In the short time he has lived in the area, Edward Maher has made an impact on the Christian community in St. Clair.
Maher and his wife Cheryl started attending Mercy Ministries Church soon after they moved to the area to be closer to their daughter.
Maher developed a Bible studies class for the church and started out teaching one class and over time.
The program has quickly grown to five classes with six teachers including himself. The Bible college is open to the public.
When he’s not busy teaching, Maher said he occupies his time with his writing, which includes poetry, memoirs, a 30-chapter biblical syllabus for his class and five books.
“A lot of my writing is what I’ll use as handouts in my classes,” he said.
Maher noted that he was a “late bloomer” to Christianity because he “didn’t accept Christ” until he was 35.
“When I did, I went all the way,” he added.
Maher and his wife have been together for almost 50 years.
“I’m thinking about renewing her contract for another 50 years,” he said.
Air Force, Career
Maher was born and raised in Illinois. He graduated from high school in Belleville.
From 1962-66, Maher served in the United States Air Force as a ground radio operator. He also was part of the strategic air command.
The strategic air command “no longer exists, but it used to be the premier air defense at the time,” he said.
“I was really proud of the fact to be in the strategic air command,” he added.
When he was stationed in Alaska, Maher said he mainly communicated with fighter pilots, in addition to taking weather reports and “doing whatever I was told.”
He mentioned a meaningful friendship he developed while in Alaska.
“One of my bosses turned out to be like an older brother to me. I really cherish that friendship,” he said.
Maher later became a buck sergeant and communicated with B52s and refuelers.
While in the service, he kept in mind a piece of advice from his father who was a World War II veteran: “Stay in the middle, keep your mouth shut.”
“He was right,” Maher said.
After his time in the service, Maher started working for Union Pacific Railroad in St. Louis. He was a senior database analysis and project engineer. In 1999, he retired after 33 years.
“For a lot of years, I wore two hats,” he said. “One being a full-time railroad employee and the other one as a pastor.”
For 19 years, Maher has been a pastor. He was ordained in 1990. He also was a reporter for the Bunker Hill Gazette News in Illinois.
Maher and his wife were part of team ministry at their former church. Maher also a seminary professor for 14 years.
Through their former church, the couple went on several mission trips.
“We belonged to a church that was very missions oriented, not only just giving to missions, but actually going,” he said. “I’ve always said that once a person goes to a foreign country the first time, they’ll either never go again or it’ll get in their blood. And it got in our blood.”
In 1990, the couple spent two weeks in India and one week in Thailand. While in India, they were guest speakers at crusades and taught Christianity. In Thailand, they taught at Christ for the Nations.
“India was an amazing place,” Maher said. The culture was so different.”
He told a story where he and Cheryl, and their host pastor and his daughter were walking through a crowded southern city in India. He said people were staring at them as they passed by. Maher asked the pastor’s daughter why people were staring at them.
She responded with “It’s not often they get to see pink people,” Maher said.
He also talked about the main mode of transportation there, rickshaws or “rickies.” They are three-wheeled bikes with carriages used to transport people.
“I was just fascinated by the culture over there,” he said.
Additionally, Maher said he has been to Mexico five times on prison ministry, twice to the Island of Grenada and Costa Rica. Last year, he and wife went to Israel on vacation.
“That was a most memorable (trip) because I had been teaching (the) Old Testament about Israel for many years – 30 years plus – but once you go and you see it, it really comes alive,” Maher said.
He added that it is worth a trip there.
“The old city of Jerusalem is an amazing place,” he said.