Calvary Lutheran Church Helps Students Read

Pastor Jerry O’Neal ministers at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

Pastor Jerry O’Neal ministers at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

For the past year I’ve interviewed pastors of local churches as part of a new weekly column established by my local newspaper. This story was one of those columns. I particularly like the fact that members of the congregation have dedicated themselves to reading to children at a local school. What a vital part of the community’s needs they are addressing! Schools cannot keep up with the number of children who need read to/with. This church is helping. What can you /your church do to help children in your community?

In December 2012 the members of Calvary Lutheran Church
in Bluffton held an important congregational vote. “We voted on a new missions statement,” said Pastor Jerry O’Neal. “It is a faith statement really because at Calvary Lutheran Church Jesus is at work.”

The church, which averages 80 in attendance at worship services, approved a new outreach ministry of ‘adopting’ Lancaster Elementary School students. “We will volunteer at Lancaster in whatever ways are needed,” said O’Neal. “We will read to children, make copies for teachers, and provide refreshments for evening functions.”

Since he and his wife Amy moved their family to Bluffton in 2010, their children — Mary Grace, 14, and Andrew, 11 — have attended Norwell schools. Andrew attended Lancaster Elementary School. “I know it is a good school system and we want to support it,” said Jerry O’Neal.

A North Carolina native, O’Neal attended West Point Military Academy as a cadet after graduating from high school. The military bent was a family tradition. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II,” he said. “One graduated from West Point. An uncle and I served together at Fort Bragg in Texas and Dad served in the National Guard.”

After graduating from West Point as an officer, O’Neal spent seven years with the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1994 he was deployed to Haiti for six weeks. His last position before being discharged in 2001 was of company commander for the 4th Infantry at Fort Hood.

Before his discharge O’Neal had thought of changing careers to become a pastor. “It was in the back of my mind since high school,” he said. “While in the military, I always attended church and served as the organist at an Episcopal church when stationed at Fort Bragg.”

Still he put it off. After his discharge, O’Neal earned a Master’s degree in operations research for math modeling. He worked a year for Delta Technology solving problems in logistics and transportation, then was employed for four years at Air Force Institution of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

He taught math at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, then pursued post-doctoral research. Though O’Neal was highly skilled in the sciences, he realized he would never be truly content until he followed his heart. “It finally seemed like the right time to become a pastor,” he said. “I was at the time of my life where I could see myself doing it long-term.”

With Amy’s support O’Neal attended Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. Upon graduating from Trinity in 2010, Jerry O’Neal accepted the call to minister at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

The O'Neal family has been a part of Calvary Lutheran Church since 2010.

The O’Neal family has been a part of Calvary Lutheran Church since 2010.


Calvary Lutheran Church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America synod.

Calvary Lutheran Church’s Sunday school classes meet at 9:00 a.m. and a worship service is held at 10:00 a.m. A Catechism confirmation class meets weekly for middle schoolers. “It is a three-year process during which they learn about the Bible and Lutheran theology,” said O’Neal.

The Youth groups of Calvary Lutheran Church and St. Mark’s Lutheran church in Uniondale are led by Erin Raatz. “They meet together for Bible Studies and take summer mission trips,” said O’Neal.

Proceeds from rummage sales held at the church in April and October are distributed to local ministries, including The Closet which provides clothing for people in Bluffton.

O’Neal is thrilled with the church’s response to him, his family and the church’s goals for its future. “The congregation has welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “The church is willing to set goals to strengthen its impact on the community of Bluffton. We feel God has led us here.”

Calvary Lutheran Church
1532 N. Main St.
Bluffton
824-0177
pastorcalvary@adamswells.com
http://www.calvarylutheranbluffton.org

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Children Experience Worship at Bethel Church

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

“Everything we do at this church is based on the word of God,” said Ron Garner, pastor of Bethel Church in Bluffton, Indiana. He replaces Pat Harris who pastored at the church for 26 years before retiring to the South.

Garner is a native of North Carolina, but graduated from Bluffton High School in 1994 after moving here with his family when he was in the fifth grade.

After high school, Ron attended Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne but dropped out of college to work for an automotive company.

He met his wife Tonya at Bluffton High School. She attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne for nursing and later worked at Parkview Hospital.

After they married, Tonya and Ron attended Hope Missionary Church. Talking with Pastor Matt Hartzell about his spiritual life convinced Ron to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. “God had brought me to the point where I finally wanted to surrender my life to serving Him,” he said.

Feeling called to pastoral ministry, Ron Garner enrolled at Taylor University-Ft Wayne where he earned a degree in Bible theology in 2004. The Garners pastored at churches in Ohio and Ron worked three years in a factory before accepting a call to minister at Bethel Church, a non-denominational congregation, in December 2012.

Sunday School classes for all ages at Bethel Church begin at 9:00 a.m. Worship services with nursery and preschool assistance begins at 10:00 a.m.

Children are an intentional part of the worship experience at Bethel. “We want kids to learn how to worship with their parents and view their parents as primary spiritual instructors,” said Garner. “For that purpose I always try to engage kids during the services.”

A Bible Study for adults, youth meetings and children services occur on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. The Garners, who have four school-age children, plan to move to Bluffton when their home in Ohio is sold.

Garner’s goal in preaching to the 70-member congregation at Bethel is to help them reach the place where they understand God is in control. “I’ve learned that He can use things for his glory and equip us how to live faithfully,” he said. “We must not run away from challenges to our faith but engage scripture and always stand firm with an answer for what we believe in.”

During his seven months at Bethel, Garner has become excited by the congregation’s friendliness. “There is a great sense of family here and people who love Christ and are committed to the authority of the Bible,” he said. “We invite people to visit us who seek a place with a family atmosphere and who want to hear what God has to say.”

Bethel Church
4500 E 300 South
Bluffton
260.824.4547

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This article appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner.

Church profile: Abundant Life Christian Center

It has been a privilege to interview several dozen pastors from my county this past year to write a series of stories for the Bluffton News-Banner newspaper about their churches. This is one story that is unusual– the pastor preaches in 2 churches in different places each Sunday a.m.! His wife is an evangelist also. Please leave a comment if you have been ministered to by this church and I’ll be sure to let the pastor know. Please consider signing up to receive these blogs by including your email address on my home page. God bless.

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Scott and Michelle Ochsner minister at Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton and Fort Wayne Christian Center.

Scott and Michelle Ochsner minister at Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton and Fort Wayne Christian Center.

Beginning in January 2013, the congregation of Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton added a sister congregation in Fort Wayne. Scott Ochsner who has ministered at the Bluffton congregation since 2004 is the pastor at both churches.
“The previous pastor at the Fort Wayne church died in 2012,” said Ochsner. “Our congregation wanted a branch in Fort Wayne so it was a good fit.” Ochsner preaches in Bluffton at the 9:00 a.m. worship service which lasts approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then he and his wife, Associate Pastor Michelle Ochsner, drive to Fort Wayne where Scott repeats the same sermon at11:30 a.m. at Fort Wayne Christian Center.

The church is located at the corner of Hannah Street and US Highway 27. The Fort Wayne church has approximately 100 members while the Bluffton congregation numbers 120.

Scott Ochsner and his family moved to Indiana from Colorado in 2000. At that time he pastored a church in Decatur. “We found several people were attending who lived in Bluffton,” he said. “So in 2004 after engaging in a corporate fast to seek guidance from the Lord, the congregation founded Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton.”

The church is located on the south side of Bluffton beside the Dollar General store.

Ochsner’s wife, Michelle Ochsner, is a nationally known conference speaker (http://www.michelleochsnerministries.com/) who assists her husband with ministry. The Ochsners’ five children participate on the church’s worship team and with the children’s ministry. The church’s youth uses the former Star Video building situated adjacent to the main campus for meetings.

The decision to shepherd a second church was one the Abundant Life Christian Center congregation sought additional counsel for. “We are a non-denomination church but not independent,” said Ochsner who attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. “For any big decision we summit to the guidance of our board of trustees.” These include pastors at City on the Hill Church in Boulder, Colorado; New Life Christian Church World Outreach in Warsaw, Indiana; Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, California. “I call these men any time our church needs to make a major decision or needs counseling and advice,” added Ochsner.

According to Ochsner, the mission of Abundant Life Christian Center is primary. “We want to impact the world for Jesus both at home and away by proclaiming the word of God with boldness in God confirming His word by signs and wonders,” he said.

One way he believes the church is impacting the world is through technology. “Thousands of people have streamed sermon podcasts from our website,” he said. The church also broadcasts sermons via radio station WZBD in Decatur.

“My goal as a pastor is to help people mature in Christ as the Bible commands,” he said. “My greatest joy is when a person gives his or her life to Jesus Christ. That compels me to do what I do.”

1409 S Main Street
Bluffton
824.2000
http://www.ALCConline.com
Facebook: Abundant Life Christian Center

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