Our current pastor, Deb Peterson, was called to the Union Church of the Brethren on August 20, 2001, by a 100% vote of the congregation. Although she says God actually called her to formal ministry in 1990, “I didn’t say yes until two years later.” At the time, she was working for the Church of the Brethren’s District office in Nappanee, IN.
“When I officially answered God’s call on my life, one night after a meeting, instead of feeling relieved, I was overwhelmed,” she says. “I thought I was too old (42), had committed too many sins in my life, had no formal education, and I was a woman in a denomination that had only been ordaining women for 50 years.”
Pastor Deb says that God gave her a scripture verse to guide her and “to hang on to” that night: Proverbs 23:12, “Apply your mind to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” With that, she enrolled in her first college course, an introduction to the Old Testament. “After that class, I figured I could get through almost anything!” she says with a grin.
Three years into her schooling, she took a one-year placement in a small country church near her home. “I never saw myself as a pastor,” Pastor Deb reflects. “I always thought I would be in some form of administration, such as working in our denomination’s corporate office.” Even thought that first experience in shepherding a congregation didn’t end on a particularly positive note, Pastor Deb knew then that God was grooming her to be a pastor.
It took seven years for her to complete her schooling while working full-time and she was ordained in 1998. But it would be three more years before she would once again get to pastor a congregation.
“Those were my 40 years in the desert,” Pastor Deb shares. “I felt this big empty spot inside me, like something was missing.” Her husband, Larry, has a well-established career in law enforcement, working for the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, so she didn’t feel she could take a church far from home. “But even then, God was preparing me,” she smiles. “Everything that has ever occurred in my life now works for good in our ministry.”
Pastor Deb and Larry live in Goshen, IN, and have a blended family of five adult children and 11 grandchildren.
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