Retiring Mayor Bob Freeman was placed at center stage during the annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon, a position in which he has often found himself during his almost 12 years as the leader of Van Buren.

Hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Van Buren, the 14th annual event was at Butterfield Assembly of God Church on Tuesday and featured city council member Alan Swaim as the keynote speaker.

“I believe my purpose in life as directed by God was to step up and become leader of our town,” Freeman said. “I believe it was what God had prepared me to do.”

Freeman said he had been told not to say that God had a hand in his decisions, because no one wanted to hear that.

“God prepared me not to hide my life under a basket,” Freeman said, “and I will not do it.”

What’s next for Freeman?

“I am not finished yet,” he said. “Decisions will have to be made, but I know that God will be with me every step of the way.”

Prior to Freeman taking the stage, a six-minute video from his son David, an Army captain, was played.

David Freeman said his father took over the leadership of the city during an economic slowdown with a vision to set the city up for success in the future.

“With the help of community leaders, my dad has laid down a vision for the future by driving that train time and time again,” David Freeman said. “I am sure he had his frustrations, but he persevered to build a better city for the next decade and beyond. Well done, Dad.”

In his introduction of Bob Freeman, City Planner Joe Hurst also had praise for the mayor.

“As an insider, I can tell you he has done a remarkable job,” said Hurst, who so far has been the only candidate to announce his intentions to replace Freeman.

Swaim shared how “the Lord has blessed my life after a humble beginning” on the north side of Fort Smith.

“The Lord puts angels in our life,” he said, “and the first was my mom.”

Swaim went on to detail how his baseball coaches had steered him from the line he was teetering on to become a good person.

“My coach basically saved my life when I was 15,” he said.

“The biggest angel has been my wife Debbie, who I met at Northside High School in 1968 and married shortly after graduation,” Swaim said. The Swaims recently celebrated their 49th anniversary.

“I have had the greatest life with a family that gives me a goal to live,” Swaim said. “And, God helps me get through the pain, which is nothing like the pain Jesus Christ suffered when he died on the cross for our sins.”

Proceeds from the Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon help support the Kiwanis Club and its efforts to promote character and leadership skills with the K-Kids programs in Van Buren elementary schools.

At the luncheon, Pastor Patrick Kimberland of Butterfield Church gave the invocation. The flags were presented by the Van Buren High School Pointer Battalion and Logan Marie Baker and Mattilyne Baker sang the National Anthem. K-Kid member Jayden Brown led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pastor Daniel Stewart of North Park Baptist Church prayed for community and state leaders.

All pastors attending the lunch offered a special prayer for Freeman before Pastor Wes Hilliard of Heritage United Methodist Church gave the closing prayer.