or students weren’t doing well with testing.”
Approximately 21% of Highline College students live in Federal Way with many of them are streaming in from Federal Way Public Schools. Knowing this, Bowman asked himself: who is going to serve these kids after they leave the Federal Way district?
“I wanted to be that arm and that pulse to them in their development and their education because I dream of livable wage jobs being offered in our city, and people need education in order to obtain that.”
He fills the position of former trustee Bob Roegner, who served 10 years on the board.
Bowman’s goals as a Highline College trustee are to learn and grow in this role, but to increase visibility for the Highline College Foundation so that it may provide more scholarships to students, he said.
He is also interested in integrating the college’s athletic program with at-risk youth in surrounding communities.
“Highline is the industry leader at recognizing the diverse ethnic, gender, lifestyle, social and religious differences of the community, and creating an inclusive environment based on respect and trust to forge ahead, united,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s education roots also feed into his communication style as a pastor of Integrity Life Church in Federal Way.
Bowman’s grandmother planted a church in Federal Way about 35 years ago, and while she impacted many members of the community, the church never quite took off, he said. Bowman said he saw firsthand the effort and dedication she poured into sharing her faith.
Years later and two courses into his MBA, Bowman decided to change directions to earn his master’s degree in theology studies.
“It really is that whole idea: the proverbial cause of the call to chart that path for education,” he said.
He served eight years at a church in Tacoma’s Hilltop area, then planted Integrity Life in 2008 in the southernmost part of Federal Way. It was a calling from deep within, Bowman recalled, and of all the uncertainties in life, planting their church in Federal Way was a certainty.
His work is deeply woven into the community. Bowman served five years as president of City Vision (now named Federal Way Community Connections). He also has served on the Integrity Life Church board and the boards of Federal Way Community Gardens, Pastors for a Better Federal Way, and the “Chief’s Call” citizens police advisory board.
He also has ties assisting the initial response of the Federal Way Day Center for homeless individuals, as a support writer for the equity policy of Federal Way Public Schools, and holding onto the title as the unofficial pastor of the Federal Way Farmers Market, he said.
“I love the 96,000 people in this little 22-mile city,” said Bowman, who lives, works and raises his family in Federal Way. “It means everything to me to be able to declare my faith in public settings without judgment … it’s a blessing.”
In early spring, Integrity Life Church recognized widespread food insecurity in the city, and after partnering with the school district’s meal program, the church adopted three local apartment complexes to support and feed.
His church has fed more than 4,500 people by providing meals throughout the pandemic.
Integrity Life has continued their efforts through the summer, serving thousands of people that are often lost in the shuffle due to their location, he said.
“We are so ecstatic about that,” he said. “People of all races and cultures and creeds, we’ve been able to help. It’s been a blessing.”
Long days dedicated to community turn into long months, but the work is never done in vain.
“I’m totally blown off my feet by this [Hometown Hero award] … I never have done anything to be recognized or seen,” he said. “All the work that we’ve done in the community is to advance it and make it better. I’ll say this is like a water bottle during a marathon.”
Integrity Life Church provides meals to those in need from 2-5 p.m. every Thursday at 37603 28th Ave. S. in Federal Way. For more information, to donate or to tune into a virtual service, visit integrity4life.org.