FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: It happened the first time I flipped my December 2019 calendar to my January 2020 calendar. I saw those numbers 2-0-2-0 and just like that something that you’ve been hearing about recently became very real to me. This is the year that I will retire from full-time ministry. Though I’ve known that in my head, it still came as kind of a shock to my system when I actually saw the year 2020 on that calendar…the year I had chosen a long time ago to be my retirement year. You see, I wanted to be a pastor from very early on in my life. I can still remember my 2nd grade teacher, Miss Doberstein, asking our class to write on a piece of paper what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote these 10 words: “I want to be a pastor when I grow up.” I think the fact that my dad was a pastor had a lot to do with it, but I never wavered from that desire and that goal. So when I graduated from high school in 1973 I embarked upon a journey that I knew was going to take me 8 years to complete, but it would be a journey that would enable me to fulfill that dream. It began with me attending St. Paul’s College in Concordia, MO from which I graduated in 1975. From there I went to Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, IN. After graduating from there in 1977 and getting married a few weeks later, I began my studies for the ministry in earnest at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, graduating from that institution in 1981.
With that journey behind me, I was very anxious and eager to begin another journey…the journey of serving as a full-time pastor to a family of God’s people. The good Lord could not have sent me to a better congregation to get my ministerial feet wet than St. Paul Lutheran Church, Shobonier, Illinois, less than 20 miles from Salem. At times I felt so “green,” so inadequate, so unsure of myself and my abilities, but the people of St. Paul were so kind, understanding, and forgiving. My journey there lasted for four years and ended in 1985 when I accepted a very challenging call to serve as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tuscola, Illinois. I use the word “challenging” because it was a congregation that had gone through a major split over the previous pastor. With God’s help – and only with God’s help! – things turned around after a very difficult first year and we had a very enjoyable ministry there for the next four years.
That journey came to an end in 1990 when I accepted the call that was extended to me by Grace Lutheran Church in Naples, Florida. I never dreamed our family would ever end up in Florida, but after Marilyn and I visited there, I felt very strongly that God wanted me to accept that call. It was a situation very similar to the one I had dealt with in Tuscola…with one big difference. While the church in Tuscola was still intact as a single congregation, though on very shaky ground, the church in Naples had not only split, but a group from it had broken away to form an entirely new and separate congregation. There was a lot of anger and resentment between these two churches, but again, only by the grace of God were we able to see reconciliation and fellowship develop between them to the point where their pastor and I along with another pastor participated in Advent and Lenten rotations in which we preached in each other’s churches.
Though things continued to go quite well for us down there in the southwestern part of Florida, Marilyn and I had quite a hankering to get back to our Midwestern roots. I spoke to my District President about it and he was incredibly under-standing and promised that he would get us back up to the Midwest. After receiving and declining two calls to Beardstown and Chester, Illinois, neither of which we felt was a good fit for us at the time, we received a phone call on the night after Hurricane Andrew barreled through our area and I was invited to fly up to Salem Lutheran Church, Salem, Illinois, where I would have the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the church and have a Q and A time with the parishioners of that congregation. The very night of that visit I received a phone call at my parents’ home in St. Charles, Missouri, where I was staying, asking me to serve as pastor here. And so our journey in Naples came to an end and a brand new exciting journey began here at SLC. And oh what a journey it has been…27 years and counting!
So when I turned that calendar over to reveal the year 2020, it hit me like a ton of bricks that this is the year that my journey as a full-time pastor and especially my journey as senior pastor of Salem Lutheran Church will come to an end. Many have asked me what I plan to do in retirement. I wish I had a clear answer for that. I really do because those who know me well know that I like to plan in advance and work ahead. I like to know what’s coming up on the horizon, but that’s simply not possible at this time yet. From talking to other retired people, though, I constantly hear them saying, “I’m busier now than I was when I was working full-time.” So we’ll see.
I will let you in on a little secret about another journey – a literal journey – that I will be going on in October. You may recall a few months ago we had Dr. Robert Roegner and his wife, Kristi, here on a Sunday morning to speak to us about a new journey that they embarked upon in early January. These very good friends of ours from our seminary days have committed the next five years to being the only Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod missionaries dispatched to the nation of Israel. If you heard them that day, then you know that they also lead tours to the Holy Land. Well, guess what? My daughter Bethany and I are going on one of those tours in October. Talk about a dream come true…to walk where Jesus walked, to see what Jesus saw, to be where Jesus was for the 33 years He lived on this earth. You might wonder why Marilyn is not going. Since we will be gone for close to two weeks, she, in her typical unselfish manner, said that she would stay at home to help out with the grandkids. Plus, with our daughter Kim’s health issues, she just didn’t feel she could commit to the Holy Land trip so far in advance. So Bethany will be my traveling companion on this journey that will take us to all the hot spots in Israel, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Nazareth, the Garden of Gethsemane, the hill called Calvary, the garden tomb, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, the Mount of Olives, and much, much more.
And when we return from that journey, I will be anxious to see what other journeys God has in store for me, until I take that greatest journey of all…the journey when He will come calling for me and lead me to my new and perfect home in heaven where by His great grace and goodness I shall dwell in His glorious presence forever.
In His service and yours,