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My wife, Janet, and I joined Wheaton Bible Church nearly fourteen years ago. We were looking for a church that was centered in the truth of Scripture and willing to get out of its comfort zone to reach others for Christ.
The first time we visited WBC, we learned the congregation was in the middle of a capital campaign to raise money to purchase the property where we worship today. At the time I asked, Why would the church want to leave downtown Wheaton? I was impressed by the answer: “So we can reach more people for Jesus.”
Before we visited again, Janet and I wrote down the elements we valued and were looking for in a church. On our next visit, we wondered whether Pastor Rob had our living room bugged, because the WBC mission statement he presented matched exactly the list of values Janet and I had written down. God’s direction for us could not have been any clearer. This is where He wanted us to serve, and this is where He would grow us.
Describe one or two memorable experiences.
I remember the day in 2005 when we gathered under the large tents erected on this property before we started building. We raised our voices in praise, and we were challenged to dream big, give sacrificially, and trust God to provide. As the Hispanic and Anglo congregations worshiped together that day, I remember thinking that our fellowship was a small taste of the beauty of the diversity we’ll enjoy in heaven.
Also highlights for me are the All-Church Baptism Celebrations. I never get tired of hearing the unique stories of how God has transformed people’s hearts.
How long have you been an Elder?
I am privileged to be serving in the fourth year of my term.
What have been the most challenging/rewarding parts of serving in that role?
The most daunting aspect for me is the awareness that my fellow Elders and I are charged with the care and oversight of this body of believers—even though each of us is fallen and sinful, just like those we are called to shepherd. My reliance on God for wisdom, insight, and discernment has grown exponentially through this experience. The greatest reward has been the staff reports we read each month. It’s so encouraging to see how God is at work!
How and when did you accept Christ as your Savior?
I grew up in a Christian home, where reading the Bible and church attendance were the norm. From my earliest recollections, I believed that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for my sin. I cannot recall a time when I did not believe that I would someday spend eternity in heaven with my Savior.
Do you have a favorite Scripture verse?
Without a doubt my favorite verse is John 15, verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
In my roles on the Elder board, the Shepherding team, in the Re|Engage marriage ministry, and in my occupation as a pastoral counselor, I am constantly asking God for His wisdom, insight, discernment, and compassion. There is no way I can begin to do what He has called me to do without staying connected to Him.
You recently made a significant change in your work life.
Yes. For thirty-four years I was the owner/president of Hoekenga Contracting, which specialized in residential remodeling. But my involvement on the Shepherding team at WBC left me wanting to be better equipped as a “first responder” in providing care for the people for whom I was responsible. This prompted a return to the classroom, where I received an MA in counseling ministries from Wheaton College. Through that process, God has given me a passion to walk alongside those who are hurting. He also took away my desire to do remodeling work, so I dissolved my remodeling business last year and am now working as a pastoral counselor with Mark MacDonald and Associates. One could say that I have transitioned from the restoration and repair of homes to the restoration and repair of lives.
Tell us about your growing-up years.
I have lived in Wheaton my whole life, except for my college years in Michigan. I was blessed to have been born into a Christian family with godly parents and two older sisters. If you’ve lived in Wheaton a long time, you might remember my father’s typewriter business, called DuPage Office Machines. My mother worked in the admissions office at Wheaton College.
I attended Wheaton Christian Grammar School (where I was a frequent visitor to the principal’s office) and later attended Wheaton North High School, where track and cross-country kept me out of trouble.
My father died at age 49, when I was 15. That event left me with a keen awareness of my own mortality and helped to cement my relationship with my heavenly Father.
Tell us about your family.
I met Janet in high school, and we’ve been married for nearly thirty-eight years. She works as a staff scientist at Flinn Scientific in Batavia. My son, Nate, and daughter-in-law, Courtney, live in Aurora. Nate is on staff at the church as the assistant technical director. They have blessed us with two beautiful granddaughters. My daughter, Stephanie, a high school language-arts teacher, and her husband, Spencer live in Colorado Springs.
If you could speak with each member of the congregation, what would you say?
I can’t think of anything more profound than the Wheaton Bible Church mission statement: Love God, Grow Together, and Reach the World. That is a mission taken straight from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 37–39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20).
Each of us has been gifted by God the Father in unique ways. So how we contribute to “growing together” and how we participate in “reaching the world” will look different for each of us. But I pray that all of us will trust Him to equip us to accomplish everything He has purposed for us to do.
I grew up in a Christian home with parents who loved the Lord and who sacrificed financially to send me to a Christian grade school. They saw to it that I was in church every Sunday. I learned the stories of the Bible and adopted the faith of my parents without much questioning. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins. But I spent the first thirty-eight years of my life as a lukewarm Christian. God was a part of my life, but He wasn’t at the center of it. I was in control—or so I thought.
In 1993, a friend invited me to a men’s conference in Boulder, Colorado. To be in a stadium with 50,000 men who gathered from all across the country to hear the Word of God preached and to sing praises to our Lord—well, that just blew me away. That weekend stirred a new passion in me, a new thirst for Jesus Christ. The next couple of years were a time of growing closer to God through prayer and reading the Bible.
In 1995, I was asking God if I was in the place he wanted me to be. I was asking for His direction. But what I really wanted was to know God’s entire plan for my life: “Just show me the plan, Lord, and I’ll get it done.” In April my truck was broken into and many of my tools were stolen. In May my truck was broadsided, and in June I lost part of three fingers in a miter-saw accident. After those three events I said, “Okay, God. You have my attention. What is it You’re trying to tell me?”
Over the following month, God provided for me while I dealt with the loss of my fingers. Seven different times He put the right people in the right place exactly when I needed them. God was teaching me that He is faithful, that He will never leave me, and that He loves me. I wanted to see the whole plan—but God was teaching me to trust Him and walk with Him one step at a time.
In 1996, I headed to another men’s conference, this time in Denver, looking forward to what God might say to me there but still wanting to be at the center of my world. I was miserable, frustrated, and angry, because I didn’t want to surrender control. During that conference I learned that it’s not about me. I’m not on this earth to live for myself. I made a conscious decision to take me out of the center of my life and put God there instead. Since then I’ve found true joy and peace in daily surrendering control to Him.