My life would change DRAMATICALLY on September 22, 1986: I would enter the United States Air Force on active duty...and preparing for an adventure for which I had less than a clue!
Once I finished entry-level training, I was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. I attended the Post Chapel there, where Chaplain Schmidt would be my "shepherd" for the brief stay/assignment on this gorgeous seaside Peninsula. This godly and gracious Assemblies of God chaplain preached the Word boldly, and encouraged me to use all the gifts God would ever bestow upon me. I'll never forget him calling me one day, asking me to direct the music for the post chapel one Sunday. That was the thrill of a lifetime for me. He and I would stay in touch for the rest of his military career. I often went back to the Presidio to be a guest soloist for him.
In March 1987, I relocated to Lowry Air Force Base, near Denver, Colorado. I had never been in Colorado before, even though I knew several people there. I visited a few churches, but finally settled on the Denver First Church of the Nazarene, where Dr W Donald Wellman was the Senior Pastor. There are so many wonderful things to say about Denver First Church--and I still have several friends in that congregation, more than 22 years later! Pastor Wellman and his wife Pat became dear friends. I remember having to be hospitalized for two days while there. Somehow Pastor Wellman found out, and the two of them came to see me in the hospital. He was a giant (in stature) and a wonderful, wonderful preacher. The last time I saw him in person was on March 13, 1988 (my 26th birthday) when I was visiting back in Denver, and worshipping with my "DFC family" again. (I moved from Denver in June 1987).
Chaplains Chris Losey and Travis Robinson became my "pastors" during my almost 3-years at Beale Air Force Base, California. I moved from Denver back to California in 1987. Beale AFB is located out in the middle of NOWHERE. The nearest "city" was the state capital--Sacramento--some fifty miles away. There were a couple of small towns near by, but nothing to write home about. I became very active in the Base Chapel program. For almost three years, I was often a musician in one of the two chapels on the installation. Many times I was a soloist, offering my vocal praise to the Lord. Chris Losey and Travis Robinson (and their respective families) are still very dear and precious friends to me---to this day. Both have retired from the United States Air Force, and are in civilian pastorates. These families became "my family" in short order, and have kept me close to their hearts. I am eternally grateful for both of them.
January 1990 would find me moving to another hemisphere: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea! This would be an entirely new adventure for me. Chaplains Larry Hendon and Gary Piepkorn (among others) would be responsible for helping "guide" me spiritually in this new assignment. Larry was an independent Charismatic, and Gary is a staunch Lutheran-Missouri Synod. I've lost touch with Larry, but still maintain close contact with Gary and his wonderful wife Judy. I learned more about myself, about God's family, and how to live out "God's Word" in my life from these two men during this very, very busy year of my life.
January, 1991 I moved to the other side of the world again. Oslo, Norway would be my home for the next twenty-two months. Pastor Ivar Ovegaard (now deceased) and the congregation at Misjonkirke Betlehem would become my spiritual family for all intents and purposes. I learned to speak Norwegian in church--of all places. This would really be a "stretching place" for my spiritual walk with the Lord. I was very fortunate in that the Piepkorns would follow me to Norway, and become even closer family to me than Gary had already been during our assignment in South Korea. God knew that I would need them...badly. The people of Misjonkirke Betlehem were lovely and kind. I still have friends there...and many of those saints are now rejoicing around the throne of God.
The day after the general election (here in the United States) in 1992, I moved from Oslo, Norway to my new assignment at Reese AFB near Lubbock, Texas! WHAT A SHOCK! But I also knew the first thing I wanted to do was find a good local church. Someone recommended the First Church of the Nazarene with Pastor John Donnerberg. From the first Sunday of November 1992 through the end of April, 1993, this was my church home. Pastor Donnerberg was a great preacher--and he never spoke more than 20 minutes. He loved me, encouraged me, and helped me adjust to the "culture shock" of returning back to the United States after almost three years on opposite sides of the world.
September 1993, I decided that I wanted to get back into a Charismatic/Pentecostal congregation...and Trinity Church (Randal Ross was the Senior Pastor) would fit the bill for me. There is so much than can be said about Trinity Church--most of it very, very good...and some of it, not-so-flattering. I made many friendships there, and the LORD brought me into a much deeper, abiding relationship with Himself and His people during my tenure there. Pastor Ross, along with the rest of the pastoral staff, were very kind to me. He always preached the Word of God, and treated me with the gentleness of a shepherd. He is not senior pastor at Calvary Church in surburban Naperville, Illinois, just west of Chicago where I live. I've seen him one time in nine years of living here.
August 1996 would find me returning to Civilian life. I'll write more about that in the next post.