By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN Rick Messer is probably most easily recognized as the pastor for Howard Lake Christian Church, but artistic creativity and dedicated military service are sides of him that many might not know about.
Messer enjoys using his abilities to complement his ministry work.
“I never realized how God would use my talents in this way,” he said.
Messer often creates detailed props to use during church services and other events. One service focused on the resurrection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so Messer fashioned a “cat-o’-nine-tails” whip, as well as a prop made to look like a 9-foot-long Roman spear.
“Anything you can do to get people to remember,” Messer said.
Youth outreach also provides Messer with opportunities to get creative.
“Each year at Vacation Bible School, we totally transform our church,” he said. Last summer, the theme was “Crocodile Dock.”
“We actually built a dock,” he said. “It was just so much fun doing it, and it looked cool.”
A couple years ago, Messer helped create a western theme in the church for VBS, using wood a family donated from an old barn.
“We want the kids to be really wowed,” Messer said.
Throughout the year, Messer creates various signs, logos, and other visuals for church. He also builds props for church-related plays.
“I’m constantly building things like that,” he said.
Messer often builds intensely detailed figurines, ornaments, and pendants out of oven-baked polymer clay. He especially loves to make caricatures and Christmas-themed pieces. Messer designs and constructs the artwork, bakes the clay in an oven, and then hand-paints it.
“That is the medium I really like to work with,” he said. “It’s all freehand. They are unique, and they’re me.”
Much of Messer’s creations are given to friends as gifts.
“Everything I make, I’ve given to people all across the country,” he said.
Another talent Messer has is building small-scale models of military vehicles.
“I’ve been doing it since I was 10 years old,” he said.
He spends several hours making model tanks and airplanes that are extremely realistic.
“I go crazy when I start one of these,” he laughed. “I super-detail it. I make my own little parts for it to scale, and I put all the interior in it and everything.”
Messer’s interest in creating military models stems from his own personal experience in the Marine Corps.
His battalion at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina even had Messer create an 8-inch Howitzer tank model.
Messer first joined the military in 1982. After serving for 10 years, he took a 15-year break. Now, he’s in the process of becoming a chaplain for the Army National Guard.
“That’s really exciting,” he said. “I’ll be literally reaching people all over Minnesota.”
For Messer, military service runs in his family. He remembers hearing his grandfather talk about his service, and knew that he wanted to help his country in the same way.
Messer met his wife, Kathleen, while they were both serving in the military in Germany.
“We’re just really honored to serve our country,” he said.
Kathleen, a native of Alabama, met Messer in chapel, but at that time, Messer said he didn’t know he would someday become a pastor.
“The more we talked, we realized God was calling us to ministry,” Messer said.
The couple has two children, and Kathleen works in the guidance office at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School. Caleb, 20, is considering joining the National Guard. Hannah, 17, is thinking about pursuing a career in ministry, possibly as a teacher.
Messer and Kathleen will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary this July.
“It’s just been an awesome journey,” Messer said.