Within the hearts of a select few, lies a calling that transcends mere profession—the call to pastoral ministry. It is a divine whisper that echoes through the highways of their souls, igniting an unquenchable thirst to serve and support humankind. This road is not one of convenience or riches, but the ones who feel called do not know how to walk a different path.
The Dakota Conference is home to 24 pastors who demonstrate this profound calling. These individuals carry an unwavering commitment to their convictions. They care about people and long to lead each one to be planted firmly in a relationship with God. The pastors’ testimonies all have a common thread: they were called to the ministry at a young age, compelled by forces greater than themselves.
Listening to the Heart
During his academy life, Darren Purdy felt the call to ministry, but the uncertainties of life temporarily derailed his journey. He got married, raised a family, and contented himself with lay preaching in local churches. “When September 11 happened, it was almost like an audible voice inside my head,” he recalls. “The Holy Spirit spoke and asked, ‘Three-thousand people have made up their minds today…what are you doing here in a printing job?’” He knew the Lord was calling him to do something more, something bigger. Recently, while watching a reaction video to the movie Hacksaw Ridge on YouTube, Purdy resonated with Desmond Doss’s mantra while in the thick of the battle: “Lord, just help me get one more. Just one more.”
Jason Logan was attending junior college when he received his call; he understood very strongly that he was not supposed to be on his current route. After leaving school and returning home, someone offered to pay for him and his wife to attend the Black Hills Mission in South Dakota. After the program, he did Bible work and traveled as an evangelist. The couple decided to start a family, so in an effort to slow down and be present, Logan took a job with a sales company until a church family’s offer to support his ministry reignited the flame of his calling. The Lord blessed his work, and the Rocky Mountain Conference offered him a call to an open district.
In an attempt to dissuade his son from getting involved in church work, Harold Chin’s father took him to a church board meeting when he was about 15 years old. The meeting was combative, and he witnessed the worst side of the very church members he looked up to, but instead of discouraging him, it had the opposite effect. He went home and had the distinct thought that he was going to end up pastoring people like that. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Chin went into the nursing program at Southern. He felt that if God really wanted him to become a pastor, he would crash and burn in the program. Four years later, he passed and held nursing licenses in several states, but he says, “It all came down to what I was really called to do…I wasn’t at peace with it. What came back was when I first felt God calling me. Once I went back to that point, I was at peace,” Chin says. He left nursing behind and never used the licenses.
James McCurdy felt the pull when he was 18 years old. He signed up to attend Southern Adventist University’s theology program, but money and life got in the way, so he dropped out and worked whatever job he could find. Years later, back at Southern for a dedication program where his wife was scheduled to sing, he heard an audible voice saying, “You need to be here.” Through many miracles, McCurdy went back to college, overcame countless obstacles, and later graduated with a theology degree.
Navigating challenges and fostering growth
Once an individual answers the call to pastoral ministry, it does not mean life gets any easier. Hardships and frustrations are a real part of the job. But the pastors who stick it out still feel a passion for leading people to Jesus. Harold Chin put it beautifully by stating that “people are the best part of being a pastor. They are the joy and also the sorrow because you have people who demonstrate their hurt in many different ways, and sometimes it is hard not to take their pain personally. The joy is in watching them grow spiritually, watching them discover things for themselves…They see things in Scripture that they didn’t see before or they learn something new about Christ, and their relationship with Him is enhanced because of it. Seeing those discoveries is priceless. It’s beautiful to be called to help people grow in that way.”
As a young man and new to the ministry, Mike Garcia already demonstrates a firm grasp of one of the challenges and complexities of being a pastor when he states, “I expect myself to be there for people when others aren’t and to have an answer. I listen to everyone’s problems and as a fixer, I want to make things better. The reality is that there are some things that can’t be fixed—things have to take their time. So, I listen and support.”
Darrel Lindensmith admits that like many pastors, he is kind of an introvert. He shares that “studies say 80 percent of pastors are actually introverts, but most of us become compensated introverts after some time because we work with people. I have really enjoyed learning to be social and engaging with people.” He likes working with missions and getting church members involved with something for God. “That is the fun part of ministry,” he says, “because you bond and have spiritual experiences together as a group. It’s a win-win for church life and personal growth.”
Continuing the journey
When the question of life after retirement arises, the perspective of many Dakota pastors remains steadfast: their lives won’t drastically change. “That’s the beauty of it, none of it has to stop,” says Darren Purdy. “I get so much joy out of leading people to Jesus.” He eagerly anticipates a future where he can continue to contribute to the ministry by supporting fellow pastors and sharing his talents wherever they’re needed. George Shaver, a seasoned pastor of nearly 30 years, is unsure how to even answer the question of retirement: “I don’t know how to separate my life from ministry…I’ve done it all my life. I don’t see myself doing anything different.”
For a devoted pastor, retirement isn’t a final chapter but a segue into a post-pastoral phase that remains rich with purpose and service. Their motto will continue to be a beacon of dedication: “Help me get just one more, Jesus.”
Looking for ways to show your pastor love and appreciation?
When asked for the best ways to show appreciation, many of the pastors answered that quality time and words of affirmation are the most sought-after. Invites to share special events or visit a member’s home are meaningful and uplifting. Others emphasized that thank you cards with specific ways the pastor reached individuals show intentionality and depth. Some pastors said they keep especially meaningful cards in a drawer or in their Bible to enjoy throughout the years. Ask your pastor what his or her love language is and tailor a special gift based on their answer.