Sunday, June 01, 2014

Ordination Celebration Part 1, College and Seminary

Today at church we are celebrating the 25 years Mike has been a pastor. This is the project I've been working on. Right after church the plan is to present this as a slide show while I read the words you see here. I've had fun searching out photographs but I managed to make it into a lot of work. I'd wake up in the night thinking of another photo I needed to find or maybe something else I needed to say about something. Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes!

(photo by Olan Mills)

Thanks for being here to help us celebrate Mike’s 25 years in the ministry. I thought it would be kind of fun to take you on a part of his journey from tractor to pulpit. This first slide is Pastor Mike looking all pastory.  For most of you, that is probably how you think of him. But, believe it or not, his first name really isn’t “pastor”.

This is a picture of him as a teenager. He was a farm boy,  a little brother, a basketball player, a musician…but he was not a pastor. It did not occur to me that he would ever be a pastor.

The first four years of our marriage my husband often looked just like this. His Dad died about a month into our marriage and Mike, at age 20, took over the farming to support not only me, but also his mother.  It seemed to me we would live out our lives on that farm. It was a good place to live. One day, though, Mike confessed to me that he felt he was being called into the ministry. I was shocked to my very core but I am proud to say that my response was, “OK then, let’s go.” Leaving the family farm was probably one of the hardest things Mike has ever done.

Mike knew he had 7 more years of schooling ahead of him from the time he left the farm.  He first had to finish his college degree before he could apply to enter the seminary.  We moved just 75 miles to Havre, MT. where Mike attended college, working toward a history degree.  He was still wrestling with the whole ministry idea. We bought a little house to fix up and planned to settle in for a few years.  About then Mike had some conversations with a pastor in Havre who told him he should do everything he could to avoid the ministry and if he couldn’t fight it anymore, then he should give in.  This pastor also told him about the Lutheran Bible Institute in the Seattle area.  One night Mike was looking at a catalog of the classes at LBI as I fell asleep. When I woke up, he was looking at it again. Within a few weeks we packed what we could into our 2 vehicles, loaded up our 2 year old daughter, and moved out to Issaquah, Washington for Mike to attend LBI. That was a big switch from the Montana farm! We rented an apartment over the phone and went on faith, believing we could find jobs when we got there…which we did.

It was in Issaquah that Mike preached his first sermon. I admit I was pretty nervous for him. Mike was an introvert and I thought it would be hard for him to get used to preaching. Well, he was a natural. He knew he had an important message and he delivered it well. That was the last time I was nervous about Mike preaching.

After two years at LBI Mike had his college degree in Biblical Studies and we’d added a new baby to the family. When Ben was just 5 weeks old, we headed East to St. Paul, MN.

Mike’s seminary time started with two years of classes.  Like most of the seminary students, funds were really tight. Also, our family had a lot of illnesses and 3 out of 4 of us were hospitalized with various ailments...within a three month period of time.  The Struck family name became well-known at chapel as they were frequently praying for us. We eperienced such sweetness during those months, though. We made new friends as people dropped by to bring us food. One woman cleaned our apartment while we were at the hospital with a sick child. Someone even did our laundry!  It was hard but we sure saw  a lot of kindness during that time.

The third year of seminary is set aside for internship so the whole family has to move again.  Mike was assigned to Gillette, WY, where my Mom lived.  It was a fun year at a very lively church. Mike's internship pastor was Russ Hillman.  During that year we housesat for an older couple and Mike made about 60 cents an hour but it was a wonderful year.  At his good-bye party one of the guys  dressed up as “Mike” for a skit.

 Note his Cardinal’s shirt, Bible, golf clubs, chess board…all favorite things of Mike’s. He also made a point to wear jeans and cowboy boots…Mike’s favorite attire.

We went back to seminary for Mike’s final year of classes.  One evening, in early Spring, Mike received an unexpected phone call. The person on the line told him he was calling from Harlowton, MT. They were looking for a pastor and it turns out, he was put on speaker phone for the whole call committee to speak with him RIGHT THEN. When the conversation was ending Mike was still a bit confused about what was going on. He asked if they wanted him to come for an interview. That’s when he found out that the phone call WAS his interview!

As it turned out, Mike did accept that call. We did NOT go out to see it first, he just accepted the call. Maybe it was his strong faith that made him do such a thing without even going for a visit. OR maybe it was his competitive spirit. You see, he then became the first of his class to have a call!

This slide is a photo of us enjoying a dinner for the graduating seminarians.  It was hard to believe that he was almost done with all those years of college and seminary!

Graduation day was a happy day for us as a couple. It had not been an easy road when we left the farm, but it had been an adventure.
As this next slide shows, Mike’s whole family had been very supportive of him.

We loaded up to move again.  We stopped in Turner, MT first where Mike was ordained on June 4, 1989.

This occurred at the same church where his parents had been married and where Mike had been baptized, confirmed, married and where our first two kids had been baptized. It was a special day.  Mike told the kids that day that they could call him "Pastor Daddy" and I could call him "Pastor Honey".... whatever!

Mike’s relatives showed up for support. These men are all related to Mike in one way or another and they were all proud of him.
Turner is a long LONG way from anywhere. Really. There is no fast food for about 75 miles! Yet, Mike had a lot of relatives who drove a long way to be there. It was nice.

This is Mike when he could finally sit and rest and visit with family after his ordination.

This photo of him in his Cardinal’s shirt has nothing to do with any of this but I knew he’d like it.

OK, It is kind of long so I'm going to break it up for you. Tune in tomorrow for more!

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