Nora Christensen

The older I get, the harder it is to have a short God story; my God stories really began around the age of seven and they’ve continued happening now for 66 years. But here is the God story that led me to the organ at First United Methodist Church.

In 1990 I had resigned from the position I held as Associate Pastor for Christian Education in a Sioux Falls Church. It was a low point in my life because I was exhausted and wasn’t sure there was a place where I could be happy and thrive in any church. My faith in God was not wavering; my faith in the church had been sorely tested.

Into this story came Leon Bill. Leon was well known to us; he had been a pastor and also served on the staff at the University of Sioux Falls, where my husband Harold worked. He also is the husband of Darline Bill, from whom I had taken organ lessons for a while. We were visiting briefly after an organ concert when Leon sort of casually said to me “WHY DON’T YOU DO WHAT DARLINE DID AND GO DOWN TO USD AND GET YOUR MASTER’S IN ORGAN PERFORMANCE.” I capitalize and underline this because that’s the impact his words had on me; I think God looked like Leon Bill in that moment.

Shortly thereafter, I did what he suggested; it took four years of hard work, during which I served as organist in two Lutheran churches and a Baptist church. Just as I was finishing up my degree, the organist position became available at First United Methodist Church. I knew the organ well, as I had performed three times in the Summer Recital Series the church had at the time, and my organ professor had worked with me in utilizing all that the organ had to offer. My professor also was serving as a consultant to the organist search committee.

With his encouragement, I applied, interviewed, and auditioned, and was thrilled to accept the position in 1996. In the 17 1/2 years, I served at FUMC, I was continually inspired by the way this wonderful organ could support and enliven the worship of this church, and so thankful that I found a way to serve God that would also give me life and nourish my soul.

Harold Christensen

...: This God Story begins in late 1989 when the year the Berlin Wall fell resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism everywhere (including Mongolia). I was beginning to think about my sabbatical (coming in 1992) it seemed like I should go to the former Soviet Union and teach computing while I explored ministry of the laity in the workplace.

God was preparing Mongolia for my coming when, believe it or not, Christian businessmen from Sioux Falls assured that the Freedom of Religion clause was included in the new Mongolian constitution. The constitution was ratified in January 1992. One of those businessmen, my IBM sales rep, called my attention to opportunities in Mongolia.

My sabbatical started August 1, 1992, when I boarded the airplane bound for the capital of Mongolia. As I left home, I expected to teach computing to members of the new Parliament. When I arrived, however, my contact had resigned Parliament in favor of free enterprise. I spent August coordinating mission groups who came from all over the world to show the Jesus Film.

Amazingly, on August 31, the day the last mission group went home, I interviewed with Batmend, the Deputy Minister for National Development. My experience planning large engineering projects (critical path method) was a perfect match for what he needed, but in the end, it fell through. I was discouraged.

Nothing else happened for weeks. I purchased all my gifts for family and was about to declare my sabbatical a success and go home. That’s when my Bible study showed me Ephesians 3:20:
God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine For three years God had already done more than I could imagine, and my flight home was scheduled for December 15. I committed to staying and seeing.

Soon I got an interview with Batjargel, Minister for Nature and Environment (the President’s cabinet member). He told me “You can work in my computer center, start tomorrow; we’ll pay you like an engineer.”

At 10:00, I met Battogtokh, and we went to his office to get acquainted. In only 10 minutes he asked, “Are you a Christian.” I wasn’t going to talk about that for a long time; I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and said, “Yes, are you”? Battogtokh answered, “Yes; God has sent you here to help me.” Suddenly this story that I thought was my story was revealed as God’s story—immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine.

Pam Knuth

Nate and I were only married a few months when we found out we were expecting our first baby. Excitement, nervousness and happiness all explain how we were feeling as we prepared to welcome our baby. We decorated the nursery, bought all the baby supplies, my sister had a shower for us .... we did all the things couples do to get ready for baby! On May 27, 1999 my life changed forever. Our beautiful baby boy was born, but instead of happiness, our emotions changed to fear and sadness as our Cole Lewis was born with a hole in his heart and many other birth defects. Everything happened so fast ... they whisked away my baby to the nicu and quickly flew him and Nate to Minneapolis to see if they could help him there. Before they left, we quickly had him baptized. 12 hours after Cole was born, he peacefully passed away in his daddy's arms and went to be with Jesus. You may wonder how this sad story can be my "God Story", but it's in the time spent after Cole's death that brought me closer to our God and has kept me there ever since. In every difficult step I took grieving our baby, I saw Jesus. In my darkest days, he was there. I felt him with me in that painful time of my life and I've learned to keep Jesus close while outwardly showing my faith to others. From that experience of losing our child so unexpectedly and quickly, I have learned that my spiritual faith is strong and I strive to keep it strong. Jesus is all around us, in good times and in bad, you just have to look for him.

Carli Steffes

I was coming back from dropping off my daughter at church camp. It was late at night and I was driving south, from ND, had just gone through Redfield. I was very tired from so much driving. All of a sudden, I felt a warm touch on my shoulder. No one else was in the car with me. Then I saw the lights from a police car and heard the siren. I pulled over and the policeman asked why I didn't pull over a while ago. I said I had just seen and heard the police car. The policeman said he had been following me with his lights and siren for over a mile. He asked me if I was ok. I said yes and asked why. The policeman said I was speeding. I told him where I had been and that I was tired. I believe it was God's hand touching me and letting me know about the police behind me. God is always with us and will make us aware that he is present, IF we are listening and have our eyes open.

Tami Prostrollo

Deciding to take the opportunity to move back to SD was a big one. In the end, it was most definitely Jesus lead. My dad had passed away and my step-mom was lamenting having to sell the house because she couldn't handle it alone. Dan piped up immediately and said maybe we should buy it. What! I love my job and have great friends here in San Antonio. Granted maybe someday I would like to move back to SD but not now. Luckily Dan put a condition on our moving. I had to find a job. Easy answer, don't look for a job. Word got around Sioux Falls we may move back and everyone was asking me how my job hunting was going. They wore me down so I half-heartedly began the job search. In the meantime, the atmosphere at work was changing (or was Jesus opening my eyes?) Did I love working here? I loved what I did, but something was definitely nagging at my heart. About 4 months after the idea of moving was given to us I decided to get serious about job hunting. Ok, Jesus if you really want me in Sioux Falls find me a job I will love as much as the one I loved in San Antonio for the last 12 years. After much discernment, I sent an email to the Dakota's Conference office giving them my prior work experience and asked if they thought there may be a place for me in Sioux Falls. I almost immediately received a call, after a little more conversation they suggested I contact First UMC and Embrace UMC. I heard nothing back from Embrace but heard almost immediately back from Pastor Bob. In hindsight, I can see God all over this encounter. The pay was considerably less than I was making in San Antonio but after looking at our financial situation and many prayers I called Pastor Bob and accepted the position only thing left was to talk benefits, I had pretty good medical insurance and wanted to be sure I would have it after the move as well. Hmm, pay cut and no benefits can we do this? I was very nervous but in my heart, I knew this was something God wanted for us. I called Pastor Bob and accepted his offer when he asked if I was sure I wanted to scream NOOO. Almost immediately after I hung up the phone God lifted my heart so high I almost cried. A friend came to pay me for work I would have done for free but she insisted I not argue because God had spoken to her and told her exactly how much to pay me (this wasn't odd for Susan to say). She handed me $100 and I immediately heard God say stop worrying about money I have this! Needless to say 3 months later I have a job I love and great people all around me. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me make the move!