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Rev. Thomas E. J. Prachar

When I was five or six-years-old, our extended family would often gather for meals to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Being the youngest in the group around that time, I was always asked to pray before our meal. And so I prayed the table prayer taught to me by my mother, a prayer that I still use today. When I was finished, my grandmother would inevitably say, “He’s going to make a fine pastor some day!” I recall that I would frown, and think that I wanted to be a policeman or fireman, or anyone else more interesting than a pastor!

I believe it was then that the seed was planted. That notion of becoming a pastor was nurtured by Christian parents and God-parents who subtly encouraged my Christian growth in faith and life. They gave me the gifts of a Bible and hymnal, and generally put me in situations where a shy boy and youth spoke in front of strangers. When I was in confirmation class, I became friends with my pastor’s son. We ended up running off Sunday’s bulletin, folding it, and inserting it in the members’ mailboxes. Since I was not a “PK” (“preacher’s kid”), that friendship gave me a behind-the-scenes look at life in the parsonage. I discovered that they faced all the same problems that my family did.
My church had a good youth group at that time. My pastor, Rev. Raymond Mantynen, even took us on several field trips to Concordia, Ann Arbor, MI. I think that glimpse of studying theology and other subjects in a Christian environment did a lot to entice me to do the same someday.

As I began to more seriously consider studying for the pastoral ministry. I wasn’t sure if I was “pastor material” because of my shyness, and nervousness speaking before people. I was also concerned that I did not have the financial resources to undertake such a journey of study. My mother confided that if God wanted me to be a pastor, He would provide the money to make it happen. With sacrifices by my parents and good-paying summer jobs that came my way, I was blessed to attend college and seminary debt-free. This was indeed a blessing because I didn’t need a part-time job while at seminary, but could focus my time and effort on my studies.

When I set my sights on being a pastor, my home pastor would occasionally have me read a lesson or two in the Divine Service. One summer I helped him for a few weeks with some door-to-door evangelism.
While attending Concordia, Ann Arbor for two years, and then Concordia Senior College for another two years, I had my Greek and Hebrew language foundations solidly set in place. What a blessing to arrive at seminary with such a good start in the Biblical languages! At the seminary (St. Catharines), my favourite classes were in exegetics and homiletics. I loved to be able to really dig in to the Biblical texts! God was able to take that study, together with my limited creativity, and enable me to produce sermons that I hoped would touch people with the answer they needed for life’s problems.
One of my greatest joys in the ministry is teaching an Adult Instruction class. It is gratifying to engage in discussion with people who are seeking answers to the bigger questions of life now and hereafter. It is quite an experience to witness someone have an “Ah, ha!” moment when it comes to their eternal salvation.

As I continue to serve in whatever capacity my Lord desires of me in His church, I will always remember the phrase “sin and grace—my sin and God’s grace.” Throughout my life and ministry, I have brought Him my sin and have received my Saviour’s free and wonderful grace: His undeserved love shown to me through His cross and empty tomb.
That’s what I’ve tried to tell others throughout my ministry.

Rev. William R. A. Ney

I began thinking about the Holy Ministry when I was in Grade 5 and asked by my teacher to write a speech on what I wanted to be when I grew up. After talking it over with my parents who suggested the ministry among several other options, I decided to write the speech on becoming a Lutheran Pastor. I won a competition in my school, and from that point on set my sights on becoming a Pastor. Along the way, especially during my Confirmation Instruction my Pastor, Rev. Phil Fiess, strongly encouraged me to attend Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan and to prepare for the ministry. Other Pastors and Vicars that followed Rev. Fiess also provided lots of encouragement.

Other concerns of a worldly nature, like making money, sought to derail my studies but by God’s grace and blessing I completed my studies and entered the Holy Ministry in 1973.

God gave me a deep burning in my heart for the unchurched…unbelievers… and so I have always been very much “mission-minded”. Life experiences working at Kroehler Furniture Mfg. Co, the Canadian National Railway, cleaning offices, Night Manager at a Restaurant and even working at a Dairy Queen in Stratford, Ontario all helped me to grow in my understanding of people, of human nature and was enabled to see first-hand how the average person in his or her life absolutely needs Jesus Christ, not just a knowledge that there is a God. Attending the Seminary, for me, it was like being in heaven already. The Professors, the students, the learning and the growth in spirituality all made it difficult to leave and go out into the Mission Field…into the world.
At the Seminary God always provided the funds that I needed for school and living expenses, even after Diane and I were married in 1970. The Ontario District provided a scholarship that covered most of the Tuition, Diane worked at a Day Care and I did some part time work doing tune-ups, break jobs, engine rebuilds etc. on faculty and student vehicles.

My greatest fears were that I would not have the scholastic ability to complete the preparation work at the Seminary since it required so much memorization, intellectual ability, time and effort. I also initially worried about having the funds, not wanting to leave the Seminary with debt. But God provided for all of this in amazing ways, even leading individuals to provide small cheques at times when we were broke. We always had enough money for food and rent and for gas to get us to the churches that we were assigned to for Field Work experience and exited the Seminary with no debt.

Although the ministry over 40 years now has been full of huge challenges, Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord has provided for all that I needed intellectually, spiritually and materially to do the work required of me and live comfortably. There are no words to describe the joy of watching children come to faith (including my own son and daughter) or be strengthened in their faith through Confirmation Instruction, or to see adults grow in their faith and trust in God through regular Bible study and worship.

But the greatest joys have been on the mission field! There I witnessed God fulfilling His promise that His Word would not return empty but would accomplish that for which He sends it. There on the Mission Field in Russia, Ukraine, Thailand and northern Canada I personally saw with my own eyes literal miracles as God provided all that I needed in order to bring His Gospel to those people and as God provided for people’s greatest need, to know Christ Jesus as their Saviour. No greater joy can be imagined than to see a person, struggling with little or no faith, respond to the Holy Spirit’s urging through the proclamation of the Gospel, with a commitment to love and honour God with his or her life and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for his or her salvation.

I cannot conceive of another occupation that is more fulfilling and spiritually strengthening or more of a blessing than that of the Office of the Holy Ministry despite its many challenges and opposition by the “old evil foe”. I look forward to continue serving Christ and His people until the day God calls me to my heavenly home which Jesus purchased and won for me with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. There simply is not a more fulfilling calling or rewarding job on earth than that of Pastor/Missionary for Christ.

Rev. Daryl Solie

I started seriously thinking about entering the pastoral ministry in my last year of university at the University of Regina.  While there was no specific person who spoke to me I was certainly encouraged by the pastors I had at that time, such as Rev. Brian Dill, Rev. Irwin Pudrycki and Rev. Dennis Aubey, all of whom served at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Regina.  One of my professors in university, Dr. Roland Miller, was also a great encouragement to me.

Finances were certainly a challenge.  God provided me with the means by way of a summer job, a couple of small student loans and some funds from my congregation.

Informal preparation came mostly by way of the Christian friends I associated with and the pastors that I had who were wonderful servants with caring hearts.  God also gave me the desire to serve Him and other people.  I now believe this was the work of the Holy Spirit although I didn’t necessarily see that at the time.  I just knew I wanted to serve God and others.  In terms of formal preparation my seminary experience provided me with a solid grounding in Lutheran theology and practice which, obviously, is essential to serve in the Holy Ministry.  If there was any surprise it would have only been that the work load was heavier than I had expected.  However, with God’s help, I was able to complete my seminary education in 1986.

He blessed me with a wonderful wife who was able to work while I was going to school.   As noted above I also had a summer job waiting for me each year as soon as I was done school.  As a result I was able to complete seminary debt free, which was a blessing as well.

I think my greatest fear came at the time of my vicarage since I was serving a three point parish on my own in northern Saskatchewan, only meeting with my vicarage supervisor once a month.  In spite of my concern, God blessed me greatly during that year and helped me meet the challenges of serving His people during my vicarage.  While it was not the sort of vicarage I would recommend, in my case, it was definitely a year of great personal growth and learning.


Certainly, one of the greatest joys is preaching and teaching.  It is also a real joy to be part of people’s lives during some of the high points (baptisms, confirmations, marriages, anniversaries, etc.).  In addition, although “joy” may not be the best word, it is certainly a great privilege to be part of people’s lives at some of their lowest moments such as when they may have experienced loss through death or other means.  Being able to bring the Word of God to all of these situations is both a joy, as well as a great privilege.  Being in a position to assure a guilt ridden conscience that their sins are forgiven through Jesus is a particularly profound and deeply meaningful part of serving in the Holy Ministry.

Vicar Aaron Astley

As a pastor’s kid there were always people telling me that I should become a pastor when I grow up just like my dad. Because I have a stubborn personality and don’t like people telling me what to do I quickly dismissed the possibility that I could ever be a pastor. I worked hard to convince myself and everyone else who suggested it that being a pastor was not an option for me. I hated public speaking, it terrified me, and so there was no way I could do that job.
But as I went off to the University of Alberta to study to be a teacher the inkling that maybe I should go to seminary never really left me. The farther I got into my degree the more I realized that being a teacher wasn’t for me and that God may be calling me in a different direction.
I was still terrified of the prospect of going to seminary and possibly becoming a pastor, but God worked in wonderful ways to encourage me and guide me to where I am today. While I was in university my wife Leah and I began dating and got married. She was a huge support and encouragement for me as I faced all of these unknowns and big decisions. I also had many family members who were quick to encourage me and give me guidance along the way. God has blessed me in many ways with a wonderfully supportive family.
Most importantly though, I was reminded of our Heavenly Father’s words to Joshua as he assumed leadership over the Israelites after Moses died. The LORD said to Joshua, “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Joshua was called to an overwhelming task, leading God’s people into the Promised Land, but God promised to be with him in His Word and to strengthen him. The important thing was what God would do through Joshua, not what Joshua could or could not do.
I took comfort from this knowing that if God was calling me to serve His people as a pastor that He would equip me for this task. I can see many reasons why I am not qualified for this kind of work, but my abilities are not important. Instead the focus is on what God is doing for His people. I am only through two years of seminary, but I have seen many ways that God has given me the ability to do what is required. The task of preaching, which once terrified me, has become one of my greatest joys in this work. On vicarage I now have the joy of serving a wonderful little congregation that continually supports me and encourages me in my growth.
There are many obstacles that appear as one considers going to seminary and the possibility of becoming a pastor. Do I have the skills that are required? Can I afford four more years of schooling? What about my family? And the list goes on and on, but God works through the seminary to meet these needs. Financial assistance from districts and the seminaries helps to lessen the burden of tuition and book costs, the seminary community and families encourage one another through what can be difficult times. But most importantly, God works through the seminaries to equip men to serve in the ministry. Although I did not think that I was up to this task God works in wonderful ways to equip men for this work.
The road to and through seminary is not an easy one, but it is a wonderful blessing to be given the chance to proclaim Christ, His death, and His resurrection to God’s people.

Miriam Winstanley

It was interesting that as the daughter of a pastor, church work was not really on the list of things I wanted to do when I grew up. I was pretty single-minded about wanting to be a social worker, and I was privileged to work in that vocation for nearly 20 years. I had the blessing of being raised by faithful Christian parents who brought me to worship and Sunday School, taught me to love God’s Word and my catechism, and modeled to me service in Christ’s Church. I was able to be active in whatever congregation I was a part of – serving as organist, Sunday School teacher, choir director, board member and chair – and in every role there was someone, whether it was pastor or lay person, to offer encouragement and training. I learned early on about some of the joys and struggles of serving in the church.

In 1999 I accepted a full-time position at Prince of Peace Village, but it wasn’t until the principal of the school, and later my pastor, spoke with me about the possibility of training to become a deaconess that the idea of full-time church work became real to me (up to then I had only ever thought of Lutheran teacher as an option, and somehow that idea never took hold). Even then, the application for colloquy sat on my dresser for about 2 years before it was submitted. Was I too old? How would I manage the course work if I couldn’t be on campus? What about my family (my husband owns a small business and my three children were still in school)? Could we afford the tuition?

Even with all the questions, the desire to pursue church work did not abate, and my husband and children were supportive. I tested the waters by doing the first course (Old Testament) by correspondence with Concordia University River Forest in 2002-2003. New Testament followed, and I could see God at work making a way for this to be done. I submitted the colloquy application while I was completing my third correspondence course, was accepted, worked out with Dr. Paul Schoepp what courses had yet to be completed, and over the next 4 years, took one course a semester. All but one could be done through Concordia University College Alberta in hybrid delivery (that meant that I could do them from Calgary). I commuted to Edmonton weekly for one course. During this time, I was able to work as Secretary and Music Assistant at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where I was now a member. The congregation and its pastors supported my studies, and encouraged me on this path.

The next hurdle was internship. I was anxious about the possibility of being separated from my family during that year, but blessedly, I was placed at Foothills Lutheran in Calgary. There was the same anxiety about my first assignment, but I was privileged to be able to continue to serve at Foothills. In the end, my Lord graciously answered every question and concern for both myself and my family.

It has been three years since I was placed as DPS at Foothills. My primary role is in the area of Children and Family Ministry. What a privilege it is to encourage parents in their God-given role of nurturing the faith planted in their children in Holy Baptism, and what a joy it is to see those children grow in Christ. How wonderful to work with committed volunteers in our Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and to see them grow right alongside of their young students. Our God is gracious and merciful, and in spite of my failings, sees that His work is accomplished for the sake of His beloved. I give thanks every day that He has made me part of that work.

Margaret Towriss

My Amazing Journey as a Lutheran School Teacher

Whether I knew it or not, my life’s journey was totally directed and under God’s control. I was born into a Christian family. My father was a Lutheran pastor and I attended a Lutheran Elementary School until high school. During my high school years there were two main streams of career opportunities. One stream was to go to university to become a teacher or a nurse, the other was to go into the business field. Nursing was my career choice right up to the time of my high school graduation. During the summer I changed my mind about nursing and chose instead to become a teacher. I registered (rather late, I might add) at Concordia College at Edmonton, Alberta and miraculously I was accepted. I don’t remember that I had thought about being a teacher before that at all.

I also do not recall any one really encouraging me to become a teacher, but looking back I see how God and the people around me certainly provided many opportunities for me to appreciate learning and engage in teaching experiences. I learned a lot from my father, a Lutheran pastor and teacher. He was my grade school teacher from grade one – to grade three. He taught students from grade one to eight in a one room school (the church on Sunday) at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Brightview, (Usona) Alberta. I saw how he cared deeply for each child and their families always demonstrating the love of God, I saw him engage students of different ages and interests with many creative teaching techniques such as open-ended learning, story-telling, hands on experiences (which I remember to this day) etc. Two years before I had to take confirmation class I sat in on his confirmation lessons because I loved the way he told stories, the way he used illustrations to help kids understand the Word of God and the way he encouraged his students to get excited about learning. After I was confirmed I taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, helped with Christmas Eve Sunday School programs, attended youth group, played the piano and organ for church services etc. I was a sponge taking in God’s greatness daily. At the time I didn’t know and I didn’t appreciate the many ways I was being prepared for my life as God’s servant.

Once I was accepted into Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta my studies and path changed to becoming a Lutheran School teacher. I attended Concordia College one year (1960-61) and then transferred to Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska, from which I graduated in 1964. I found the college in Nebraska to be an excellent school of learning. Besides helping me gain both spiritual and earthly knowledge I also learned many practical teaching techniques and had an excellent practicum experience in Salem Lutheran School, Saint Louis, Missouri.

Most of my experiences and memories of schooling before receiving my degree from Seward are wonderful to recall. Yes, I was far away from home, and yes I was living in a foreign country, and yes the Canadian dollar was not highly valued, schooling was expensive and my parents and family gave up a lot for me to attend school but God walked with us and provided. The pros out weighed the cons. I gained so much insight into the American way of life. I have friends throughout the US, and had many positive learning experiences from the conferences and conventions of the Lutheran Education Association in the USA, (an older and more established organization).

After graduation in 1964 I taught grade one in Holy Cross Lutheran School, Collinsville, Illinois for three years. Wages were not that great – about $325.00 a month so during the summer months I went home to work at the Dominion Glass Company, Redcliff, Alberta. In 1966 I married Ron Towriss who at the time was attending Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St. Louis. During the summer months Ron worked to help us make ends meet. We spent two more years in the US so Ron could finish his schooling to become a pastor and I taught in the public school system. In the summer of 1969 we were called to serve the Swift Current Area Parish, Swift Current, and Saskatchewan. While in Swift Current I continued serving the Lord in the church but not in the classroom. In 1986 we moved to Port Coquitlam, BC where I began taking correspondence courses in Early Childhood Education so I could perhaps? someday? open a Lutheran preschool.

My life changed dramatically, however, after I received a call in 1989 to teach kindergarten at Zion Lutheran School, Cloverdale, BC. It was a “God Thing” that took me back to teaching. I had other plans for my life at that time and this was not part of them. I had a lot of reasons why I couldn’t accept the call. I didn’t want to drive so far in the winter, I hadn’t taught for twenty years etc. etc. but after much time in prayer and discussion with others I finally accepted the call to Zion where I taught for seven years. The years I taught at Zion were amazing and very fulfilling. I was back where I belonged. I was in the classroom being challenged and spiritually refreshed daily by the lives of His little children. Still to this day I recall little Russell bouncing into the classroom on a cold rainy morning telling me that it was pretty cold and wet outside, but “Oh well.” He said, “It’s just God, changing the seasons.” How nice to be reminded of that!

God continued preparing me for another step in my journey. In 1996 I was called to be principal and teacher of Hope Lutheran School, Port Coquitlam, BC. Of course this was not in my life plan. Why would I want to accept such a big challenge? I was not experienced in administration, yada, yada, yada! Nevertheless, under God’s gentle persuasion I accepted the call to do the Lord’s work in Port Coquitlam BC. The school began with eight students in 1995, and in 2010 when I retired we had 190 students. Today with the high school the student enrolment is approaching 300. God is still at work.
Most certainly there were many challenges, frustrations and difficult times as I worked in God’s harvest field, but the joys of working with God’s children are quickly forgotten when one sees and hears the unbelievable witness and expressions of faith in Jesus that comes from the mouths of babes and children.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him. “Yes”, replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” Matt. 21:16
There are so many experiences and stories I could tell about the wonders of being about the Lord’s business, but one thing I know is that God chooses and uses us to fulfil His purposes, in spite of our self- centered ways, our weaknesses and failings. He enables our walk with Him to be joyful and refreshed daily as He strengthens us with His miracles of love and grace along the way.

Michael Gillingham

In June 2013, I’ll have completed twenty years of fulltime church work. I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to serve in the church and in the world. God has helped me, guided me, strengthened me and forgiven me on so many occasions. What a good God we serve!

As I look back on my life, I see God at work, gifting me with faith and helping me to know His love. I was baptized as a baby at Valhalla Lutheran Church in Valhalla Centre, Alberta. My parents and grandparents took me to worship regularly. When I was old enough, I attended Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Bible camp. I remember receiving my first Bible when I was in grade 3. I loved to read it and to look at the wonderful pictures of Bible events painted by the artist Richard Hook. When I think about Jesus, I think about Richard Hook’s inspiring paintings. My family was very involved in church and we were often personal friends with our pastors and their families. This helped me to realize that pastors are people, too, who live normal lives with all the challenges and blessings of family life. I very much admired my pastors.

In grade 7, I started Confirmation classes. We studied the Bible narrative in our first year and the catechism in our second year. Our pastor had been a professor at a Bible school so his classes were very instructive and demanding. I remember learning a lot. Confirmation Sunday was a special day for me as I declared my faith in God and promised to love and serve Him all my life. I continued to attend worship and was very involved in youth group. My pastor knew that I played guitar and he asked me to help with music in church from time to time. As I grew older, my pastor encouraged me to consider fulltime church work. I really started to consider the possibilities.

After high school, I toured Canada and parts of the United States with a Christian music ministry team called Morning Star. I learned a lot about the church, about ministry and about serving God as I sang, played guitar and helped with different presentations and events. I also met my wife on the tour. Lynne is a faith-filled Christian woman who has been such an encouragement and support to me. After tour, I went to Concordia College (now Concordia University College) in Edmonton. I started a degree in Psychology with plans to attend seminary. Lynne and I married and we started a family as I worked my way through my degree. When I graduated, I asked about studies at the seminary. At the same time, I was offered a job working with youth ministry, music ministry and young adult ministry at Hope Lutheran Church (now Hope Lutheran Church and School) in Port Coquitlam, BC. I prayed about it and decided to take the job at Hope. I had a wonderful time learning and growing as a church worker while I worked with Pastor Ron Towriss and the good people in the congregation there. I served at Hope for four years. I then moved to Rocky Mountain House, Alberta to serve with youth ministry, music ministry and young adult ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church. I continued learning and growing as a church worker while I worked with Pastor Tim Richholt and the good people in the congregation there. During my time in Rocky Mountain House, I completed the colloquy requirements for certification as a Director of Parish Services in Lutheran Church – Canada. In 2004, I began work as Director of Youth Ministry at Bethel Lutheran Church in Sherwood Park. I’ve appreciated the chance to work closely with Pastor Marv Ziprick and the other staff and members of Bethel as I serve in youth ministry. I’ve been encouraged to grow as a person of faith, as a leader and as a member of my local community in my time at Bethel. As I reflect on my life as a church worker, I’m so thankful for my family, my pastors, and my brothers and sisters in Christ who have encouraged, supported and guided me along this path. I truly feel blessed to serve and to share God’s love in so many different ways with so many different people.

Tamara Schultz

On our journey to the call If I had to use one word to describe our experience, I would have to say “amazing.”In my opinion, I believe our journey began 19 years ago. After our first year of marriage, I began to notice that Mark spent a lot of time reading and studying many books on church history and the bible. My first thought at that time was oh no, I think God is calling him to the ministry. this seemed exciting till I realized I would be the” pastor’s wife”. Impossible! I don’t play piano, sing, or even know anything about the church or what was to be expected of me. The idea of ministry was quickly buried and replaced with every day challenges of raising a family and married life.As we journeyed through life and church, it became more clear to me that I needed to prepare myself for” Mark’s Call”, as more members of our home church were beginning to ask Mark if he has considered entering the ministry. One member in particular, a new DPS worker to the congregation, was very interested in pointing Mark in that direction. I remember his response clearly and with humor. Mark stated with a stern face “if God wants me to be a pastor, then He will make it happen.” The subject was quickly dropped and not spoken of for a couple of years till we moved to the Edmonton area.Once we moved to the Edmonton area, I found that once again many people, whom didn’t even know my husband began to ask if he might consider attending the seminary, by this point I was certain that he was receiving a call, whether it be as a minister or a church worker; either way, we had some serious conversing to do.Soon, we found ourselves searching for advice from peers and other seminary students as well as local pastors. With each conversation, I became hesitant. I had so many questions, “how would we support ourselves?” At that time, I was a stay at home mom with 4 children who drove school bus. The thought of going out and finding a full time job was frightening. I had no real skills, and there was no time to go back to school to obtain any. Then I began to wonder how this would affect the children. Would they be able to adjust to changing schools, making new friends? Would each new community accept them? Then I began to think of our home and community in which we live. I loved our little town and I was very involved. I loved my home, to me it was perfect. Are we really going to leave this all behind?

As mark was completing more courses and really getting ready for seminary, it felt like crunch time, I need a job! I tried mail delivery, well that didn’t work out at all as I am directionally challenged to say the least. I couldn’t imagine a job where I was getting lost all the time. Then one evening will I was at a regular meeting with the local fire department where I volunteered, one of the other female members said to me “let’s do the EMR course together, you can carry my books.” She is a dear friend and looking back I can clearly see Gods hand in our friendship. So my emergency services career began. I completed all the courses necessary in such a short time and was ready to take on the financial responsibilities of our family.

Today, 6 years later, my husband is only weeks away from being ordained in a small community south of Edmonton. Although I still love and miss the little town we left, I’m positive we will love the new community God has chosen. Our children are happy and have really displayed strength and wisdom through this journey. God was with us every step and I’m sure will continue to be with us on the rest of our adventure. There are just so many ways I see that His hand was and still is in every task placed before us.

Rev. Mark Smith

My journey into the pastoral ministry began long before I realized it. As a young teenager I felt that I was being called into the teaching ministry of the Lutheran School system in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I pursued that call and served as teacher and then principal for 18 years. During that time the Lord was preparing me for the pastoral ministry by helping me achieve a master’s degree, to become more comfortable working with adults, helping me become a leader and teaching me to be comfortable proclaiming His Word publicly. Suddenly in 1995 that ministry came to a close but immediately God opened a new ministry to me. He led both me and my wife into the financial services industry. Specifically, He directed us into the Lutheran focused ministry of Aid Association for Lutherans, now Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. For just over 10 years we served to help people provide for their families financial needs and to consider ways in which they could continue to give to their church even in death. All the while, as I served as a representative for AAL, increasingly I felt the call to serve as a pastor. As I met with couples, in their homes, to discuss finances, the subject of church affiliation and attendance would come up. I would have a wonderful time helping those couples identify the type of congregation they’d feel most comfortable being a part of and then I’d direct them to one of the many congregations that I served.In early 2006, as things were changing at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, my wife and I concluded that it was time to pursue the needed training to become a pastor. After the good people at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana accepted my application for enrollment, we sold our home, stored much of our belongings, packed the rest and headed for Fort Wayne. The pre-requisite Greek class was very difficult, but God guided me through. The next two years were a very enjoyable and challenging learning experience for man who’d been out of school for some time and friends were made. My vicarage was ideal in every way. I was blessed to serve a pastor and congregation in sunny southern California.In 2009 I was placed in an unknown city in a foreign land. We knew that God would have us serve where He wanted but we were not thinking Fort McMurray, Alberta. So far, it is a great fit–thanks be to God!

Rev. Mark Schultz

Reflections on my journey to Ordination

The ‘call’ for me to the pastoral ministry came over a long period of time. Encouragement came through some people, then by others years later with no connection to the first people and then again by others years after that. It seemed that whenever I engaged in church activities, whether as a youth, young adult bible studies, or my later involvement in various boards and committees within the church, that someone would point out some quality for ministry. I answered all with the same answer – I don’t think so.At that time looking ahead to the possibility of preparing for ministry seemed unattainable, if not impossible, as there were too many uncertainties, so many unknowns. I was a machinist by trade, it was fulfilling work and I was good at, it was secure. To leave that willy-nilly to a new vocation of such importance, uncertainty and consequence was simply out of the question.

The ‘call’ for me did come from the outside, yet it was also inward; I did have a desire to be involved in something with real purpose. It was the questions that held me back, the uncertainty of not knowing for sure. What if I start and find out that I should not have? What if the ‘call’ I felt was just because I was weary of the daily grind in the shop? Did I really have the gifts to be a pastor? Am I academic enough? How was I to support my family? Would my kids suffer and become resentful for this decision? I was, and still am, an introvert. I did not like to stick out in the crowd, or even sit where I will be seen.Now after a ten year journey, what seemed so far off and out of reach happened so quickly. Looking back I can see where God has been with me at every step, and I am weeks away from ordination into the holy ministry of Lutheran Church-Canada; how did this happen?

One day I determined to answer this question once and for all so I went seeking further council. I spoke with a seminary professor about the nature of this ‘call’ and the challenges before me. The advice I got seemed good, he said to ‘start taking courses towards this end’ after all, ‘what could it hurt?’ Keep working towards that goal as long as the light seemed to be green, but if the light turns red then you will know for sure. That resonated well with me, for some of the courses I would have to take as prerequisites was stuff that interested me anyway.

So I began to take one course at a time through distance education while I continued to work. I would keep going as long as the light is green, the education is never in vain, and I will learn something that I did not know before. Courses in history and anthropology soon turned into Hebrew and Greek, and soon produced an application for enrollment and acceptance. I discovered that it was not one giant step, but a series of small steps. Everything else seemed to fall into place and I began full time studies.The short story of it is that I found I enjoyed the new roles I was placed in and I began to grow in ability and confidence. I actually began to like it, not to promote myself, but that I was learning a new skill – and that new skill was receiving positive feedback. The other concerns seemed to be unfounded as well. My children responded positively to the change and, financially, the bank never did completely run dry. Of course, the journey was difficult and has had many bumps, but the light never did turn ‘red;’ in fact I found that the reasons and expectations I had at the start transformed and changed into more than I had anticipated.