coming home

I love coming back from vacation – really. We had such a great time together, Nancy and I, relaxing, great eating, lots of walking and of course wine. We stayed with friends in Portugal – a beautiful country. We learned about the people and their churches, how so many don’t want to participate, but out of obligation or guilt, follow their parents to church. That’s why it is so refreshing to come home, where folks want to attend St. John’s, not out of duty or culture, but because of personal desire and commitment. When I told people in Portugal that, they couldn’t quite understand that kind of faith freedom.

Our congregation, so open, vulnerable, sensitive and sharing, works hard to welcome others along their faith journey wherever they may be. We are place where we are all learning, where we model for each other how to question, cope, struggle, grieve and celebrate. We have a history too of modeling for seminary interns, providing a place where they can see and reflect upon ministry that is relevant, thoughtful and exciting. We are a unique place, I hope you know that. Our elders have invited another intern to share with us and learn from us, for the next two years. Ryan will not be paid, except with our gifts of openness, challenge and encouragement. When he leaves us, he will have had a healthy kick-start into understanding what ministry is about. We’ll give him practical tools, experiences and conversations that will serve him well into his future. I thank you for your generosity to Ryan. Together we will have an impact upon the future of Christ’s body, more than we imagine.

Here is Ryan introducing himself:

“I grew up in Great Falls, MT in an ecumenical household. My father (Jim) was Catholic, and my mother (Kathy) is Presbyterian. We are a very close family, and I have three siblings; an older Sister (Veta), older brother (Victor), and a younger sister (Maggie). I have attended Sunrise Presbyterian in Great Falls since the age of 5, and was active in my youth group until my  sophomore year of high school, and recall wonderful Summers at Glacier Presbyterian Camp on Flathead Lake, nestled in the mountains in North Western Montana.

My college years were spent at the University of Montana in Missoula,  MT wrestling with God and trying to push the creator away, but God always has plans of his own. When I was near graduation, I experienced one of those still small voice moments like Elijah and this spark created a flicker that turned into the flame that is my passion for God today. God has a way of always calling us back, and she always gets her way.

Upon returning to Great Falls after graduation I became much more active in my home church of Sunrise, teaching Sunday school, volunteering as the youth activities coordinator and a table parent for our “Logos” program, helping my pastor Tim Lanham teach confirmation class, and becoming an elder.

During this time I was also training my body and mind for Officer Candidate School in the United States Marine Corps.  In my search for a source of income to pay off my undergraduate degree I found the officer program and after a bit of research, and a trip to the officer selection office in Spokane, WA, I was on my way to becoming an officer in the Marine Corps. In the Fall of 2004 I was accepted to Officer Candidate Class 188 on an aviation contract. In January of 2005 I said goodbye to my youth group, and traveled across the country to Quantico, but my heart was heavy as I travelled. The week before as I filled out the novel of pre-ship paperwork I was presented with a form regarding conscientious objection. I had never thought of this before, being so tied up in everything else, I never considered the question, could I take another human’s life? This question remained, and shortly into my training I dropped form the program on request.

Within two weeks of returning to Great Falls, I was back helping to lead the youth group, and it was just in time to find out about a ski retreat at my old summer camp, now called Glacier Camp and Conference center. I chaperoned the trip, and fell in love with the camp again, so much so that I returned that summer, and the next, as a counselor. During this time, I was working on my MBA and this made a conversation I had with the camp director even more difficult. I sat in his office one day discussing ministry and call and knew that God was calling me into his service. I loved the youth of the church, I loved Jesus, and was starting to understand God’s desire to have me serve her by serving her people.  All though I finally understood this, that doesn’t mean I jumped right into it. I was still finishing a degree I didn’t want to give up, I was paying off loans for said degree, and I wanted a job where I could take care of these with ease, and I kept questioning God, whether he really wanted me for this role. I spent three years going back and forth with God, but as she tends to do, she won, and I began looking at seminaries.

In the Spring of 2008 I visited San Francisco Theological Seminary, and it was clear that this is where I would receive my MDiv. I spent the next year and a half taking a chunk out of my student loans and in the Fall of 2009 began studies at SFTS. During this time between my giving in to God’s call, and starting seminary my understanding of my call matured.  God made it clear through those around me that I grew up in a military town (Great Falls hosts Malmstrom Air Force Base), saw the effects of military service on many of my friends both positive and negative, and went through the training for the Marine Corps for a reason. My service was not to be a youth minister as I had thought, but to serve the spiritual needs of our men and women in uniform as they face the struggles of some of the most stressful, demanding, and difficult occupations one can imagine.

In June of this year (2011) I was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Reserve as a Chaplain Candidate Program Officer which will give me the opportunity to shadow chaplains carrying out this wonderful ministry, and learn how to better serve the spiritual needs of all our sea service members (navy, Marines, Coast Guard) regardless of their religious background.

I look forward to the next two years as your intern, and can’t wait to share in your joys of Christian fellowship. When I was searching for an internship site, God made the decision easy when I attended St. John’s for the first time late in 2010; from the second I entered the building I felt very comfortable, I felt safe, and God spoke through you the congregation making me feel welcome and comfortable. Thank you for your Gracious invitation, God will do wonderful things through this church.”

“I will Praise you O Lord with all of my heart, I will tell of all your wonders.”  –Psalm 9:1

Ryan Schlimgen

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