By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN After several months without a called pastor, Dassel Church of Christ is looking forward to renewed leadership as its members welcome one of their former pastors back to the congregation.
Paul Dietz isn’t a stranger to Dassel, having spent his first two years out of Bible college, from 1987-89, preaching at the very same church.
Though the church has since expanded, along with the town, Dietz said the heart of Dassel has remained the same.
“Dassel is still Dassel,” Dietz said, noting that years ago he even volunteered on the fire department and has been fortunate enough to reacquaint himself with some of the members with whom he once served.
His first official Sunday at the Church was Nov. 3, and Dietz and wife Jenny are looking forward to their future at the Dassel church.
“We just really think God has a job for us to do,” Dietz said.
Both Dietz and his wife admit life has thrown them a few curve balls, including both having been through divorce. Jenny also lost her eldest son a pilot in a plane crash, on Valentine’s Day no less.
It was through tragedy, however, that they were brought together, Jenny noted. Now, they are “blessed with the opportunity to minister together.”
After his divorce and 17 years of ministry, Dietz said he stepped back from the pulpit, taking time off from ministry. Instead, he worked in the insurance business doing risk reporting.
“Divorce is a terrible, terrible thing,” he said, noting it takes a long time to heal.
Divorce is also something not gracefully looked upon by the church.
“A lot of churches don’t know how to react to it,” Dietz said, recalling a church in South Dakota rejecting him as a potential pastor telling him “you’re not like us anymore.”
“Life happens to all of us, but nothing makes you unusable to God,” Dietz commented.
Now, he uses his own divorce as something that can help others open up and begin their healing process. He can now say, “I made it through; you can make it through, too.”
The church had been without a pastor since March, which is always difficult on the church, said elder Tom Entinger. They did appreciate Gordy Sorenson filling in as interim pastor for the summer, though his plans were to move back to Texas for the winter.
Since Dietz had been a pastor in Dassel 25 years ago, he had sent a letter expressing he would be willing to fill in when needed. He and Jenny had a farm in Harmony, MN, near Rochester.
When Sorenson left, the pastor who was set to fill in got sick, and the church called upon Dietz at the last minute, Entinger noted.
After hearing him preach that Sunday, the elders met and decided to call him back as a potential candidate for the full-time pastor position and have the congregation vote.
“It was a God thing,” Entinger said. “Everything fell into place.”
“I think it’s going to be excellent,” he said of the new leadership within the church. “We’re really excited about the future.”
“They have a real passion,” he said, adding that that same passion comes out when Dietz is preaching.
Dietz commended the church and the elder team at Dassel Church of Christ.
“I have a lot of respect for the leadership of the church,” Dietz said, adding that “they’ve weathered the storm this past decade.”
Dietz and his wife made it clear that they are there to serve.
“We are very unified in the direction, spirit, and desire to be not just a church that survives, but a church that has something to offer as a service,” Dietz said.
“We want to create a community that understands we are here to serve our neighbors, our community, and our world,” he added.
One of the ways they hope to serve the community and county is by working with single mothers and orphans in the area through Meeker Area Ministries.
As a married couple of 10 years, the Dietz’s felt a call to adopt three orphan sibling girls in 2007. They are now ages 14, 12, and 8.
“It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done,” Jenny said, who is a psychiatric nurse by trade.
Their hope is to increase awareness of the need for adoption, even in the Dassel community, as well as the importance of teaching life skills to those who will age out of the foster care system.
“If churches don’t step up and meet these needs, there is nothing else,” Jenny said, adding that the system is broken.
As leaders in the congregation, the Dietz’s hope to energize the members to service opportunities.
“The best sermon leaves the congregation energized and equipped to go beyond these walls [and serve],” Dietz said.