Perhaps the most inspiring blessing of the worship community at First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso is your generosity in "giving" to help the ministry of Jesus Christ grow and flourish. As God's church, your plentiful monetary gifts are exceeded only by your commitment to serve God through the plethora of ministry programs you share inside and outside the church family. While I cannot truly express the magnitude of my gratitude in this blog, I will attempt to offer the appropriate words of thanksgiving for the wonderful monetary and prayerful gifts you have given me which enabled me to graduate with a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago earlier this month, as well as perform my Clinical Pastoral Education program this summer.
If you would have told me when I began attending First Presbyterian in May of 2003 that I would experience a journey into pastoral ministry, I likely would not have believed you. However, through nurturing from the pastoral teams, enjoying the spirit of worship, serving terms as an elder, deacon and with the Congregational Life Team, guiding the church softball team and developing many friendships, I evolved as a Christian and thus, accepted a calling into pastoral ministry and enrolled in seminary in September of 2014.
The Master of Divinity program at McCormick is designed as a three-year program if one takes classes full time. As a husband, father and grandfather who lives in Valparaiso, it was necessary for me to work a part-time job at JC Penney; and therefore, I needed five years to complete the requirements to earn a Master of Divinity. Along with the time commitment to complete 27 classes, the financial obligation was even more challenging as the monetary amount of tuition, books, gas, and tolls was well beyond our family's capabilities. Quite frankly, I could not have completed a seminary education without the love, faith and monetary gifts from First Presbyterian Church and McCormick donors. Each year I was in seminary, I was blessed with a financial gift through the Anne Lauterbach Scholarship which enabled myself and other college students to pay part of our tuition. In my deepest gratitude, I thank my First Presbyterian family for these generous scholarships.
In addition to a seminary education, another extremely important program in the preparation for ministry is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Essentially, CPE is a required program (not a seminary class) that provides candidates for ministry the opportunity to learn and apply methodology to provide spiritual care to people in need. This summer, I will be performing my CPE requirement at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, a level-one trauma center, essentially serving on the chaplaincy team at the hospital. Due to the intensive nature of the summer CPE program (five days a week from June 3-August 18), First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso has blessed me with monetary assistance, enabling me to perform CPE. Again, without the help of my First Presbyterian family, I would not be able to perform this important ministry. While words cannot adequately describe how thankful I am for this substantial monetary gift, I will express these words: Thank you for showing me the grace and love of Jesus Christ and having faith in my pastoral journey by providing this generous monetary assistance to perform summer CPE ministry.
As my family and I are truly blessed to have the First Presbyterian family by our side during the ministry journey, I am reminded of this beautiful Bible verse from 2 Corinthians 9:11-12:
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."
May the Lord's Blessings Shine upon You!
In deepest gratitude,