After my summer serving in Bryce Canyon National Park, as a student minister with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, I returned to start my second semester at Manhattan Christian College. Things were going alright, but I sensed that I needed to do more than just attend school.
A job posting for a part time youth minister was put up on the bulletin board for a church in Soldier, Kansas. I was excited for the possibility of working in a church, working with youth, and putting into practice that which I was learning. I interviewed for the position and eventually was offered my first church job.
For those of you who don’t know where Soldier is, you’re not alone. The population of Soldier is 140. Just for reference, the population of the Seattle-area is 3.7 million. The church and parsonage were located on the only paved road in town, and all the town had was a post office, a community building, and a bar. The congregation was made up of mostly farmers, and it was quite a culture shock. I am a city boy through-and-through, so learning about harvest, driving on dirt roads, and country music was all new to me.
But the people. The people in that church were amazing. They welcomed me into their church as one of their own. They loved me and cared for me in ways I can I never repay. They were also very forgiving of a young minister still in Bible college!
I made a lot of mistakes while there – probably more mistakes than successes – yet I knew God’s hand was in it. The small group of youth I had were committed to God and it was a blessing to be with them. In fact, I am still in contact with many from that group today.
God taught me a lot about humility while I was there, and he showed me that it’s alright to not know it all. I wish that I would have learned that lesson completely while I was there, but I’m still learning to this day. Practically speaking, I learned a lot about farming, rode a horse for the first time, and learned that I’m allergic to ragweed. The senior minister at the time, Richard Schafer, also taught me a lot.
I was (am) a bit stubborn at times, but Richard stayed committed to me, even when I wasn’t. The greatest gift he gave me, however, was the gift of helping those in grief. He taught me more about the grieving process and providing meaningful funeral services than anyone else. To this day I am thankful for him when I am able to help people through those tough times.
There were many families that welcomed us into their homes and into their lives. I am forever grateful to people like the Marmetts, Hollidays, Rieschicks, Penrods, Dursts, Dennys, and Williams.
This time in my life was also important because it is when I met and married my bride, Lori. We met in Manhattan and fell in love. She had also felt a call to ministry, and God was leading us down complementary paths. I will never forget when the church hosted a couples wedding shower for us and my task was to change a diaper, something I had not done before. The women were aghast when I accidentally banged the baby doll’s head against the table as I changed it. (I have since improved!)
I was ordained to the ministry on September 10, 2000, at Soldier Christian Church. The elders there laid hands on me and sealed me for ministry, affirming publicly what God had affirmed to me years before.
I was in Soldier for 3 years, and it is a time I will never forget. I left Soldier to go back to the Seattle-area, to spend time with my grandmother who was dying from Alzheimer’s. I didn’t go right into ministry when I got back, but I was an active volunteer in my church. I ended up working and eventually being a manager of a 13 screen movie theatre, an adventure all its own. Through it all, I knew that God had a plan, and that I would eventually be in full time ministry again.