As many of you know from the Annual Meeting, a mission trip to The Happy Church in Jackson, Kentucky, in June of this year, is being planned for the FCA Community Youth Group. As I was writing a letter to the parents of those youth expressing interest in going, I reflected on my connection with the congregations we would encounter during our trip.
When Nancy and I got married in 1986, we chose Psalm 40:5, as a verse we would claim for our marriage. This past Valentine's Day, I reminded Nancy of that verse: “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, The things you have planned for us no one can recount them to you; were we to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” As the years go by, we are finding this more and more to be true. So, without being too thorough, as Nancy accuses me of frequently, let me share with you some snapshots from the photoalbums of our life that have led us here, and specifically, how this little church in Kentucky, plays into our story.
Nancy and I met in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Navigators’ Glen Eyrie Leadership Development Institute (LDI). A major impact of that experience was the conviction that I wanted to be involved in “making disciples” for the rest of my life. We got married at the end of that program and God directed our steps back to Lancaster, Ohio, where I was born and grew up.
We ended up at the Lancaster Grace Brethren Church, a Home Mission church plant my post-college roommate was attending. My love for my pastor’s preaching style--expository verse-by-verse preaching through a book of the Bible--was matched by his love for the way I connected people’s experiences with the Word in our small group Bible study. Soon, a symbiotic mentoring relationship developed. One week we would get together and he would teach me Biblical Doctrine, going through Ryrie’s Basic Theology; and the next week I would teach him about discipleship methods using the resources I gained from the collegiate Navigators ministry and my time at the Glen Eyrie LDI.Over the following months, our love for discipleship and doctrine grew.
During one of our sessions, Pastor Greg asked me, “Keith, have you ever considered pastoral ministry?” Up to that point, I had not. That question resulted in a trip to Winona Lake, Indiana, and Grace Theological Seminary (where we met Jeff and Wendy Freisen a year later). We decided to attend the church fellowship’s national conference the summer of 1989, which was in Winona Lake, and planned on checking out the seminary at the same time.
Not having a lot of money, we brought our orange pup tent, and set it up in the Mobile Home/Trailer Park associated with the school. In the RV next to our little tent were Sam and Betty Baer. Sam was pastoring Victory Mountain Grace Brethren Chapel in the deep woods of rural Kentucky, just two whoops and a holler from Clayhole and Jackson. When he heard Nancy and I were looking into attending the seminary, he spoke with someone in the recruitment office and by nightfall, we were in a luxury room (to us anyway) of the nicest hotel in town. This was the first time we had slept in a king-sized bed, but I’m getting sidetracked! Sam and Betty instilled in me a love for rural ministry that would see it fruition not in the mountains of Kentucky but the cornfields of Nebraska.
Forward to 1996, when I received my Master of Divinity degree, along with Pastor Jeff; he headed back to Lincoln, and I set my sights on Kettering (Dayton), Ohio, and later Centerville. It was while serving these Grace Brethren churches in Ohio that I learned of a new church-planting opportunity in rural Kentucky.
I visited The Happy Church in 2002, and met Pastor Mike Tabor and his young children, one who gave up his bedroom so I could have a place to sleep while I was there. I also met their bearded dragon, but I digress. Mike had a ton of energy, and he made me tired just watching him. Over the years, the church grew, despite being in the poorest county in the state. He is still the pastor there, and his now grown children serve at the church as well.
We didn’t end up moving to Jackson, Kentucky, being led instead to Taos, New Mexico, a rural ministry of a different kind. I served as the senior pastor and Christian school administrator. Nancy continued to homeschool our girls but eventually we enrolled them in the school and Nancy taught kindergarten.
From Taos, we moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, Nancy’s home-place, and attended the church she grew up in. After a pastoral change, we started attending the Grace Evangelical Free Church in town; they would eventually change their name to “The Living Hope Church.” We called this church home for the next fifteen or so years. While there, I led small groups, taught Sunday School, served on the Elder Board, and preached on occasion. We continue to have a close connection with this church family where we worshiped and served until being called to Zion Countryside Church two years ago this past February.
The Living Hope Church will be hosting our youth and adults who go on the mission trip in June, as this is a good halfway point traveling down to The Happy Church. The church in Centerville, Ohio, was instrumental in me finding out about the flood in Jackson last year. Victory Mountain Chapel introduced me to rural ministry, and the Lancaster church spurred me on to pursuing pastoral ministry in the first place.
So yes, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us, no one can recount them to you…” I pray you can look over the snapshots from your own lives and see God's fingerprints everywhere. And as you look ahead, to the bright future God has for us at Zion, may you see yourself in the pages of that photo album as well as you choose to follow Him in obedient trust. May we all trust in his faithfulness knowing that if he brought us to this moment, he will lead us through it.
This is our story, this is our song; praising our Savior all the day long….
Pastor Keith Feisel
It’s time to get back to our Featured Friends. This segment features our Pastor’s wife, Nancy Feisel, written in her own words.
I’m the youngest of five children and I spent most of my childhood in Jefferson City, MO. My family attended a Baptist church so I grew up hearing all the Bible stories in Sunday School and VBS.
I was lucky enough to be part of an active youth group. My summers were filled with church camps as well as a youth choir. The choir would travel to other churches and sing – we were named “The Real Life Singers.” These activities as well as the regular weekly youth activities kept me moving along a path of growing more and more committed to God.
In my college and young single adult years I continued to lean heavily on God which deepened my walk with Him. In 1986 Keith and I married; 2 years later our first child was born followed by two more in 1991 and 1995. I have to honestly say that being a mother has been the high-light of my life so far.
Moving here to Fairbury has really been the start of “empty nest” for me. We moved here over a year ago and it was quite a struggle for me to leave behind 2 daughters, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, my church family and other friends and family. I made quite a few trips back to MO. One year later I feel more settled and at home than I expected. The extreme kindness of everyone at Zion has made this transition easier than any other move I have made as a pastor’s wife.
My spiritual testimony is similar to many who have grown up in the church. I made a walk down the aisle when I was young. Three times during my young adult years I made additional commitments to God as my Savior. Recently I did a search into scripture and listened to many sermons and teachings about what is included in the gospel. Taking in the true meaning of “Grace” has brought true peace. Salvation is only about what Jesus Christ and God the Father did for me. All I do is believe. It’s been a great study and I’ve been amazed by all God has done for me.
I’m looking forward to walking with God through this last season of my life.
It's time to resume our Zion Featured Friends. Our prayer is that your family and friends have not been affected by Covid-19, or if it has that the Lord is giving you comfort during these times.
We'd like to introduce you to newlyweds Mike and Greta Klaumann who were married on Feb. 18, 2020. They met online looking for friendship.
Greta was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She had 3 children from a previous marriage. When her oldest son, who was disabled, passed away, and after years of being his caregiver - she moved to Fairbury to become a full time grandmother to her grandchildren. Her son and wife have lived in Nebraska for years as that is where she is from. As a family they enjoy camping, get togethers, cookouts, weekly family meals, riding 4-wheelers, fishing, etc.
Mike and Greta love spending time together working in the yard, playing cards, camping, doing family things. Greta's granddaughters call him Papa, and he is an excellent Papa to them.
Zion is special to Greta because she says the people have been very friendly and nice. Pastor Jeff's sermons are easy to understand. She always enjoys them, learns things she never understood, and gives her a greater understanding of the Bible. In her younger years, Greta said she had a few very difficult years, but her faith in the Lord got her through those times. She trusted, believed, and relied on Him.
Greta's mother was born and raised in Scotia, NE where the family farmed. She still has family in that area.
Mike grew up in the Gladstone area. He likes to camp, shop at 2nd hand/antique stores, enjoys a good comedy, watching car races, rodeos, Monster truck shows, and he loves to eat.
We are glad Mike and Greta are part of the family at Zion.
Welcome to the first of our Zion Featured Friends. . . our first spotlight is on Interim Pastor Jeff Friesen and his wife Wendy.
They met in a college group in Lincoln and were married on May 23, 1992. They have four children: Ethan, 26; Caryn, 24, who is married (these 2 live in Lincoln); Cienna, 20 a junior at Univ. of NE - Kearney; and Isaac, 18, who'll graduate from Thayer Central on May 16.
Pastor Jeff grew up in the Loup City area and Wendy in Lincoln (her maiden name was Southwick.) Both of them still have their parents living. He attended seminary in Indiana and started his ministry in Lincoln in October 1995. In 2001 he started driving to Hebron where he led a Men's Bible Study in Matt Richardson's Body Shop. In 2003 they moved to Hebron and the Hebron Bible Church began.
They both enjoy reading - he likes anything: C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, David McCullough, J.RR. Tolkien. Wendy works part-time at Priefert's Pharmacy in Hebron and also in the library and enjoys non-fiction and the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. They enjoy camping, nature, and traveling and have visited many places in the U.S. and Canada. They'd love to travel outside the U.S. - perhaps to visit missionary friends in Italy or England; or serve as house parents at the Black Forest Academy in Germany; or visit the Holy Land.
As soon to be empty-nesters, they are hoping for the patience for their kids to find their own spiritual path. One of his biggest challenges being a preacher is the ability to say no. Wendy shared in his early years he once triple booked his schedule! Their ministry is based on cultivating relationships which is time consuming and they are both saved by grace.
He hopes the people of Zion can begin to see the needs that exist around them and serve those needs thru authentic relationships. We all need to ask ourselves - What is God doing with me now and where is He leading me?
Personally, I am glad the Lord brought Pastor Jeff to Zion. His teaching and music ministry are a blessing, and if you've not taken the time to visit with him one on one, I encourage you to schedule a time to meet with him. Hope you've enjoyed this snapshot into the Friesen's life - who will be next? Stay tuned. . . . . Phyllis Kriesel, Public Relations