I am very excited to be serving the Oak Hill Presbyterian Church. I wanted to share a little bit about my background and my faith journey as we begin an exciting new adventure.
“Not all who wander are lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien). The name Wanda means wanderer. In me, it rings true. I have always enjoyed walking, traveling, finding new adventures around every corner. I guess that is why I like to talk about my faith as a spiritual journey.
I grew up in a Christian family in Des Moines, Iowa, who were very involved in the life of the church. We were at church every Sunday morning for Sunday school and church, as well as the mid -week service, supper, and activities. I have always been very outgoing, energetic, and curious.
When I was in high school, I had many opportunities to deepen my faith. I was involved in a two-year leadership development program with youth from many churches across the region. I had the opportunity to go on several summer mission trips which involved working with long term partnerships for 12 weeks in several different countries, including Venezuela, Scotland, and Japan. I developed a heart for mission, and social justice. These opportunities helped me to recognize a call to ministry. My call was recognized, affirmed, and nurtured by the leadership of my church.
Throughout my college experience, my call to the ministry continued to be affirmed and I knew I would pursue a seminary education. Following college, I was invited to work at my home church for three years as a ‘minister of youth, missions and Christian education! In addition to receiving a wealth of experience, I had some wonderful mentors who taught me how to do ministry in the trenches before I attended seminary in Chicago.
One of my favorite passages of scripture has always been Isaiah 40:31 which proclaims: ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary-they shall walk and not faint.
There are times in our lives when we experience mountain top experiences, times when we feel God’s presence with us in unmistakable ways – time when we feel as if we can soar with the eagles. I remember times like these in my ordination into the ministry, the birth of my amazing son, Matthew and the ups and downs of parenting, the privilege of walking with people in times of great joy and times of great sorrow and knowing that my presence made a difference in their lives. The opportunity to travel to other countries as a part of an interfaith team to study and learn from one another. But that is not the only way that God gives strength. There are times when we feel like we have the energy to accomplish great things, times when we will run and not grow weary. I have helped people to discover their gifts for ministry and empowered them to move beyond their comfort zones to put their faith into action in both small and large ways. I have challenged the status quo and helped people to reach out to people who were experiencing displacement, working with refugee families from Central America, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. I have helped to change church structures that no longer fit the needs of the congregation and guided them to new ways of working together in smaller teams. I have worked tirelessly to build relationships and partnerships with neighbors and communities in interfaith circles and in businesses. I have experienced the excitement of ministry without growing weary. God gives us strength in many ways. And yet there are times in our lives when God promises to help us to walk and not to faint. I have had to learn how to practice self-care after years of moving full steam ahead. I have walked with families coming to grips with loved ones experiencing cancer and other illnesses, mental health issues, addictions, and many other challenges. Those are the times when God’s promise to walk and not faint means the most.
All of these experiences have been a part of my spiritual journey. As a lifelong learner, I am aware that I am continuing to learn and stretch and grow. I have not lost my ‘wander lust’. I still enjoy finding new adventures around every corner. I have learned that sometimes the greatest spiritual experiences happen at the most unusual times, often what seems to be an ‘interruption,’ is indeed an opportunity. I have learned to look for sacred time and sacred spaces everywhere, in a conversation with a friend, in a walk around the block, in the beauty of a sunset, in the art gallery. All of life is sacred, for in life and death we belong to God!
After nearly 25 years of pastoring churches in Long Island, New York, I am excited to return to the mid-west. I am honored to be serving in partnership with the session and everyone who is a part of the Oak Hill Congregation. I look forward to getting better acquainted with each of you. I hope to have the opportunity to learn more about the story of your lives as individuals and as a community of faith. Please do not hesitate to give me a call or reach out to me so that we can schedule a time to meet together for coffee, lunch, or a walk in the neighborhood.
Blessings & Peace