Monday, November 24, 2008


This is an interview I had with my youth pastor, which I had to do for my Honors Comp. II class last semester (The due date was April 4, 2008). I thought I'd share it with you, actually, I wanted to share it a while ago, but I think I lost it on my computer and now I have found it again.

Jeremy J. is the youth pastor at the Ellendale Church of the Nazarene as well as janitor at Ellendale Public School. Originally from Jordan, Montana, he and his family have made Ellendale home. I was allowed the opportunity to sit down with him and ask him some questions about his life.

Annie K.: Are there any interesting stories you have from your childhood?
Jeremy J.: One afternoon when I was younger, I was playing basketball outside my house. When my dad came home, I could tell he was drunk. He asked to play some basketball one-on-one with me. I didn’t really think he could play, but I agreed. We started to argue about who would get the ball first. I had the ball and faked him out, but since my dad was moving slowly, he fell and hit his chin on my shoulder. That caused my dad to bite his bottom lip so bad that it began to bleed. I felt horrible because I hurt my dad.
AK: What did you do when were going through rough times with your family?
JJ: [When I was young] I would build forts to get away. I would also play a lot of basketball and other physical activities. My friends joked that I was on steroids because I lifted weights at such a young age.
AK: How did you meet your friend [in the family you lived with for a while]?
JJ: I became friends with Barrett when he was a freshman in high school. I just starting hanging out with him and we became friends.
AK: His family went to church; did you do anything that related to church?
JJ: Yes, he and I went to church camps together.
AK: What was your first church camp experience like?
JJ: My mom didn’t want me to go, because she told me that I would get brainwashed. When I got back, I was worried about my parents because I knew that they were going to hell. My mom was upset; I had gotten “brainwashed.” That camp was actually the first time that I had a desire to become a youth pastor, which Barrett’s mom later reminded me.
AK: When you went to college, did you still know you wanted to be a youth pastor?
JJ: It was hard to pick my first major. I wanted to do everything. However, I always knew that I wanted to be a youth pastor. I worked at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for a while, and I got that job because my boss knew I wanted to be a youth pastor.
AK: What brought you to Ellendale?
JJ: God is really the One who brought me to Ellendale. He told me to come to college here. I found out about Trinity Bible College because the family I was living with had a son who was already attending TBC.
AK: Did you always know you wanted to stay here?
JJ: I originally wanted to go back to Utah since my wife’s family is there. Before I left for Iraq, I was helping with the youth group in Ellendale. When I left, I felt like I was letting the youth down. There was a time in chapel when the speaker asked everyone who had a youth pastor while in high school to stand. Then he asked for everyone who had two youth pastors to stay standing, then three and so on. He got to seven and there were still people standing. At that time, the average stay for a youth pastor was 18 months. When I came back [from Iraq], I helped with the youth again. I knew that I wanted to be a youth pastor and was thinking about taking the youth pastor job in LaMoure. [The youth pastor in Ellendale] quit and the job opened up. I knew that if I was offered the job, I would take it and stay here.
AK: Have you enjoyed working here?
JJ: I feel it has been a great choice to stay here. I love the youth. God has blessed [my family and me]. I would love to be full time, but I am dedicated enough that if I have to keep working another job, I will.
AK: What are some things about being a youth pastor that most people don’t realize?
JJ: It is a lot more demanding than many people think. I keep trying to educate myself. It’s not all about fun and games; it’s about saving souls. I am just afraid the youth will graduate and fall away from the church.
AK: I understand you were in Iraq, what is something that experience taught you?
JJ: I was gone for 14 months and in Iraq for 11. It was literally a desert experience—I was surrounded by dirt and surrounded by hell. The temptations were right there with me in my tent. There was alcohol, swearing, mocking, pornography, and persecution everywhere. I had so many chances to drink, but I didn’t have any desire to. I learned that I needed to rely on God. I was able to read the Bible and spend time with God. I could tell it made a difference in my attitude; it changed my view on things.
AK: Did you ever get an opportunity to talk to others about God?
JJ: I would sit in watching stations for hours, so I would talk to other people. I wish I had known more about how to witness to other people. In college, I learned that Jesus loves you, but not about the law and the gospel. I talked with one girl who said that she didn’t want a God who sent people to hell. I only knew about God giving us a gift and we could either accept it or not. I wish I had known how to share the gospel with her and others in a way that they understood. After all, a doctor doesn’t offer a cure to someone before telling him or her what is wrong with him or her. I wish I had been able to pull at her conscience.
AK: What was the hardest thing about being away from your family?
JJ: Exactly that—being away from my family. There would be months at a time where I wouldn’t be able to talk to my family. My son was only four months old when I left. I really missed true [Christian] fellowship, because there wasn’t any real fellowship while I was there.
AK: What are some things that the whole experience taught you?
JJ: I was able to preach a sermon titled “Military or Missions,” in which I told those there that I thought everyone should either join the military or go on a mission trip in order to get a different perspective on things. When I was there, [the unit] would be sitting in the back of a Hummer and whenever we would stop, Iraqis would come running toward you. One time a little boy came up to me, he was holding a little medal and said, “For you.” I tried to tell him I didn’t want to buy it, but he said, “You take.” When I took it from him, the look in his eyes completely broke my heart. I gave him some money and wished that I could have given him more. People need to realize that there is so much pain in the world. We have so much more than we realize. That’s why I think everyone should do something so they can change their perspective.
AK: Do you regret going?
JJ: I don’t regret it at all. If I didn’t have a family, I would still be in the military.
AK: Do you have any advice for those thinking about going, whether they are married or single?
JJ: They should understand that it is a commitment. There was a company with 144 people working there and when we came back, half of the married people had gotten divorced. It’s hard, but it’s a calling and a conviction. You marry a person for good or bad. If you are joining, you better realize why you are doing it. It will affect you and your spouse.
AK: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you came back?
JJ: The adjustment period was horrible. My wife spent 1½ years doing things to keep busy—taking care of the baby, going to movies, spending time with friends and family. I spent those years building, fighting and sleeping on a cot. She was living in a house and driving a van. Coming back, we had nothing to talk about because we hadn’t experienced anything the other experienced. I was dealing with night fires and she was dealing with teething. The only thing we had holding us together was love. We had to start making memories together again. Other people noticed a change in me as well. People would even ask, “What happened to you?” I became a more serious person. I was completely changed.
AK: What was the biggest thing that God brought you through in your entire life?
JJ: Death. That sounds weird, but there were so many times that I had tried to kill myself when I was younger with drinking and pills. God brought me through pain and suffering. I made it out alive. Now I no longer worry about dying. It’s a lot like Paul was trying to say in Philippians 1:23-24, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” I believe that God has been keeping me safe because He is using me for a greater purpose.
AK: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JJ: I am worse than scum on the bottom of my shoe. God saved me and it’s the most incredible thing ever.
AK: Thank you for the interview.
JJ: Thank you for asking me to be a part of this.

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