December , 2018

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By Chinta Strausberg



 A woman who wears many hats including being a prominent Gold Coast dentist for the past 25-years, a third generation PK, a First Lady, an associate pastor, a natural products business owner and worldwide skincare consultant, Dr.  Zenobia Lady Sowell also makes time to care for U.S. veterans.


 Dr. Sowell is also the wife and co-pastor to Rev. Tony Bianchi, senior pastor of the Bethel Mennonite Community Church, 1434 S. Laflin, in Chicago that was once headed by her late father, Rev. Leamon Riley Sowell. She and her husband are also “church planters.”  Over the past 16 years she and her dental team regularly visit Ghana, West Africa to conduct voluntary outreach/services to these church plant areas. She and Rev. Bianchi have been married for more than 18-years and have two daughters; the oldest is a fashion designer in London and the younger is an airline pilot with a British and FAA license. Dr. Sowell has also mothered 12 children from the church.


 Despite juggling three businesses, she and her husband along with their outreach team have conducted community development projects in the remote villages and regions of Ghana.  “We ship buildings (prefab buildings) to Ghana and go teach them how to erect them with our U.S. team builders,” she said. Each building has the capacity to hold over 200 people and serves as both a worship, educational and community center. The couple raised money for this church project through collaboration with other   “global mission-minded” Christians who have a passion for spreading the gospel and the love of Christ. They travel to Israel and the Caribbean’s as well.


 Born on Chicago’s West Side to a family of five, Dr. Sowell is the oldest of four girls and has one older brother. Her mother, Luessie Barbara Sowell, a nurse, was born in Wichita, Kansas, and father, Rev. Leamon  Sowell, born in Nashville TN, was a pastor of several churches including the Church of God and the Bethel Mennonite Community Church where he was pastor for almost 20-years.


 At the age of 5, Dr. Sowell knew she wanted to become a dentist. The idea germinated while Sowell was in kindergarten. Her best girlfriend’s father was a dentist and she would often visit and observe him caring for his patients.  “He was so kind and passionate about dentistry; I thought that this was something I would love to do, so I told my parents, and they supported me all the way until it became a reality” reflected Sowell.


Because Sowell had enlightened parents, they wanted all of their children to be bold and adventurous, so  Zenobia, at the age of 5, was sponsored by her church to participate in “Fresh Air,“ an exchange program  between inner city children and Christian farm families in Indiana or Iowa, during their formative years.  As a result of this program, Dr. Sowell developed a lifelong friendship with the Graber family (Crawfordsville, Iowa) that she enjoys and treasures to this day. Those family members living in Chicago are also her patients.


 Dr. Sowell grew up in Maywood and graduated from Proviso East High School. She went on to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana majoring in chemistry. After college she worked as a cancer research biologist at IIT Research Institute in Chicago for two years. Sowell then went to The Ohio State where she enrolled in the College of Dentistry and completed her Doctorate in Dental Surgery. She spent one-year at Case Western Reserve University School of Dentistry where she received a post graduate certificate in cosmetic/esthetic dentistry. (Creating Hollywood Smiles)


In August 2011, Dr. Sowell was installed and crowned “Queen Mother” by the King in the eastern region of Ghana, West Africa. This honor and installation was prompted by her numerous humanitarian services in that part of the country, such as church planting, voluntary medical and dental services, clean water and well-digging projects, financial aid, education and supplies, medical and pharmaceutical supplies, and pre-fabricated buildings.  As Queen Mother, she looks out for the welfare of that region and has access to the land. Dr. Sowell plans to build an elementary school and a health center there.

Dr. Sowell’s relationship and commitment to Christ and love for the Word of God led to her being called to serve God in a new dimension. After receiving her calling, and while maintaining her busy dental practice, Dr. Sowell attended the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at the Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA, which was founded in 1865 to educate freed slaves. After a three-year program (A collaborative degree program between Virginia Union and the Chicago-Based Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education- SCUPE), she earned a Master’s of Divinity.


 When asked why she wanted to become a minister, Dr. Sowell said, “It was a ‘Samuel-like’ specific call. I literally heard my name. I had no intention of going back to school for any formal theological education.  I had always considered dentistry to be my calling. Although I knew I was being prepared for a new level of ministry, I didn’t know the details.” Sowell pulled her first tooth in Haiti while a freshman in dental school, where as a volunteer she pulled more than 1,000 teeth in three-weeks while in Port-au-Prince.


Initially, in 1988, Dr. Sowell opened her own practice in the now defunct Hyde Park Hospital, which later became Doctor’s Hospital in. After five-years and after the hospital went through bankruptcy, she asked a friend to find her a new location. Sowell has been at 1122 North Clark for the past 20-years.


 “I call this location my faith corner,” Sowell said. “My father’s legacy was faith. He did things most people would not venture to do because he believed if he asked God for something, God would supply his every need.”


 Explaining, Sowell said when she was about 3-years-old, her father’s car broke down. He went to the Clark and Maple dealership (Now Fletcher-Jones) located on the Near North Side.  With a leap of faith, “he told them that he was a pastor, needed a car and that he had just lost his job. He told them he had a wife, two children and a church and really needed a car, although he had no money to buy a car!


 “The man laughed at him telling my father,  ‘We’re in the business of selling cars, not giving them away,’ and he walked away from him.” The salesman came back 10-minutes later and handed him the keys to a new car. Sowell said her father bought a house the same way, no money down, just faith, and in 20 years he never missed a payment. Providentially and Ironically, Dr. Sowell’s practice is in the same block where her father took his leap of faith over 50 years ago.


Dr. Sowell has always been a dreamer. She recalls how the Lord prepared her for her father’s death through a series of dreams. She was going to a continuing education course in Nashville, TN. “I dreamt on three consecutive nights that my dad had died.”  An audible voice told her that her dad was ‘just resting.’  


In her last dream in November 1986, her dad called the family to the dining room table giving each of his children their assignment. “He spoke to me last and handed me an unlit torch. When our hands met and I took the torch, the flame lit.” At that time she was not attending her father’s church. Her father passed in 1987. It wasn’t until she entered seminary that she understood the significance of that dream and how it meant she was to carry on his mission. Her husband is now senior pastor of her father’s church. Her dad was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute before she was born and always wanted to be a missionary in Africa. She is now fulfilling that dream.


 With nine employees, Dr. Sowell, has a very diverse professional and clerical staff and is blessed to have such a committed team. Her associate doctors bring a wonderful international experience and flavor to the practice from the Middle East, Israel, India and Peru as well as her African American, Polish, and Anglo support staff. After being featured in a Groupon ad several years ago, Sowell was amazed; because in 24-hours she acquired 1600 new patients. “It was pleasantly overwhelming, so I had to hire another doctor and another hygienist to support and take the best care of our growing practice.”


 Dr. Sowell has a second business, Univera, that she offers and has incorporated into her dental practice, which is a cell renewal program that keeps your body young and strong. “We renew more than 300 billion cells a day and we can either renew them with healthy cells or unhealthy cells,” she said.


Besides giving you a beautiful smile and a healthy mouth, Dr. Sowell is also a partner with the world-renowned Birgie Dombrowski, a level five executive consultant with the Rodan & Fields Company, the creators of Proactive for skin care, and is also known for its famous healthy, anti-age comprehensive skin care regimen that actually erases the lines of time.


 You can reach Dr. Sowell at: 312-944-9355 or click on: www.sowelldentalassociates@yahoo.com , univera.com


Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com. 

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