My Personal Educational & Spiritual Autobiography

Glen Dawursk, Jr.— www.yuthguy.com -- January 15, 2002

 

My educational and spiritual journeys are really one and the same.  I know that God has placed me upon a path intended for ministry.  When I look back upon my life experiences, I see how God has molded me into a DCE and continues to use me as my ministry expands.  Like a piece of tapestry, I see the back of my life with the unattached frays and the streams of knotted strings and wonder what is the purpose in God plan for my ministry and life; but God sees the front.  He sees the completed tapestry of my life and knows why He has knitted my experiences; and to Him, it is good.

My mother was raised Wisconsin Synod Lutheran and my father was Roman Catholic.  When they decided to get married, they discussed what church they would get married in.  My mother attended the Catholic Church’s membership class for my father, but found that she was not able to accept the conflicting beliefs.  Instead of becoming a member, she signed a document that stated that all children born would be baptized into the Catholic faith.  This was required if they were going to be married at my father’s church. 

Seven years later, the week before I was to start kindergarten, they were still arguing about baptism.  My parents argued about where, when and why – but at 5 and half years old, I still was not baptized.  On a trip a few years prior, turbulence on the airplane scared my mother so much that she had my younger sister baptized without my father’s knowledge before taking the return flight home.  When he was told, he was angry because now he thought he would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.  He made a new deal with his priests and he agreed to have the girls be Lutheran and the boys be Catholic.  Needless to say, my mom would not give in. 

On August 25th, 1963, Pastor Leisner of Trinity Lutheran Church (WELS) in Milwaukee, WI finally baptized me.  The baptism was held after the service and no one but my mom, my aunt and uncle, the pastor and me were present.  I will never forget my mom’s lasting words of encouragement to me as I walked down the aisle.  She said quietly into my ear, “If you laugh when he pours water on your head, you’re gonna’ get it when you get home.”  Needless to say, I did not laugh – but God did!  He was thrilled to have me as part of His family.

I started kindergarten at Trinity Lutheran School the following week.  However, I was an unusual child.  I knew that God was calling me already then.  On the way home from school, my mom and I would pass an old boarded up church.  I would comment to my mom that that would be my church someday, and that mom and dad could sit in the front pew.  My hope has always been to fulfill that dream.

I attended Lutheran schools all my life and began attending LCMS schools in second grade when we moved closer to St. Peter-Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.  It was here that I found my faith growing rapidly. I would walk 12 blocks to church by myself each Sunday and always sat in the front pew.  I loved being in church.  I knew the services by memory and could recite hymns, prayers and other parts of liturgy. 

I have always desired to be in church work and as a child looked forward leading classroom devotions.  My devotions usually included a skit, several Bible readings, songs and of course a sermon.  A 20-minute “service” was not unusual.  My dad often made “bulletins” for me on his copy machine.  I never realized how unique I was until my daughters expressed little or no desire to be at church in second grade. 

I never hid the fact that I wanted to be in church work.  My nickname in school was “rabbi” and I always participated in Christian activities throughout grade school and at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.  I especially enjoyed Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ, Christian Minstrels (a high school singing group), and my church youth group.  I was also on the South Wisconsin District Youth Board and was a youth delegate to the LCMS convention in Irvine, TX in 1976. 

I attended Concordia – Seward on a Music and Leadership Award of Excellence.  At college, I was in the pre-sem program for several years and participated as a “Folk Team” leader, as editor of the newspaper Sower, and in the Concordia Singers accapella choir.  In my sophomore year, I even developed a four month field experience for the DCE and education programs where I toured with the college-age Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ youth evangelism program.  We witnessed about our faith in Jesus door-to-door in 37 states and sang and did skits and puppetry as well.  I also participated in doctrinal studies during this time under the direction and mentorship of Rev. Fred Darkow, the founder of OAFC.

The following year I married Kathy Naatz at St. Peter-Immanuel in Milwaukee.  During our almost 4 years at Concordia, Kathy and I “lost” track of our faith walk.  We seldom attended the campus church and only occasionally did I attend the daily campus chapel service.  Our work and studies took a priority above God.  When it came time to choose my ministry concentration, I realized that I had moved away from my walk, and that I should wait to become a pastor or a DCE.  I decided to become an LCMS secondary teacher.  After all, I wanted to work with youth and this allowed me to pursue my degree while I sought out the Lord’s direction in my life; but God had other ideas. 

Upon graduation in 1982, I was given a call to teach at Lutheran High School – North in Houston, Texas.  While in Houston, Kathy and I transferred our membership to Our Saviors Lutheran Church.  Here the Holy Spirit started to re-build our faith walk.  In addition to classroom teaching, I also coordinated several after school activities.  The relationship building drew me quickly back into youth ministry.  While still a full time teacher at North, I was soon hired also as a part time youth director at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Houston.  I was responsible for teaching youth Bible study and coordination of all junior and senior high activities. 

A year later, I was called back to the Milwaukee area.  Martin Luther High School, as sister school to the high school I had attended, needed a new English and communications teacher and I was their choice.  I taught there for 4 years.  I loved teaching at Martin Luther, but I was tempted by a significant pay increase working in the secular market.  I eventually went to work for a corporate computer education company called Softworks University.  Here I taught adults computer education, curriculum development and technology based learning and received several certifications in Adult Computer education.  Nevertheless, I have regretted that decision most of my life.  I missed my full time professional church ministry and God knew it.

During this time in Milwaukee, Kathy and I became members again at our old church, St. Peter-Immanuel.  There I was hired as the half-time paid DCE and I also became the congregational president 9 years later.  I continued to work at Softworks University as well.  Needless to say, I was not home very much.  My role at St. Peter was extensive.  I ran Sunday School, VBS, led youth and adult Bible studies, directed a major summer Christian music festival called “Fisherman’s Festival,” and was an active leader on the District’s Youth Committee.   The one thing that kept my family in tact was that my wife assisted me throughout and eventually took on her own leadership role in the congregation as the PTL president.  Again, God put it all together.

Around 1994-95, I again started to sense a yearning to go into full time church work again.  Our faith walk had become strong and we felt God calling us.  I was given a call in 1996 to be the Minister of Youth and Children at Trinity in Wausau, WI.   We moved here in the summer of 1996 and have seen God do significant miracles in the ministries I get to work with.  For example, the youth ministry is flourishing with three youth groups, active Bible studies and small groups, multiple puppet teams, bands, sports programs and a youth house; our Sunday school is breaking records with almost 300 children; our VBS has had two record breaking years with almost 250 each; and most importantly, children and youth are coming to know Jesus as their personal Savior.  The last 6 years have been the most powerful and rewarding time in my life.  I even get to lead liturgy and give sermons regularly to a congregation of 3000+.  I really love my ministry and I cannot imagine doing anything else.  All the “frays” in my life are being used at this place called Trinity.

There have been several people who I have considered role models of faith in my life.  Pastor Dennis Pegorsch has been a significant mentor and support throughout all my life.  As the Assistant Pastor at St. Peter-Immanuel in Milwaukee, he often encouraged me in my desire to be a church worker.  I have known him since about my 2nd grade.  He even confirmed my wife and I.  How ironic – or rather how God intended – that we should now work together in ministry at Trinity in Wausau, WI where he is the Associate Pastor and I am the Minister of Youth and Children.  God is good!

While growing up at St. Peter, it was Mr. Stellwagon, our principal and 8th grade teacher, who challenged me academically.  His discussions in the classroom about life always made me seek out answers in the Bible.  He has since died and I regret never being able to tell him what an impact he had on my life.

In high school, my mother was very mentally and physically abusive.  Due to a medical condition, my mother experienced a type of PMS all the time.   I felt lonely, angry and frustrated a lot.  I was a good kid.  I never hung out with bad kids, never drank, smoked or did drugs – yet I was put-down and ostracized at home.  I used to hate my mom and even thought about dying.  I praise God for the spiritual mentorship and caring of Mr. Hilbert Wiedenkeller the choir director at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.  Through Him, Jesus was real to me; Jesus had “skin on.”  He taught me so much about faith and testing and God.  I was so blessed to be able to teach his youngest daughter years later when I became a high school teacher.  I get to see him occasionally, and every time we meet, his smile tells me again that Jesus is alive in Him and that He is very proud of how God is using me. 

After High school it was Pastor Elmer Scheck who became my mentor, biggest cheerleader and friend.  He started as the Senior Pastor at St. Peter-Immanuel in Milwaukee when I was a senior in high school.  He observed me as I led the youth group as a high school student and encouraged me years later when I returned as the congregation’s Director of Christian Education.  He always encouraged my creativity and trusted my judgment and he continues to support my ministry in his retirement. He is a man of significant energy and drive and I especially respected his work ethic.  His spiritual motivation for evangelism and his church growth principals were innovative and inspiring.  I hope that I will emulate these aspects of Pastor Scheck throughout my ministry.

There continue to be people who make an impact on me.  Over the past 22 years, it has been the compassion of my wife who has made me see Jesus.  It has been the joy of my children.  Most recently, it has been watching my six-year-old son take an old Lutheran Hymnal, prop it against and old wooden cross, and then pretend that he is the pastor or choir director at his church.  When I see how God has blessed me, I cannot see me doing anything else but being in His ministry.

Three years ago I felt a significant yearning to be a pastor and my wife and I visited the St. Louis seminary campus.  We were so impressed, but at that time, we felt the “newness” of my call to Trinity and where our children were at in school limited us from moving on – but things have changed.  During the past 10 months, Kathy and I have both felt God’s prodding – and this time it is more intense.  The problem is we are still searching for His direction.  We feel as though God has another “fray” planned on my tapestry.  This certification process may be the means by which God will provide discernment and wisdom.  Through prayer, we have decided to let the lay people that I have trained take on more leadership in our ministries.  As for our children’s future, we are just going to trust God.  Like Abraham, we have decided to simply, GO!  I guess, the Holy Spirit has finally told us to “let go and let God.”  We no longer have anything to fear.  God is in total control.  Where He leads us, we will follow.

As for my parents, they are both Lutheran now.  They attend weekly a WELS congregation in Richfield, WI where they are being nurtured and loved by God.  Plus, they are very excited for our family’s continuing adventure and they always look forward to coming through the doors of any church I minister at and sitting in that “front pew.”

And as for me, my Tapestry continues be directed by the designer, God.  He is the weaver who keeps my tapestry whole and I desire to be used by Him.