Rev. Mark Hennig

My journey into the ministry is not that much different from others.  Our God is a merciful and gracious God who works through sinners whom He has redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Sure, the details and circumstances will be different, but as with all who have been called into this truly Divine Call, God continues to work through His people.   

My first memories are of congregational members encouraging me at a very young age to consider preparing for the Office of the Ministry.  At that age I had no desire, and didn’t give it much thought.  I was however, blessed to have a father who at every stage of life and situation I faced would talk to me about how God was involved and active in His creation, especially my life.  I can particularly remember working on our family farm and dad talking to me about how God’s Word can be seen in nature: life, sin, death, family, love and especially His grace given to us in Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and went off to Concordia University College of Alberta that I began to think about the ministry.  It was after my second year when I enrolled in the Arts Program and decided to take Hebrew that I thought this was a real possibility.  However, it wasn’t to be at that stage of my life.  I was young and immature, not ready to have such a great responsibility in the Church: the preaching of God’s Holy Word for the strengthening of His people.

At the age of 21 I decided school was not for me and began working at Coca-Cola full-time, with aspirations of becoming a farmer one day. For about 5 years, my brothers and I worked hard to fulfill our dream of one day being full-time farmers.  Financially we struggled, but enjoyed the freedom and passion that came with intimately working with the land and animals God has so graciously blessed us with in this world.  It was not meant to be.

During this time my dad, at the age of about 50, retired from his job and he pursued the ministry.  For two years he studied hard, dedicating himself at times too diligently in his studies.  It often felt like our dad had abandoned us kids.  It was a difficult time for me and looking back made me a bit resentful toward the church and the seminary.  It was in his second year that he began to feel quite sick and my fears came true.  He was diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live.

During this time I was blessed to be joined in wedded love to my wife, Darla, who has been a wonderful support throughout many difficult times in my life, especially during this time of my father’s illness.  When he died it was a very hard time in my life.  I was newly married and we were struggling financially on the farm to the point of losing it all.  At the time it was hard to know where God was leading, but that’s the life of faith and trust.  God knew where He was leading and He used the circumstances in my life to bring me closer to Him and guide me into the ministry.

After the death of my father, Darla and I became more and more active in the church.  I can’t remember missing a Sunday or bible study.  We became more active in the congregation because of a young field worker assigned to my home congregation at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Stony Plain – Victor Morris.  I remember the moment my eyes were opened to seek out the possibility of attending the Seminary.  It was a Young Adult Conference in Canmore, Alberta in the fall of 1998.  I realized I had, in my different ways, been ignoring God’s direction in my life for various reasons.

After some discussions with Darla, we decided I would talk with my brothers to see if they would be alright with my leaving our commitment on the farm.  I went to see Pastor Ney for some advice and he used the story of Gideon’s fleece to see if this is where God was directing me.  It’s truly amazing how God works, they had a feeling this was coming.  So I contacted the seminary to see what kind of options I had.  It was late fall and I only had two years of College.  After some discussion it was decided that I would take a full semester at Concordia and also study Greek independently.  If I did well enough I would enter the seminary the following fall.  It has been ten years this summer that I have been blessed with serving God’s people with Jesus Christ’s forgiveness in Word and Sacrament.

There were fears when I stopped and thought about what the office of the ministry would be like.  I was not a good reader or speaker.  English was probably my worst subject throughout my school years, but God has a way of providing gifts when they are needed.  I was terrified of preaching God’s Word on Sunday.  What a tremendous responsibility to preach God’s Word faithfully each and every week.  Again God provides gifts when needed.  Many of them came at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton where our Church has been blessed with some wonderful Pastors to equip young men to be Servants for Jesus’ sake.

Going back to school is always a difficult thing.  Our first child was born the summer before I began at the seminary.  We went from two full-time jobs to part-time.  There were sacrifices that were hard at the time but well worth it.  One of the things my dad taught me was that God provides in mysterious ways.  Financially he did, though it’s probably the biggest worry there is, it’s the easiest for God to provide.  The most difficult part is the dedication it takes to be diligent and faithful to your studies, to prioritize responsibilities, and to love people unconditionally no matter how difficult the predicament they’ve got themselves into.

I pray this little insight into my story has helped you in your journey, no matter where God leads.

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