Tag : pow

Pastor of the Week: Rick Weesner

By: Emily Lehner

Rick Weesner is the pastor at Garrison Hills Wesleyan in Battle Creek, Michigan, a small church with a close-knit group of attendees. On top of his work as a pastor, Weesner runs an adoption ministry and is actively involved in the Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge scholarship program.

Weesner felt his call to ministry is 1984 and began attending a program through the Wesleyan Headquarters’ Education Department that would allow him to take ministerial courses at surrounding colleges and eventually become ordained. The program was appealing to students with families and full-time careers because it allowed flexibility. Weesner was ordained in 1989, and he spent time pastoring other Michigan churches before settling in Battle Creek.

Weesner’s church, Garrison Hills Wesleyan, has a unique focus on children and youth ministries. Weesner said about his biggest struggle, “Ministry has changed over the years. I’ve always felt the call to a smaller church and that is difficult in today’s world when the focus is on everything big.”

Weesner and his family have a passion for the country of Colombia. The family has two adopted daughters from Colombia, and they have two biological daughters. Their second daughter has adopted two daughters from Colombia as well. After going through the adoption process multiple times, the family realized that the process was financially taxing, and they wanted to do something to help. Weesner and his family created an organization called Project Hope Ministries. The organization provides affordable housing for families that need to stay in a country for adoption purposes. Weesner said, “Our ministry also is working with the communities to help with education.”

Weesner is also involved in Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge and has been for 25 years. He stated, “My kids were also involved. They wanted to go to Indiana Wesleyan, so we looked for ways to raise money for that. Because the challenge was helpful in enabling my daughters to go to IWU, I’ve always wanted to help other kids as well, and the challenge provided that opportunity. I’ve always found enjoyment in hearing the success stories.” Indiana Wesleyan University is the most successful of competitions. Currently, Weesner is the director of the IWU competition.

The Wesleyan Church Campus Challenge will take place on IWU’s campus on July 29th. To learn more about the competition, click here.


Written by Emily Neideck, writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.

Pastor of the Week: Dan Berry

By: Emily Lehner


Dan Berry, photo obtained from Facebook

Dr. Dan Berry is the District Superintendent for the South Coastal District of the Wesleyan Church. Before his position as District Superintendent, Berry served as a pastor in different churches in Pennsylvania, as the District Superintendent for the New England region of the Wesleyan Church and at a church in Warsaw, Indiana.

Although Berry graduated from United Wesleyan College in Allentown, PA, his sons Jason and Joshua and first wife Shelley and second wife Debbie, were graduates of Indiana Wesleyan University. Berry’s second wife, Debbie, has two sons that also attended Indiana Wesleyan.

Berry graduated from United Wesleyan College with a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry. He has since continued to pursue a master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Evangelical School of Theology, and he also completed a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

As District Superintendent, Berry oversees over 100 pastors. The South Coastal District is also home to the largest Wesleyan Church, 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, GA. The church has grown immensely since Berry has been in the district. He stated, “District Superintendent is sort of a pastor to the pastors. Having my previous pastoral experience, I understand what it is they [the pastors] are dealing with. You know what you have gone through, and there is probably nothing that happens today that you haven’t been through and are able to help with.”

Berry’s calling to ministry came through a single, personal moment during his freshman year of college. He said, “I had a moment of surrender, and when I surrendered my life to Christ, I knew that would be my call to be a pastor. I was fighting that because my father is a pastor.” Berry’s life since college has been an example of the deep surrender that he experienced in college.

In 2007, Berry and his first wife were in a terrible accident. He said, “The greatest life changing event took place in 2007 when my first wife Shelley and I were in a very serious accident. She was in a coma for three months and experienced months of rehab. I provided 24/7 home care for 2 ½ years until her death on March 5, 2010.” Much like Berry’s call to ministry, this event changed his life forever. He stated, “The death of my wife, Shelley, was the most painful, most difficult challenge I have ever had.”


Dan and his wife Debbie, photo obtained from Facebook

However, in the midst of this hardship, Berry has been able to have joy. He said, “I am confident that she [Shelley] is at home with the Lord Jesus Christ. God has turned my “mourning into joy” by providing me a second chance with a new marriage and a new family.”

Challenges have arisen in both Berry’s personal life and his pastoral life, and he said about his pastoral challenges, “I think that the toughest thing is criticism and the personal expectations that are unrealistic that we place on ourselves. We hold ourselves higher than God. I’ve had to learn to lead for an audience of one. The only one I am trying to please is God.” To accomplish this, Berry, once again, practices complete surrender – an act of keeping God at the center of his pastoring.

Berry spoke of God’s ability to know each of our unique gifts and talents. He said, “Remember that God has called you to be you and not someone else. He has called you with your talents, personalities, and skills and you have to trust that God knows exactly what you bring to the church, your job and your community. Just go ahead and be yourself – of course, be your best self.”

“It is a pleasure for us to honor Dr. Daniel A. Berry as this week’s Pastor of the Week,” says Rev. Rick Carder, Indiana Wesleyan University’s Office of Alumni & Church Engagement. Berry’s story of personal trial and triumph is inspiring to us all and a reminder of God’s faithfulness.


Written by Emily Neideck, writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.

Alex Falder and Relational Evangelism (Pastor of the Week)

By: Emily Lehner

Alex Falder and his family Photo obtained from Facebook

Alex Falder and his family
Photo obtained from Facebook

Alex Falder graduated from Lakeview Christian High School, and although it was a tough decision between Indiana Wesleyan and Taylor University, Falder chose Taylor University. His call to ministry goes back farther than college. Falder’s youth pastor was Charlie Alcock.

Falder said, “My call to ministry was really felt during my senior year of high school- particularly to youth ministry. So, I studied Recreation and Leadership, with a minor in Youth Ministry.” This major focused on using the outdoors to shape one’s faith. Falder planned to pursue camp ministry after college.

During college, Falder worked for Springhill Camps doing wilderness trips. After college, his brother, who worked for Youth for Christ, hired him to begin a Campus Life in Ithaca, Michigan. In this position, Falder encouraged children in the area to join churches.

Following this job, Falder moved to Pittsburgh to work as a youth pastor. “I really grew in a love for the church and ministry in the church. After four years, I came back to get my master’s at Huntington University. This was a time when it became very clear that my talents were meant to be used inside the church.”

After completing his master’s, Falder began his internship at Wabash Friends Church, his home church. Within six months, Falder discovered that the senior pastor at the church was transitioning out. The church leadership believed that he was the one to be the replacement. Falder stated, “I don’t think I was ever planning to be a senior pastor. It just kind of happened.”

As senior pastor, Falder focuses on four main categories of the church. He believes being proactive in every person’s faith walk is of high importance. He said, “A healthy church has 25% quadrants. 25% of your people are exploring Christ, maybe that haven’t even come to know him yet. 25% of the people are coming to know Christ. They’re figuring out who He is. Then, you have 25% who are close to Christ, but they are still figuring out things in life. And then lastly, you have 25% who are all in. They’re serving and devoted to Christ. As a pastor, I am constantly thinking about how I can assist these four groups in moving forward.” Falder said he is always attempting to envision which programs and events and messages will help each group.

As far as reaching out, Falder believes a relationship is the most important and primary step in discipleship. He said, “I really have wrestled with the idea that church is the place where evangelism takes place. Really, it should be just not the staff’s job, but the church’s job to be meeting people where they are at, helping them walk down that road.” Falder spends his days thinking of ways to reach out to the Wabash community and also helping to encourage growth within the congregation members. “We are trying to make the person’s first exposure to Christ relational and not walking through the doors of the church,” he said.

Wabash Friends Church partners with community organizations to pursue this type of relationship with others. Falder said, “The way we look at missions is that we don’t just want to fund it, but we want to have people involved. So, we have people who are going and participating.”

The church focuses heavily on youth. For example, Wabash Friends has a partnership with Kids Hope. Members of the church visit local schools and mentor the elementary students. They currently have approximately 25 mentors. Falder said, “We also have a partnership with Youth for Christ. This is something that has grown in Wabash. Now, all four schools have a Youth for Christ program.” The church also partners with FCA and The Access. “We see these as opportunities to be a part of kids’ lives. We want to walk along them from an early age,” he said.

Falder said that his time spent in college allowed him to see his need for relationship. “I need to have people around me that will sharpen me,” he stated. He puts these insights into practice at Wabash Friends Church and in the surrounding Wabash community, building relationships with all he comes into contact with. 



Written by Emily Lehner, a writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others. 





Pastor of the Week: Dwight Elliott

By: Heather Cox

Dwight Elliott

Dwight Elliott

Dwight Clark Elliott graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with his B.A. in General Studies with a focus on Biblical Studies in 2013.

Today, Elliott is the Senior Pastor at Amboy Friend’s Church in Amboy, Indiana.

Elliott said that Indiana Wesleyan University greatly influenced his future. He said IWU helped him focus on core values and the importance of a Christian education– not just in the workplace, but in every place.

Some of Elliott’s favorite courses through IWU included Old and New Testament. He said that though he didn’t have Wilbur Williams, he had Greg Smith for Old Testament, and he really enjoyed his class.

As for how he transitioned into God’s call for his life, Elliott decided to first further his education.

“I grew up on a farm and had returned to working with my father, and was called from the pig pin to a pulpit,” Elliott said. “When I came behind the pulpit to work full time in ministry, I had already had a background of working part time ministry for a number of years, but I knew at that time the Lord was calling me to sharpen my focus to continue to be a leader, which means that I needed to be a learner. So I returned back to school to finish my bachelors degree in that time.”

Since then, Elliott said there have been a number of times in which God has confirmed this calling into ministry. One of these confirmations came shortly after obtaining his bachelor’s degree.

“Shortly after my graduation there was a knock on the door here at the church. It was a man to say he was had just been released from jail. We ended up getting him some help, because he said he wanted out of that lifestyle. It took a while to get him into a rehabilitation house, but shortly thereafter he was in that house living. I went to go visit one day, and he introduced me to the other guys in the house as his best friend,” Elliott explained. “It just … humbled me to think here’s this guy–he’s been through hardship in life–and yet God is kind of confirming that call. Because God may not necessarily always call the qualified, but he definitely qualifies those that He calls, and that was one moment I could say for certain I felt that confirmation of that call.”

Though Elliott has experienced confirmation from the Lord, there have been difficult times throughout this journey and process as well.

“I think sometimes the biggest difficulty we face is when we allow pain to to get between us and what the Lord is trying to do in our lives. And sometimes we let that pain block Him out, and it can become a distraction or a detour. When the truth is, we need to see that as an opportunity where the Lord’s working on us,” Elliott said.

Elliott also went on to describe some of the challenges he has faced in his life. Elliott explained he has a 15 year old son who is autistic and nonverbal, and he said he continues to learn from his son who always radiates joy.

“He reminds me every day of the fact that we shouldn’t take life for granted and to see joy in the smallest of things. Because the frustration that he must have every single day is hard for me to imagine– not being able to express vocally what he wants, what his needs are– yet he shows patience, and he is such a happy guy. I mean he is… he’s full of joy and we see that reflected in his eyes, in his smile, and his laugh,” Elliott explained. “It helps remind us that even in the midst of struggle and strife, and even a midst of pain, there is joy and that joy helps us to look past that pain, past that distraction, past that detour, to see the very thing that God wants us to focus on and is praising him.”

Elliott explained that his congregation at Amboy Friend’s Church is unique and values reaching out to the community. The church is from the Friend’s denomination. Elliott said another way of explaining that would be to use the “old school term Quaker.”

Elliott said one of the unique things the church does is a monthly outreach program with the community, called “Free Meal Ministry.”

“We give a meal that is absolutely free. We put it on here at the church, and we often make deliveries in the area. On average we have been serving about 175 meals every month for, I think we’re in our fifth maybe sixth year at this point, and we continue to reach out to community,” Elliott said. “There are people that will come into our family life center for a meal that would not feel comfortable coming into the church but on enter into our gym and there are some very healthy things that begin around the table.”

Elliott went on to say that healing begins to take place during these meals, as people share their stories, their struggles, their hurt, and what they need prayer for.

Elliott said another unique factor about the congregation, is the wide variety of generations.

“We have a lot of folks from previous generations, but we have held their hand as they went on to be with the Lord… and then we’re seeing more young families are coming into the congregation. It’s kind of a transition time a Amboy Friend’s. We’re seeing more and more young families coming into our church. Which is a blessing, and it’s an encouragement to see that happen,” Elliott said.

As for words of wisdom for current IWU students, Elliott wants to encourage students to persevere in the pursuit of their education, and to evaluate what is truly important in life.

“I would just encourage them to continue to continue their path. My bachelor’s degree was held up for a lot of years because of me, and I got in the way of it–in truth I should have completed it a lot earlier, but I was in the way of it,” Elliott explained. “Sometimes life has a habit of doing that, but if anything, I really learned through the online experience at Indiana Wesleyan how to be disciplined and focused so that my studies have their place in my life. There are plenty of times in life where ‘urgent’ is going to try to crowd out what’s important, and it seems to challenge us on a daily basis, but my time in Indiana Wesleyan really helped me to determine what was important, so that when ‘urgent’ came along, I knew exactly what ‘urgent’ was, but I knew truly what was important.”


Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Matthew Schwarzentraub

By: Dezaray Barr


Matthew Schwarzentraub

Matthew Schwarzentraub

Matthew Schwarzentraub, the Connections Pastor at Croswell Wesleyan Church in Croswell Michigan, graduated from IWU in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Christian Ministries and Biblical Literature. He graduated just this last year from Wesley Seminary with his masters of divinity from IWU as well.

Schwarzentraub has been a pastor of Croswell Wesleyan five years this June. He began as an intern in the children’s ministry. In the fall of 2013 he resigned, but just a few weeks later he was called back by the senior pastor to be the connections pastor.

“My job is to serve as the connections pastor, focusing on hospitality, connections and life groups,” Schwarzentraub said.

While a student at IWU, Schwarzentraub was involved in the young adult ministry at College Wesleyan Church and was a senator in IWU’s Student Government Association. Both involvements and his friends at IWU affected him in large ways.

Schwarzentraub said, “I believe that, even though I did not see it at the time, those two activities shaped the way I minister to this day. Another equally influential factor is the close-knit friendships that I made at IWU. I learned more about God and more about how he created me through my friends. We encouraged each other to lean into who we were made to be.”

Schwarzentraub favorite professor during his time at IWU was Dr. David Vardaman who taught Church Leadership and Wesleyan Church History. “What I love about him is that he is real, and he cares deeply about his students. I could sense that he wanted to teach knowledge, but he also wanted to teach character,” Schwarzentraub said. “I always knew that he cared about me personally.”

Matthew Schwarzentraub during his time in children's ministry

Matthew Schwarzentraub during his time in children’s ministry

One of Schwarzentraub’s favorite people at IWU was Dr. Keith Newman. “I’m not exactly sure how I got connected with him in the first place. It was probably through SGA,” Schwarzentraub said, “but I remember sitting down with him and discussing options for seminary. I had my mind on an established, more prominent program. He told me a story about a surgeon and a family doctor. The surgeon sees people, operates on them and doesn’t see them again. The family doctor sees patients, knows them and checks on them frequently throughout their lifetime. Dr. Newman then asked me to think about being a professor or a pastor. The more prominent seminary will train you to be a professor and you will know students for a semester and then send them off. This other newer seminary will help you continue to develop the heart of a pastor and you will know people for a lifetime. Which one do you want?”

Schwarzentraub knew his calling to be a pastor was real as a child. “One of the most distinct experiences came from my senior pastor when I was younger,” Schwarzentraub said. “It was at North Lakeport Wesleyan. I was involved in the Wednesday night CYC (youth) program, and we had to interview the pastor. As I finished my interview with Rev. Steve DeNeff, he asked if he could ask me a question. ‘Matt, what do you want to do with your life?’ I replied, ‘I want to be a pastor.’ He smiled, and later he was talking to my parents and recalled the conversation. After telling them what I said Pastor Steve said, ‘If he would have said anything else, I would not have believed him.’”

If Schwarzentraub could give current IWU students one piece of advice, it would be, “Put people first. It is easy to get distracted and be focused on results,” Schwarzentraub said, “but people need hope and the best way to show them hope is by listening, encouraging and caring.”


Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a sophomore Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU Dezaray is involved in PRSSA leadership and runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

Aaron Gross: Pastor of the Week

By: Heather Cox

Aaron and his wife Peggy, photo from Facebook

Aaron and his wife Peggy, photo from Facebook

Rev. Aaron Gross graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2012. He became an adjunct faculty for Wesley Seminary in the fall of 2012 teaching a spiritual formation class for pastors. In addition, Gross is going to begin in the Doctor of Ministry program with a concentration in preaching in the upcoming summer of 2017.

Currently, Gross is the Senior Pastor of the Logansport Church of the Brethren.

For Gross, being an IWU student was a very rewarding journey which he is very thankful for. Gross began his journey at IWU as an adult student taking night classes in Fort Wayne to satisfy his General Studies. From there, he transferred those credits to IWU’s Marion campus to begin his Christian Ministries degree.

Becoming an adjunct faculty was a blessing which came through a very important conversation Gross had with Wesley Seminary’s Dr. Smith.

“I sat with him in Baldwin one day during my undergraduate degree and asked him, ‘How do I know if God wants to me to teach at a college level or continue to preach in His church?’ Dr. Smith said, “‘Is one of them wrong? Is it wrong to teach pastoral ministries or to preach God’s word?  This is not a right or wrong answer. Could it be that God just wants to give you the desires of your heart?’” Gross explained.

It was a few years later when Gross was walking across IWU’s campus that he expressed to the Lord what his desire was.

“I remember saying, ‘God, if it is okay with you, I would love to teach young men and women at this campus how to be good pastors,’” said Gross. “It was just days later that Dr. Schenck asked if I would lead one of the cohorts for the master of divinity program when I graduated. Dr. Smith was right, God was just wanting to give me the desires of my heart.”

Gross has a pretty powerful story behind his call into ministry. Though he had started out in his family run business straight out of high school, it was while on a men’s retreat that Gross felt God had ministry in store for his future.

Gross said he was nervous to come home and explain this calling to his parents, as this would now cause his father to have to close their family business at the end of his retirement.

“As I told my parents the story, my dad said, ‘Well, I guess it is time to tell him the story.’ I thought to myself, ‘What story?’ My mom started telling of her having rheumatic fever as a child, her struggles with infertility and being told she would never bear a child. She said, ‘Your dad and I were married and continued to hope that the doctors were wrong, but month after month it seemed if they were right. One night, I got on my knees and prayed, ‘Lord, if you will give me a child, I will give him back to you.’ Nine months later you were born,’” Gross said.

Since hearing this story and being in full-time ministry, Gross treasures this story in the midst of difficult times.

“I have thought back to that day many times. When times get tough and I don’t see God’s hand at work, or when I am just tired of the fight ministry always seems to present, I go back to that moment and remember I am a child of a parent’s prayer, and I continue the work God has called me to do,” Gross said.

Even with this confirmed calling to what Gross does on a daily basis, there are still hardships and difficulties that come with it.

“Ministry has had its ups and downs,” Gross said. “There almost comes a time when you are afraid of good days because you know what is coming. But how do you decide if a problem is big or small? It seems that big problems have a way of diminishing in size and small problems grow into great difficulties.”

Through the difficulties that ministry brings, Gross said he is blessed to serve a growing congregation in a dying city.

“Our town has gone from 22,000 people to 16,000 people in twenty years. But the church has gone from 34 in worship to over 200 on a Sunday morning in that same amount of time,” Gross said.

The church has also added a Friday night service called “Hurts, Habits, and Hang-ups,” which brings in 70 people who are recovering addicts and their families. The church also has a ministry called “Prayer and Share”, in which they partner with teachers and faculty in their local school systems. The ministry brings them cookies and candies once a month, to let them know the church is praying for them.

The church also started a daycare to provide teachers a place close to their schools to bring their children for child care.

“Eighteen years ago, the church was used one day a week. Now we have room numbers on all the rooms to keep track of what is going on each night,” Gross said. “These rooms are filled with activities like exercise groups, accountability groups and meditation groups.”

As for advice for current IWU students, Gross has something practical to tell students.

“When your time at IWU is over, live your life in such a way that others would want to attend this grand university because of what they see in you,” Gross said.


Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: Chris Conrad

By: Heather Cox

Chris Conrad, photo obtained from Facebook

Chris Conrad, photo obtained from Facebook

Chris Conrad graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 1988 and from there earned his MA from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2009. In addition, Conrad is currently in Indiana Wesleyan’s DOL program to earn his PhD.

On top of studying at IWU, Conrad is also the District Superintendent for the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church.

While studying at IWU, Conrad said he has been influenced by wonderful professors. His MA program was directed by Dr. Bob Whitesell, who Conrad said has written many books and highly enjoys interacting with students about their ministry experiences.

“Todd Guy was also a delight to have as a professor during my M.A. program – I appreciated his insights and his winsome spirit,” Conrad said. “There’s no doubt that the interaction I had with my fellow students, both during my M.A. program and now in the DOL program have been life-giving.”

Conrad said he has also enjoyed the professors he has had during his current DOL program. This includes Patricia Johnson, Dr. Vern Ludden, Dr. Boyd Johnson, and Dr. Tim Beuthin.

“Each professor has a wonderful commitment to learning and to do so from a perspective of a life that is in full pursuit of Jesus. That’s a great combination!” Conrad said.

For Conrad, life spent ministering to churches has been a call he has always felt. He first felt a call to ministry at the young age of five, and God continued to confirm this calling the rest of his life.

“When I was 12, I had a renewed sense that this was what I was going to be doing with my life, and when I was 16 I went public with that decision at a Wesleyan Youth Convention in Urbana, Illinois, in 1980,” Conrad said. “I was blessed to grow up in an incredibly healthy family and church in Southern California, both of which afforded me opportunities to ‘get my feet wet’ in ministry from early on– something I was incredibly grateful for.”

An example of a confirmation to his call to ministry was when he and his wife Mary launched a church they had planted in Spearfish South Dakota. Conrad said 130 people showed up for the first service, and the church continued to grow and prosper after that.

Chris Conrad, photo obtained from Facebook

Chris Conrad, photo obtained from Facebook

“That’s when I knew deep in my soul ‘I was made for this,’” Conrad said.

Though Conrad considers each ministry he has been a part of a blessing, difficulties and obstacles inevitably present challenges along the way.

After planting another church in Madison, Wisconsin, the church never reached a high attendance rate. Conrad said they had done everything they could to get the church lifted off the ground to grow, but it simply did not get there.

“Yes, people came to Christ. Yes, good ministry took place. But to never break the 100 barrier in average attendance after six years of putting our heart and soul into the venture, when our first church broke the 100 barrier on the very first Sunday… that was discouraging!” Conrad said.

In addition to this difficulty, Conrad and his wife experienced personal struggles when facing infertility, as well as hopeful adoptions falling through over the course of 16 years. Not only did infertility cause discouragement, four adoptions falling through produced much hopelessness as well.

“Eventually, after 13 years, my wife did some research on international adoption.  At the time, Ukraine seemed like the best choice because you could adopt multiple children (sibling groups) at the same time.  Usually the process took about six months,” Conrad said. “For reasons out of our control, ours took three years.  Three years doesn’t sound like a long time, except when it is stacked on top of a previous wait of 13.”

At the end of 2006, Conrad and his wife were able to bring their two new Ukrainian daughters home to the United States after a long adoption process, praising God for his faithfulness.

Chris Conrad and his family, photo obtained from Facebook

Chris Conrad and his family, photo obtained from Facebook

“In it all, both on the ministry side and the personal side, God has been faithful – to Him be all the glory!” Conrad said.

With his job working for the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church, Conrad considers those he works with to be some of the world’s best leaders.

“I am blessed to serve some of the most outstanding leaders and pastors in the entire world.  When I think of the stellar team of individuals God has blessed us with, as together we attempt to reach the one million plus individuals who have yet to come to a relationship with Christ in West Michigan, I am simply blown away,” Conrad said.

Conrad said they have pastors doing work in inner-cities, as well as leaders working hard in the suburbs. On top of that, they also have pastors and leaders in the process of planting more churches.

“Each of these leaders and those who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with them in our District care deeply about bringing people to Jesus, developing themselves and those around them as leaders and are committed to leading from a well-ordered soul,” Conrad said. “My job is simply to resource them the very best we can, to cheer them on, and to help them raise up the next generation who will join with them in Kingdom advancement.”

Rick Carder, Director of Alumni and Church Engagement for IWU, said Conrad is a leader in church growth and development, and continues to make a difference through his service.

“Through his role with the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church, he has given positive and influential leadership to his pastors he is charged with leading,” Carder said. “I have personally seen how he makes every effort to guide and provide helpful advice through his servant’s heart. He is an enthusiastic & passionate leader that never grows tired of helping his team develop personally and pastorally.”

Since starting his PhD program at IWU, Conrad said he feels as though he is keeping up with two full time jobs–serving pastors and leaders of his district, and the job of being a student. In addition to those two jobs, he said he remains dedicated to his relationship with Christ, his marriage, and his daughters. Through becoming dedicated in so many different directions, Conrad said he began to realize he needed to give something up. For him, this meant cutting back on something he loved to do.

“In 2000, I ran my first marathon and since then I’ve run a total of 25 more.  Typically I run a couple of them a year. Running is how I unwind and get refreshed,” Conrad said. “I recognized that multiple marathons each year might not be possible while pursuing my PhD.  So, instead of running 6-8 miles at time, I have to settle for 3-5 miles, and on ‘special days’ I might get a six-miler in, but that’s rare.  I’ve had to learn to be satisfied with this new balance.”

That being said, Conrad’s advice to other current IWU students is to realize and accept that we cannot have it all. Conrad said life is about choices, meaning we have to choose what is the most important, and what may be less important.

“Sometimes this takes discernment from the Holy Spirit about what to cut out of our lives. It might even mean talking to a friend or two who can help us discern what God is saying to us about this,” Conrad said.

Lastly, Conrad also expressed his love for education. He said all education points us to God, and we can find him in every part of our studies.

“When we sit down to study, before we start writing our paper or reading our text book, how about saying a prayer and inviting the Holy Spirit into the teaching process?  We don’t have to live divided lives. He actually cares about every aspect of our lives, so why not invite Him into our studies with us?”


Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

Pastor of the Week: John Wickstrom

By: Heather Cox

John Wickstrom

John Wickstrom

Rev. John W. Wickstrom III graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2004 with a B.S. in Youth Ministry.

Wickstrom credits his years at IWU as some of the greatest and most formative years of his life and ministry. Reflecting back on his time as a student, Wickstrom had quite a few classes and professors who heavily influenced him and his experience at IWU.

This list includes his very first class at IWU, Old Testament Survey with David Smith.

“I’ll never forget Dr. Smith’s focus from day one to show students the grace and love of God the Father evident in the pages of the Old Testament,” Smith said. “I ended up taking every Bible class I could fit in my schedule the next four years with Dr. Smith, and have been greatly impacted by his love and passion for God’s Word, something I hope to instill in those I have been fortunate enough to lead in ministry ever since.”

Other classes that were Wickstrom’s favorites included Post-Reformation Church History and History of the Wesleyan Church, taught by Dr. Bud Bence. Wickstrom said he had never met someone who could make history, issues, and trends come alive with such heart and intensity.

Wickstrom was also able to learn from and work with Pastor Steve DeNeff.

“I also consider myself very fortunate to have been able to learn from and refine the gift of preaching under Steve DeNeff,” Wickstrom said. “Both the opportunity to sit under his leadership as the pastor at College Wesleyan Church, and to learn directly in Homiletics class have been an immeasurable asset to finding my own style in teaching God’s Word to a congregation, whether they were teenagers or adults.”

Overall, Wickstrom said he loved the religion faculty as a whole, as he learned a lot from each of them.

In addition to being taught in his classes, Wickstrom also loved his campus job, working with the maintenance department. Even this job gave him important life lessons and lessons to remember as a pastor.

“It allowed me to meet a lot of people, see a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ areas of the college, and change a whole lot of light bulbs…including spending one Christmas break changing the bulbs in the ‘star ceiling’ of the PPAC,” Wickstrom said. “In some ways, the job gave me a greater appreciation for men and women who serve God and the Kingdom from a different angle than those with college degrees.  It gave me an appreciation for tradesmen and skilled laborers.”

After graduation, while he was serving in the Florida District leading the District youth ministry, Wickstrom knew he had chosen the right path in becoming a pastor.

Wickstrom said he will always treasure memories of listening to students’ testimonies around the campfire on the last nights of youth camp, because it was in those moments when God confirmed Wickstrom’s calling and His involvement in Wickstrom’s ministry.

“It is so exciting to watch God reproduce ministry in the next generation of leaders who are carrying the church forward,” Wickstrom said. “It’s been such a delight to help them understand their calling, get involved in ministry, explore education options, and begin preparing for the future God is leading them towards.”

Wickstrom and his family

Wickstrom and his family

Today, Wickstrom is the Lead Pastor at Wesleyan Community Church located in Oak Lawn, Illinois and has been since August 2015. There, he also serves alongside his wife, Kristia– also an IWU alumna– who is the church’s assistant pastor.

Wesleyan Community Church neighbors the southwest side of Chicago, putting them in a unique place demographically, allowing their church community to be immersed into a variety of cultures and nationalities, such as Polish and Middle Eastern families. Even socioeconomically, the church is near both oppressed neighborhoods from the southside of Chicago, and affluent suburban communities in the opposite direction.

“We have taken on the challenge of trying to build relationships with our neighbors and build bridges of helping our neighbors connect with one another, break down fears and uncertainties of people who are unlike themselves, and do it all in the name and love of Jesus,” Wickstrom said. “It is definitely both a challenge and exciting for our family.”

The church also has a wide age range from a more elderly side, to the six infant dedications Wickstrom has been a part of in his year and a half of pastoring the church.

“We are very blessed with a wonderful church family who continues to be supportive and welcoming to all who enter through our doors. We are known as a very friendly church, praise God!” Wickstrom said. “Our goal is to get all people connected at whatever stage they are at in their faith journey, disciple them, live life alongside them and lead them to make a greater impact in our community for Christ.”

However, being a pastor does not come without difficulties. Throughout this process, Wickstrom has learned a lot about himself.

Wickstrom has had to learn to know and accept that not everything has to be perfect in both life and ministry–including himself.

“Growing up, I was pushed to excel, especially in the area of academics.  For the most part, it has served me well in life.  One drawback however is a general fear of failure. Having a personality and temperament that leans towards the analytical exacerbates that difficulty, as I really like to think through issues and situations and try to make the best choice possible,” Wickstrom said. “So while I’m still a work in progress in that area, I am continuing to let God refine me, to offer him what I have, and to try to be involved and active before always having the perfect answer or plan for every problem or situation in life and ministry.”

As far as advice for current Indiana Wesleyan students, Wickstrom encourages students to continue seeking God.

“No matter what major you choose, allow God to call you to a community, and place a priority on being used by Him in partnering with a church and pastor in that community to build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and bring transformative hope and restoration within it,” Wickstrom said.

Wickstrom said he believes wonderful Christian men and women graduate from IWU in a variety of different majors, but students will often graduate and simply try to find a job, rather than dedicate themselves to the “Great Commission” calling.

“The Kingdom isn’t just built by religion students, but by men and women of every field of study working together to bring hope and transformation that reflects God’s heart and brings glory to Jesus Christ,” Wickstrom said. “Not everyone is necessarily called to be pastors, but people are needed to come alongside pastors, to engage with the community at large, and to place a Kingdom building mindset as the priority of life. As someone has once said, ‘seek to make a life, rather than just to make a living.’”


Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!

“Insuring that the Message of Grace is Delivered”: Elder Rev. Charles T. Moorer, Jr. – Pastor of the Week

By: Rick Carder

Rev. Moorer and his wife.

Rev. Moorer and his wife.

Many say that inspiring stories are the only thing that carries them through their day. Adversity is a daily challenge for people, and Rev. Charles Moorer, Jr. is providing inspiring stories and messages through his ministry. Moorer is the Lead Pastor at Divine Direction Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to the church website, his ministry and church “…stands firm on the Word of God and its principles for everyday living, worship, and communion with God. Over the 13-plus years, I (Moorer) and my family have had the honor and privilege to serve the members of Divine Direction Christian Church and the Near Eastside community.”

Rev Moorer has seen his share of opportunities while ministering in this congregation. He remembers what his mother said years prior, and its helps when he feels opposition. She said, “You were created to serve Him.” At first, resisting the call to ministry, and through the intervention of spiritual leaders who spoke prophecy over him, and even through much prayer and fasting, Moorer came to realize that this local ministry is where he belongs. “We are now marching together” he says about serving their community.

The ministry touches the lives of people who have physical as well as spiritual needs. The ministry recently provided food for families in need. “The line of people stretched out the church doors and around the parking lot,” said Moorer in a recent conversation. Their ministry is trying to make a difference where it matters most. The local church ministry provides transportation and meals in a ministry called “Feed My Sheep Ministry”, as well as a Thanksgiving Dinner for the community. This year’s outreach was able to provide food for over 200 families. “What we need are people who will join us by volunteering in serving alongside us. We need people from The Wesleyan Church, as well as other ministries, to join us in our eastside neighborhood church.”

It is through the generosity of a nearby neighbor that Moorer’s church has been able to have community ministries in an open field. Pastor Moorer recalls bringing a ministry in from Missouri to provide many opportunities to serve the local people. Moorer also inspires lives through his weekly teaching and preaching. His ministry extends to his fellowship of believers as well as providing evangelism opportunities. His inspiring messages can be found at SermonPC.

Moorer has exceptional talents that he uses to not only meet with needs of people in his congregation but also having served as an educator with IWU since 2009. Through his business, Solace Risk Management, Moorer is able to provide property and casualty services as well as claims advocacy and management consulting. His bi-vocational role is an example of someone who loves to serve and intentionally finds resources to meet the needs of people. Much of his personal wealth goes into the ministry he serves to help people. He is insuring that the message of grace is delivered to people whose needs exceed their resources. He says that being in the marketplace is a great opportunity for sharing with others about the grace of God, in Christ.

bookIn a recent release of his book, “Giving up Is Not an Option”, Moorer shares “an inspiring true story of heartbreak, hard times, and triumph over life’s adversities.” (book cover)

How many times have you gone through so much pain, uncertainty, and confusion that you were sure the punishment was something that you deserved? You know that the world isn’t always fair, but perhaps you’ve had what seems to be more than your share of bad luck? Where is the “light” at the end of the tunnel? Difficult situations are a part of everyone’s life. We have all been there at one point or another. Stuck in a situation that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Wondering why things go wrong, even when we’ve convinced ourselves we’ve made all the “right” choices. If this sounds like you, know that you’re not the first to wonder. Nor are you the first to experience what can sometimes be a severe blow to your faith. In times such as these, it’s easy to question, easy to stop believing even. But where there is darkness, there must also be light. – From Amazon.

Moorer shares an honest account from his personal life and the lives of his family encouraging and inspiring his readers to not give up but to realize the hope we have in God. According to Rick Carder, “It is a must-read! I have purchased the book and read it. I found that by him sharing his vulnerabilities from his own family, it reveals how faithful God is when we face adversity. I found that I could not put the book down and read it in one sitting, because it was a powerful example of a modern-day story of Job.”

Moorer writes, “I wanted to throw in the towel but God would throw it right back to me,” testifying of how God walked with him.

Moorer shared his favorite biblical passages. Putting these verses in his own words he said the following verses provides rich insights:

Psalm 46 tells us that He is our ever present help in times of trouble!

Heb 13:5 says that He will never leave you or forsake you.

Romans 8:31 says, who shall separate us…not adversity.

Moorer’s church website references Romans 10:14-15;


Rev. Moorer and his family

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!

The Moorer’s have two children that have been a part of the IWU community. His daughter is a recent graduate who works for her father’s business and his son is currently attending IWU. Both of his children were involved in the Music Department. He is married to Crystal.

His family is very musical. Moorer is just about to release a music album that will be available on iTunes in the coming days. It was produced with his family as well as IWU’s Professor and Director of the IWU Jazz Band, Todd Williams. His music has been played on over 200 radio stations across the country, and he has several interviews that are upcoming with opportunities to share his story and his music. You can find his music on iTunes by searching for Charles Moorer and the Faithful Few.

Divine Direction is on the web at www.divinedirectioncc.org.

Pastor of the Week: Richard L. Deisler

By: Heather Cox

Richard Deisler and his wife.

Richard Deisler and his wife.

Richard L. Deisler graduated from Marion College (Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1981 with a B.S. in Christian Ministries/ Biblical Literature, and also went on to receive his M.A. in 1994.

Currently, Deisler serves as the senior pastor at Whiteford Wesleyan Church located in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.

When Deisler first arrived at IWU as a student, he had not planned on majoring in Christian Ministries and Biblical Literature. Instead, Deisler had been planning on going to school to become a math teacher. As for what first changed his mind on this plan, Deisler said it was one week in college calculus, realizing the class was not his cup of tea. After one year of being at IWU, Deisler’s heart began to change as he felt God begin to lead him toward the pastorate.

Dr. Wayne Caldwell was one IWU professor who heavily influenced Deisler’s life.

“Wayne Caldwell was one whom I highly respected and could not take enough of his classes,” Deisler said. “Dr. Caldwell was not only a great professor and mentor, but was an encourager and ‘cheerleader’ on my behalf.”

Another professor Deisler enjoyed was Dr. Norman Wilson, who actually used one of Deisler’s sermon titles for one of his messages, which is what Deisler said is his personal claim to fame.

In the midst of pastoring, Deisler finds confirmation that he is doing what God has called him to do.

“Whenever we are part of changed lives, restored marriages, the privilege of baptizing, to watch disciples move to a deeper commitment, it is confirmed that this is what God has called me to do,” Deisler said.

Even still, Deisler said every church has its own unique obstacles, including his own church, Whiteford Wesleyan Church.

“We are a rural church so we have to be much more intentional about our “community,” Deisler said. “I think every church has to always be focusing on the ‘whys’ of our existence and that we do not exist for ourselves but for others. That means change and change is always difficult.”

Whiteford Wesleyan Church itself is 170 years old, established in 1846 as one of the first Wesleyan churches in Michigan. Deisler said that today the congregation is a mixture of young and older members.

“We are conservative with an upbeat approach,” Deisler said.

The church has also “adopted” the local school as their community, and have partnered with them to house ministries such as a Preschool and Latch-Key programs.

“We are blessed with a great location out in the country sitting on a main road, just a mile off a busy interstate connecting Michigan and Ohio,” Deisler said.

Deisler is currently in his 28th year of serving Whiteford Wesleyan Church, and finds joy in witnessing new infants being dedicated to the church, baptizing them as a believer, presiding at their weddings, and then dedicating their children to the church as well.

“We are unique for our longevity as a church,” Deisler said. “We are unique for having pastors who stay a long time.”

As for advice for current IWU students, Deisler said to get as much practice as possible.

“There is no training like ‘on the job,’” Deisler said. “Volunteer at your church for the summer. Invest yourselves in various ministries—children, youth, adults. Take on a project for the church and see it through to completion. Above all, learn to love your people and serve them.”


Written by Heather Cox, guest writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a Junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!