Born in 1953, I am the second of five children and grew up
on a dairy farm in a small rural community in Michigan. A solid conservative Mennonite church was
very much a part of our lives as a family – both of my parents taught Sunday
School for years and in other ways served the church.
After graduating from the local public high school I
attended Rosedale Bible Institute (now Rosedale Bible College) near Columbus,
Ohio for a year. I worked for a year in
Cincinnati and then came to Goshen College from which I graduated in 1977 with
a degree in Social Work. I married Velma
Schrock in 1975 and we have four children together: Jennifer (married to Ben
Bontrager, Jon (married to Rose Miller, Janelle (married to Simeon DiGennaro),
and Jeff (married to Katrina Deisch). As
of summer 2011 we have 8 grandchildren, all special of course!
Upon graduation from Goshen College, I was employed at Teen
Haven Youth Center for several years as a counselor, then as Director. After obtaining a Master’s Degree in Biblical
Counseling from Grace Theological Seminary under Dr. Larry Crabb in 1984, I
began a full-time counseling ministry to the community and continue that
ministry to this day.
In 1978 I was ordained as a minister for Maple City Chapel
in Goshen and served as associate pastor until I resigned in 1992. In 1998 I was part of a leadership team which
helped begin another church, Siloam Fellowship, whereI served as a co-pastor until the end of 2004.
I have had ongoing interest in spiritual direction and
received some training to give spiritual direction during 1999-2000. I meet regularly with a spiritual director as
a one way of nurturing my own spiritual growth.
In looking back I believe my interest in counseling and such
issues stemmed from some of my own internal struggles, trying to reconcile the
need to measure up to external standards and expectations with the need to be
emotionally honest. Regrettably too
often my choices reflected a willingness to sacrifice honesty for an appearance
of doing well, but those choices were killing my spirit. I’ll be ever grateful to God for His goodness
in using my desire to be helpful to others to lead me to a place (my two years
in the counseling program) where my false sense of security and
worth could come tumbling down and begin to be replaced by a heartfelt
understanding of grace and inner freedom.
While I still have to choose to let go of the old and rest
in the new (it’s not first nature), something came alive for me through the
suffering of looking honestly at myself and then at God’s provisions (all with the help of others) that gave
me a hope that won’t go away. The
longing to continue to know God in His love, grace, and holiness and for others
to know the same continues to be a driving force in my life and relationships
My ministry philosophy is shaped by the conviction that
spiritual life is ministered from the inside out. It begins with who I am in Christ and works
its way out. The most significant work I
do is nurture this inner life, responding to the work Christ is doing in and
through those closest to me – my wife Velma, and my children. They should be the beneficiaries most
affected by my life with God, but not the only ones affected. Others who should be touched by this life are
those closest to me other than immediate family – my close friends, colleagues,
those whom I counsel, and others my life touches.
My ministry is also shaped out of convictions relating to
the importance of the core units of society, the natural family, and the
spiritual family. To the degree that
health is fostered in these units, society is salted (preserved). Disintegration in these units is basic to
societal disintegration. While I hold no
illusion that God will save the world through the church, I do believe we are
responsible to present to the world alternate communities that are life-giving
for the building of the kingdom of God.
The belief that God actively works to bring beauty and
strength out of that which is ugly and broken is foundational to my ministry
mindset. I believe that often persons
who have been the most severely wounded by life learn to love God and others
most deeply, as they learn to surrender to his love, truth, and guidance. I believe that there is nothing God cannot
take and use it for good. There is no place too dark for light to shine. The route to experiencing this is often rough and involves embracing pain rather than fighting it, but often we find that in the long run it is our resistance to pain that is causing us more anguish than the actual pain itself. But God went to great lengths to give us true freedom of choice. After all, who ever wants a forced relationship with anyone?