Ask new pastor for directions

Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2013, 3:20 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,
PORT BYRON -- He hopes to give people the right directions.

The Rev. Brad Haugen recently became new pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in rural Port Byron.

He said the address says Port Byron, but it doesn't feel like that's where it is.

"The easiest way to get there is, from Interstate 88, hang a left on old Illinois 2, then turn left on a little road where there's a sign for Adventure Quest," he said. "You'll be able to see the church building from Route 2."

One of the things he said he most wants to do is increase the church's visibility, in terms of directing people to the church, and by directing church members to points outside the church building, where they connect to others in their homes, work place or "wherever they are."

And Peace Lutheran members are excited by the direction the church is headed, he said.

"They're interested in growth and change, and took a risk by calling a full-time pastor after not having one for 20 years," Rev. Haugen said, adding that they've relied on part-time and interim pastors in the meantime.

"My hopes, dreams and goals for the church came up at our first council meeting together," Rev. Haugen said. "This church has a mission and a vision we're connecting together, so we can see how it's all part of what God is calling us to do. I'm willing to learn and grow with them in this adventure, and I'm committed to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's at the center of my ministry."

He's also committed to equipping people to do ministry work too, he said. "It's not a pastor-run church, it's a God-run church, and we all play a part in that."

Rev. Haugen focused his first sermon Sept. 15 on the parable of the shepherd leaving a flock of 99 sheep to find a lost one, explaining to the congregation how "God is on a mission to seek us, find us and bring us back."

He also shared a story about a hike he took as a young Boy Scout, and how he slipped and fell on an icy patch and displaced his knee cap. Scout leaders and colleagues came to his rescue and one of the leaders carried him out.

"What that anecdote means to me is that we all find ourselves helpless at one time or another and unable to help ourselves, but God can pick us up through other people in the church," Rev. Haugen said.

He first felt directed toward a ministerial career when he became active in an Ohio church youth group. He was given opportunities to lead Bible studies and assist with the church's music ministry.

"People got me involved, figuring I had something to contribute," he said.

His interest in religion intensified in high school, "and college classes in theology fascinated me and challenged my faith to strengthen it," Rev. Haugen said.

After graduating from college, he spent a couple years working as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member, followed by a one-year hospital chaplaincy position, while his wife, Jula Haugen, finished nursing school.

He enjoyed counseling people at homeless shelters through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and his time as a chaplain, but said he felt "something was missing. And I figured out what was missing. It was a faith component -- the opportunity to nurture peoples' faith. I wanted that to be part of my job and that's what sealed the deal for me wanting to become a pastor."

Rev. Haugen said he and his wife listed the Northern Illinois Synod as their top relocation preference, so were delighted to get called to Peace Lutheran.

"We love it here, living in the country and not in the city anymore, and everyone's been so welcoming and generous," he said. "They worked tremendously hard on the parsonage to make it livable again. No one had lived in it for 20 years. There's a huge sense of family here. They really care for one another."

He also expects they will get used to his "quirky" sense of humor and his interest in percussion and drumming that some people found "surprising," he said.

"I've also been learning more about the church's history so we can lift up those traditions that are serving the congregation so well," he said, as parishioners direct their attention to the future.

The Rev. Brad Haugen
Address: Port Byron.
Birth date: Sept. 21, 1983.
Education: Valparaiso University, bachelor's degree in the arts, minoring in business, 2006; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., 2012; ordained Nov. 17
Hometown: Cincinnati.
Family: Wife, Jula Haugen,
Favorite Scripture: Isaiah 43: 1-3.
Favorite Biblical figure I'd like to meet: "Apostle Paul."
Hobbies: "Reading, running, bicycling, hiking and camping."
One thing I feel strongly about: " For people to feel welcome to this church and hear the Good News here, and feel a sense of belonging."
I wish I knew how to: "Do more under the hood of my car."


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