Becoming a pastor

News | January 22, 2015

Michelle Kanzaki had a good life.

She worked with people with disabilities or the elderly almost all of her adulthood. She was busy with her career and her daughter and her grandkids and her husband of 40 years.

Michelle_KBut as a Sunday school and confirmation volunteer at St. Paul, and as an active participant in an evening women’s fellowship group, the idea of becoming a pastor kept entering her heart and mind.

“I tried not to listen for a long time,” said Michelle.

Here’s how that worked out: On Monday, Feb. 16, at 4 p.m. at St. Paul, she will be ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Everyone is cordially invited to attend the ceremony and reception following. Michelle’s first call is to a church in the town of Cordova, Nebraska, population 135. It’s about 30 minutes from Lincoln, Nebraska.

“We’ll make it population 137,” Michelle said. She and her husband, Heikro, are packing up this week to move to the parsonage of Trinity Lutheran Church.

Michelle taught Sunday school at St. Paul, including the smallest of preschoolers to imaginative third-graders to rambunctious confirmation students.

“They had great questions and a willingness to learn. That really helped me stretch some more,” she said. “The kids allowed me to trust I was on the right path.”

Four years ago, Michelle started at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, taking classes and completing an internship at a St. John’s Bliedorn, a country church in rural Clinton County. “My internship was such a wonderful experience,” she said. “They people there are terrific. They were so important in formulating who I will be as a pastor.”

Yes, Michelle knows she’s a “more mature – old – person to be going into ministry,” she said. “But it’s really exciting for me to be able to do what I have always felt called to do.”

Trinity Lutheran has a membership of about 225. Michelle is encouraged by the congregation’s desire to grow their mission work, and she looks forward to building relationships.

She loves that they included a teenager on the call committee for their new pastor.

Michelle is asking for prayers as she and her husband make the transition to Nebraska. One of the challenges she sees is getting homesick for her family and friends in the Quad Cities.

“I’ll take prayers whenever I can get them.”

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