My earliest memory was waking up in the middle of the night, feeling very sick, and feeling very helpless, opening my eyes to see the concerned yet loving look on my father’s face. I almost died of pneumonia that night, my parents tell me.
I spent many years thinking I was a Christian, growing up primarily in a large Lutheran church. I loved the outdoors when I was young, and that love grew throughout my life culminating in a desire to be a “mountain man” when I was in high school. I also loved school, with the reading and writing involved. That climaxed in 6th grade with my favorite teacher, Mr. Douglas, who was also an outdoorsman. It was also that year that I first felt that I’d like to be a pastor. It wasn’t long, however, before that desire took backseat.
In junior high I began getting involved with the boy scouts, and that became my life. Church faded. The outdoors scene became even more highlighted, yet God was working even in my distancing of myself from Him. The times of community service made me feel good, and the times of helping younger scouts was fulfilling. I remember being confirmed in the Lutheran church, but it didn’t impact me. There was a youth retreat that I attended during that time, and that left a lasting impression on me, but I didn’t take the experience to heart.
After High School, I joined the USMC and the pride that was built took the place of the need I had felt at times for God. Except for one afternoon on the way to a scuba diving spot in a small boat. A storm suddenly hit my diving partner and I, and swamped the boat. My partner swam desperately for shore, while I clung to the turned over boat, hoping somebody would find me but knowing my partner would probably never make it to shore. That time out in the ocean looped me back to the feeling of helplessness I had as a young child. I was very afraid, not knowing for sure if God would welcome me to heaven. Yet, even after being rescued by men I was not ready to be rescued by God.
After meeting Kristi and having our first son, God used the birth of Colter to open my eyes to the miracle of His hand. During that time He also used the outdoors to remind me of his powerful creativity. He used my first teaching job, in a Christian school (I thought I really was a Christian) to bring me fully to Himself. After doing some Bible study of my own and studying for Bible and chapel lessons, as well as listening to Christian music at the prompting of my favorite coworker and friend, Carol Mielke, I came to a genuine converting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Things began to change in me. I began to love His word. I began to love His people in a genuine way. I grew in my love for worship and worship music. After moving to a new teaching position and being exposed to the vision of the C&MA in the little local church there, Kristi and I both went forward to the altar one night to commit our lives publicly to Jesus Christ and dedicate ourselves to His service. We have been serving ever since.
The first significant person to teach me what service to God meant was Pastor Gayle Fleming. He helped Kristi and I to start a youth program at church. He encouraged me in leading worship, even though it terrified me. Eventually, he and his wife helped us to prepare for the mission field, and during my first year overseas I sensed the clear and compelling call to pastoral ministry.
Since those days we have followed God's call to many places, and He has given us rich opportunities in service and enabled us to meet wonderful people with whom we will spend eternity. We look forward to days ahead as we enjoy abundant life today.