By Roz Kohls
DASSEL, MN The Rev. Billy Wallace, new pastor of Church of Christ in Dassel, almost became a sportswriter/sports broadcaster, but it appears God had other plans for him, he said.
Pastor Wallace, as he likes to be called, has been a minister for the past 10 years. He and his wife, Lori, and their children, Billy Jr., 8; Blake, 6; and Rachel, 3, moved into the parsonage Sept. 14 at the church along Highway 12, on the east side of Dassel.
“I just felt good about this place,” Wallace recalled thinking about Dassel when he visited the congregation in August.
The congregation, which is loosely affiliated with Christian churches in Howard Lake, Litchfield and Kimball, seemed eager and excited to make a difference, he said.
Before that, however, Wallace wasn’t sure about leaving his former congregation in Monterrey, LA. Wallace had been there for five years. Being involved in the community was an important part of his ministry, and he felt he knew everyone in the town in east central Louisiana. He coached in Monterrey also, and knew all the kids, Wallace added.
However, his wife was from Bemidji, and wanted to get back to the area. Also, two families from Cokato and Dassel, the Bunkers and Thomases, were members of an earlier ministry Wallace had in Fridley, and they encouraged him to come to Dassel.
He and his wife prayed about the Dassel congregation. When the Wallaces came to Minnesota for a wedding, Wallace stopped in Dassel, and even preached there one Sunday morning, he said.
He finally concluded, although it would be challenging at first, but he could start over and get to know people.
That wasn’t the first time Wallace had changed his mind about what he wanted to do with his life.
When Wallace attended high school in St. Helens, OR, he wanted to be a sports writer or sports broadcaster. His friend’s father was a sports announcer in the town northwest of Portland, and served as kind of a mentor in the sports broadcasting profession, he said. Wallace also had a scholarship to play baseball in college.
However, Wallace attended a Church of Christ summer Bible camp in the mountains in California. The camp leaders stressed to the young men there that ministers were needed. When the time came Wallace “walked forward” and said “I want to be a minister.”
Dassel is very different than Monterrey but he is adapting, Wallace said.
Minnesotans are more reserved than people in the South, he said.
Also, the weather is very different. Monterrey is about 10 miles from the Mississippi River, and is mild in the winter, usually averaging in the 40-degree-range. The summers are hot and humid, Wallace said.
Minnesota winters seem inconvenient in comparison, always having to shovel and plow snow, and bundle up against the cold.
Opportunities for community involvement are the same, however.
“That’s my thing, ‘community involvement,’” Wallace said.
Wallace volunteers at Dassel Elementary School, where his two older children attend.
Recently Church of Christ had a free spaghetti dinner open to the public called “Christmas with Dignity.” It was presented as local outreach and a gesture to the community. About 150 people attended, which was a nice turnout.
The congregation also collected donations for three Dassel families who needed financial help, and help getting presents for Christmas. The program included a wish list from the families, and cash donations from participants.
In the end, the three families received presents and a $350 gas card. The “Christmas with Dignity” program was a far cry from sportswriting and broadcasting, but was very satisfying, and it fit well with Wallace’s style of ministry, he said.