I feel God calling me to become a lead pastor with a strong emphasis on discipleship.
Read Heath’s story:
In 1982 at the age of 8 in the basement of Tabernacle Baptist Church at my weekly Awana Club meeting was when I asked Jesus to come into my heart. On August 14, 1985 I suffered a serious eye injury from a BB gun accident. Little did I know at that time how much God’s hand was at work in my life and he was preparing me for things to come in the far off future. At that age in my life I knew I wanted to be one of two things…..An F16 fighter jet pilot or I wanted to be a pig farmer. Well it’s kind of hard to pass an eye exam to get into the Air Force, let alone fly an F16, when you’re blind in one eye. So, at a very early age in my life I knew that i wanted to be a farmer and proceeded to do everything that I could to make that happen. I had pigs for a 4-H project, I was actively involved in our FFA chapter all through high school, and I would spend as much time as I could working on our family farm.
I went off to college in the fall of 1992 to South Dakota State University (a predominately Ag college) to pursue a degree in Agriculture. Let’s just say that when I quit college 3 semesters later I should have pursued a degree in drinking beer and chasing girls because I was getting a whole lot better grades in those two subjects than i was in biology, accounting, speech etc. etc. After working for a few different pig farmers/companies after leaving college I wound up in Pipestone, MN in the fall of 1995 and got a job with the Pipestone System working in one of their sow units. I loved my job and had a tremendous opportunity for advancement if I would work hard and do the things I needed to do to succeed. I found a good church home and started to put down some roots.
God was very much a part of my life, but it was the parts I would only let him be involved in. Jesus was in my heart but he was by no means Lord of my life! because drinking beer and having sex with someone who was not my wife was still WAY too much fun to give up! While living there God tried to give me signs that the life I was living was very sinful and that I needed to repent, but I would just brush it off and keep doing it anyway. After not having the advancement opportunities pan out the way I’d hoped with the Pipestone System I decided to look elsewhere to make my career dreams come true. In 1997 I got my first job as a sow farm manager in Lismore, MN. I was SUPER-STOKED! Things went really well at my new job and we continued to improve our production all the time. I didn’t have as good of a church home in Lismore, but I would still try to go to church as often as I could.
In 1998 my life just continued to get better, I got a promotion within the company I was working for and was now managing several farms not just 1. I also got to buy my first ever BRAND NEW Dodge 2500 Crew cab short box Cummings Diesel pickup in December that year. It was also in May of 1998 that I got to meet this short sassy red head who would eventually become my wife! Life was GREAT!
In 1999 things were just a little different than they were in 1998. In March of that year I was driving and looked down at my cell phone and when I looked up I hit a steel bridge going 65 mph with no seat belt on. The $37,000 pickup I had just bought in December was literally totaled, and I walked away from the scene of the accident with a tiny scratch on my left elbow and shoulder and that was it!! Obviously I was grateful that God had spared my life, but I still wasn’t ready to make Him Lord of my life.
Wendy and I got married in July of 1999 and started our new life together. In November of that year I had a meeting with 2 of my superiors as we would meet once every week to discuss what was going on within the company. This meeting was a little different because by the time it was over I had been fired from my job. Gotta tell ya that I definitely never saw that one coming!! That day still rates as one of the most humbling days of my life.
So there I was, newly married, my wife was pregnant with our second child, and we had just bought the family farm from my grandparents, and I had no job! My family and I had found a really good church home at FRC in Sibley, IA. But, Jesus still was not Lord of my life. I decided that I wanted to get out of the pig business and decided to take a job at the local elevator. We continued to grow our family farm and I was in a joint venture feeding cattle with my dad and uncle.
In the fall of 2000 when it came time to sell the cattle we had been feeding, my dad and my uncle had been using their own corn to feed to the cattle and I had purchased all of mine. When it came time to close the books on that particular group of cattle my uncle and dad made money on theirs and I ended up loosing about $9000. That pretty much sent me over the edge!
I was frustrated with God at that point in my life, but when I lost all that money feeding cattle I was PISSED. My faith walk with God became pretty much non-existent at that point. As a matter of fact my single goal every day was to see how much I could spite God. I would take the Lord’s name in vein on purpose, do all kinds of work on what was supposed to be my sabbath day. I would purposely go to FRC each week just so I could sit in the pew with my fake smile on my face and act like I had it all together, but on the inside I was really laughing right in God’s face because I was being this big fake and phony and was in church for all the wrong reasons and nobody could tell any different. I brought me great joy to piss off as many people as I could and to drive all those people who were closest to me as far away as i could.
In the spring of 2002 my dad asked me if I wanted to work a men’s retreat weekend called “Cursillo” and I said sure because instead of just being a big Jesus phony for an hour per week on Sunday in church, I was going to get to be a big Jesus phony for 3 1/2 days at this retreat! I was so excited because this was going to be my best opportunity yet to mock God to his face! Well little did I know that the reason I went and the reason God had me there were not even close to being the same thing. I felt an unbelievably strong conviction on my heart that weekend to repent of all the sinful things I had been doing the past several years and to start mending all the bridges I had burnt with my family, friends, and church. And by the grace of God, over time, I was able to rebuild every bridge I had burned down.
After my job at the local elevator I got back into the pig business and stayed there working for a couple different companies until 2006 when Wendy and I got the opportunity to build our own Sow Farm and start chasing our own American dream. The construction of the farm went as well as you could have possibly asked it to and by February of 2007 we were weaning our first pigs. The next five years were some of the most difficult and challenging years of my adult life. Our pigs were constantly sick with disease and it was very very difficult to generate enough positive cash flow to make all our payments to the bank as well as satisfy all our creditors. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back for me was when I was sitting in the bank presidents office and he told me that my finances were so bad that my only option to help them improve was going to be to file for bankruptcy. I argued with him until I was blue in face and told him that “I was not one of them people”. He very much appreciated the fact that I took giving someone my word seriously, but said that he’d been in the banking business a long time and he was just sharing with me what he felt my best options were.
That day was also one of the most humbling days of my life! It was November of that year and I was doing chores on a Saturday and things were just ugly all the way around. We had sick pigs everywhere and our finances were a mess. This stubborn, strong-willed, ornery old hollander had finally reached his breaking point.
I was broken.
I had failed.
I had been trying my whole life to just let Jesus be a “part” of my life, but still was never ready to surrender my “whole” life over to Him and let Him be Lord of my life.
I remember just sitting in the office of my hog barn and just crying uncontrollably and telling God that I couldn’t do this anymore. “I give up” were the words that came out of my mouth.
That day was best day of my entire life!! That was the day I had finally reached the end of me.
It was the first day of letting God have complete control of my life and being able to see what Philippians 4:13 looks like in real life. My life, since that November day in 2012, still continues to be filled with challenges and “growing pains” but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat because everything that God has brought into my life has been for my own good.
It has made me the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful!!