Decatur Community News: Saved together and didn’t know it

By L. AGNES RUSSELL,

On Feb. 6, 2002, Aubrie Cleveland and Luke Howell both attended a gathering at Neshoba County Coliseum to hear Beta Club speaker, Clayton King. The man’s radical testimony of how God had changed his life caused them both to go forward at the invitation to make their professions of faith. But they didn’t meet and begin dating until 2003 at East Central Community College! God loves a good story, and the Howells’ is another interesting one.

Luke Howell is a preacher’s kid, born to Rev. Byron and Cynthia Howell in Hattiesburg, on March 28, 1984. His brothers are J. C. Howell of Cumberland, Va., and Matthew Howell, who lives in Saltillo. His sister, Dinah Howell Lachney, married to Rick Lachney, makes her home in Madison. Rev. Howell came in August 1995 to pastor Beulah Baptist Church in Little Rock, Mississippi, staying for eight years, from the time Luke was 11 years old until his second year of college, when his parents moved for his father to pastor Leesburg Baptist Church. His mother was church secretary for Clarke-Venable Baptist Church for several years, continuing on as secretary for Rev. Stan Buckley when he moved from CVBC. Luke’s parents recently retired and moved back to Union.

Luke played trumpet in the Newton County High School Band, sang in the choir, danced in the Vivace show choir and played tennis, before graduating in 2002. He went on to East Central, earning his Associate of Arts degree in Music Education in 2005 and his Associate of Science in Collision Repair in 2007. When I asked how he decided on the collision repair degree, he told me of a mission trip he took with the Baptist Student Union to New Hampshire. There was nothing particular said on the trip about it, but somehow, he explained, “It was weird—that desire was set in my heart during that trip.”

He worked for Charlie Beddingfield of Perfection Collision for about a year, then for Marshall Ford of Union for 2½ years, doing body work and paint work. In August of 2010, Luke began teaching collision repair at East Central, where a class consists of about 20 students per year. He teaches the basics of body and paint repair. He also has a co-teacher, Mrs. Whitney Amis, who teaches basic math and English for the Mi-BEST program, which offers qualifying students a chance to better themselves, allowing them to enroll in Collision Repair classes at the same time as earning their high school equivalency degree.

He told me of the sense of fulfillment he receives from his teaching, calling it “a mission field.” He has students three semesters. Luke commented, “I get to know them, have one-on-one time to talk about life, things they’re going through. I get to see them afterwards and give advice on cars.” He declared, “I enjoy building a relationship with students.”

Aubrie Cleveland Howell was born Dec. 24, 1984, to Bobby and Denise Cleveland of Union. Her father was one of the Clevelands who owned and operated Tri-C Wood Products. She has one sister Deann Cleveland, who works for Youth for Christ International and lives in Montana. Aubrie attended Union schools and graduated with distinction in 2003. I had to drag accolades out of her that she earned in high school.  She was a color guard member in the band, a cheerleader, Homecoming Queen, Miss Union High School, and was State Beta Club secretary for one year, the year Mr. King spoke at the Coliseum and several high schools in the area.

She earned her cosmetology license at East Central in 2004, then married Luke Oct. 30. Their first child, Jacob, was born Aug. 31, 2004, and Annley was born March 17, 2008. Aubrie worked at Kathrin’s Beauty Shop in Union until she and Luke built her own shop by their house on Highway 492 in 2015. In 2007 she earned her Associate of Arts in Business at East Central, then went through the one-year cosmetology teacher training in 2012, before becoming instructor and manager in 2017 at the East Central Cosmetology School, where she teaches hair, skin and nail services.  She said, “I do a little of everything.” Men and women and in this area have benefitted from the cosmetology school services for many years, and Aubrie is carrying on in that tradition.

In 2005, Luke served as music minister for about a year at Linwood Baptist church, before becoming youth minister at Noxapater Baptist Church from 2006 through 2011. He spoke of this time, saying, “I built some relationships with some kids I still talk to. We took some youth trips. I saw some kids converted to Christ and saw some relationships with Christ grow. It was a good time in my life.”

I asked why he left it, to which he explained, “I felt a draw back into music.” He started working at East Central and was friends with Pastor Keith Ramage of Beulah Baptist Church, who began asking him about his next move. Their music minister left, so in January of 2011 Luke went to be music minister at Beulah Baptist. He replied to my questions, “I am really, really enjoying Beulah. We have a blend of hymns and contemporary music, with a choir and a praise team to lead worship.” Rev. Gary Rivers, the present pastor of Beulah Baptist, told me, “Luke has taken the music to another level since I’ve been here. They also help with the youth program. They’re just good people.”

Jacob Howell is 14 and in the ninth grade this year at Union High School. A catcher on the baseball team, he plays saxophone with the Pride of Union band. Jacob also sings with the Beta talent group headed to nationals in Oklahoma City June 14-18. Jacob Howell, Claire Hennington and LaCee Bishop are the three leading singers in a group with 30 dancers from Union High School. 

Annley is 11 and will be in the sixth grade at Union. She plays trumpet in the band and is active in gymnastics. She has also participated in Bible buddies and Bible drills since kindergarten.

Getting back to the Howells’ Christian testimonies, Aubrie told me she was raised in church. She went on to explain, “I knew I was saying and doing what was expected, but I knew I didn’t have my heart right. The Lord had been working on me before, and then I went forward at the Neshoba County Coliseum that night and made my profession of faith.”

Luke said, “My whole life I chalked up myself as being a Christian because of being a preacher’s kid. That night he talked about, ‘It’s not a family member that gets you to heaven, but having a relationship with Christ. It’s not knowing all the church answers but having a true relationship.’”

Again, both Luke and Aubrie were saved that night but didn’t even know each other at the time.

The Howells spoke of the many ways God has used East Central Community College

to play a part in their lives, and I can see the many ways He is using the Howells to touch and impact many lives in Newton County, as well as Decatur and ECCC.

Live for Jesus! He’s Coming Soon!

You may contact me at lagnesrussell@gmail or 601-635-3282.