Pastors Ricky and Brooke Melendez have accepted Children Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Adventurer and Pathfinder Ministries, and the position of youth camp directors in the Dakota Conference. Following is an interview with them by communication director Jacquie Biloff.
Jacquie: Tell me a little about yourselves.
Ricky: In short, I was born in Mexico, raised in Colorado, schooled in theology at Union College and have been in the Dakota Conference for five years. We did campus ministries for four of those years and have pastored a couple of churches.
Brooke: I grew up in Dickinson, North Dakota, and went to college in Jamestown, graduating with religion and philosophy, cross-cultural communications and Christian ministry. During my last year of college, I joined the Adventist Church. Amazingly, I was hired after college four years ago and we started Just Jesus. Adventist Campus Ministries on North Dakota State University.
Jacquie: Was children’s ministries, youth, young adults and being camp directors in your five-year plan?
Ricky: I never thought we were going to do this—never in a million years! But we are super excited. We have a passion for young adults. We look forward to providing a structure or means for young people to find their identity in Christ, to establish something greater for our conference so young people can grow and find themselves and their calling in Him.
Brooke: I did not grow up going to camp. I went to a couple of different camps when I was young but hated it because camp doesn’t tend to be a venue for introverts. Part of why I am really excited to do this now is to provide a more positive experience for those who are introverted—so they can meet other kids, be in nature and hear about Jesus and His love for them.
Jacquie: In a small conference a person wears many hats. How do you plan to balance all of them?
Ricky: We do have a wide range of ages we will be working with, but we are excited about what we have to do. We will vision together and see what can be, not just for us but for our peers and young families. We plan to do things really well and help them find Jesus.
Brooke: It is nice to be able to incorporate what we have been doing for the last five years into what we are doing now. Campus Ministries prepared us to do this. We developed a structure to meet kids on college campuses. This is bigger than that. The limitations we felt before we now have the ability to do something about. If we start with young kids and streamline the whole process, until we work with them as college kids, and plug them into things after they leave college, that is sustainable.
Jacquie: Do you see challenges?
Ricky: We have Children’s Ministries, Pathfinders and Adventurers, camps, youth and young adults—ages 0 to 40. We see possibilities. We hope to help young people understand their worth and freedom in Christ before they start making those definitive life decisions. Kids know Adventism but have not met Jesus. Trying to lead them back when they are older requires a lot of undoing.
Preparing something at an organizational level to reach them for Christ will make it easier down the road. To have really grounded and God-loving people who have internalized the message of the gospel and encouraging them to react to it at an earlier age in their lives is our goal.
Brooke: God will bless this process. Our desire is to lead the young and older of the conference to Him and back to Him, however He wants.