MESSAGE FROM PASTOR RAY
As I enter retirement, it is with gratitude that I look back on our ministry together for the last 24 years. I will share some of the
events Immanuel has experienced over the years. I did not personally conduct all of the baptisms, funerals, and weddings here listed, as we had 15 seminary interns and Pastor Charlie Brinkmeyer present to provide pastoral leadership when I was away on vacation or sabbatical, but I was present for most of them. Among the important events are:
88 First Communions
When I came to Immanuel December 1, 1993 it was during Advent. I went Christmas caroling with a group from Immanuel and we were at John Zuehlke’s home on Dean Street just a few blocks from the old church when Dorothy Kinsinger sought me out to tell me that friends of hers, Sam & Gerry Booker’s son Victor, had been killed by a hit and run driver on Business 190 in Harker Heights. She asked if I would visit them, non-members of the church. I did, and they asked me to conduct Victor’s funeral at Harper-Talasek Funeral Home. The funeral took place Dec 15, 1993 just two weeks after I started at Immanuel and was the first of over 200 funerals to follow during my tenure here. Immanuel has always been community minded and I have been fortunate to serve far and wide beyond the membership of Immanuel.
I am thankful for Geoff Robinson’s encouragement to enroll in Clinical Pastoral Education offered by Scott & White’s Chaplaincy Department which I completed in April 1997. I served as on-call chaplain at the hospital for a year and then became a part-time chaplain with Scott & White hospice in 1998, serving as part of the hospice team for 20 years now. This has been a valuable extension of your ministry to the community.
Along the way we have shared in the shaping of 15 quite different individuals for pastoral ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, all of whom are ordained. One of our own members, Sandra Chapin, attended Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, then on to her own internship in Albuquerque, NM where she remained after internship, choosing not to return to the seminary. Current member Stefan Swanson has begun the application process to attend Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA after his commitment to the army is completed. So your sending people to serve the church in public ministry is not over. In addition to being
an intern supervisor, I had the privilege of being on our NTNL Synod’s Candidacy Committee for eight years, helping many individuals discern their call to ministry.
Our first experience of the hospitality of Immanuel was when Laura, Zach and I arrived in Killeen in November 1993. The house we had purchased from Herring Homes was not quite complete, so President of the congregation Tom Lockett and his wife Cynthia invited us to stay in their home until ours was ready. Zach started Ellison in the 10th grade in November just before Christmas break. I remember Zach doing homework at the Lockett’s dining room table while I wrote sermons at a coffee table in their living room. After the walk through, we finally moved into our new home 4101 Frog Drive on Dec 23, 1993. Bob & Sharion Tanner delivered a Christmas tree to our back porch December 24th so we could properly celebrate Christmas in our own home. Prior to meeting everyone as your new pastor, we met Jeff Weiss in Hobart, OK as he was on the crew of Town & Country Movers, transporting our household goods to Killeen. When I visited the church office for the first time, I met Jeff’s mother Joy Weiss, secretary of Immanuel who was working with volunteer Carlene McBride. Carlene greeted me as a fellow graduate of Reagan High School in Houston, TX, although she was ten years ahead of me.
We have so many fond memories of our life together at Immanuel. From the beginning, the Vahrenkamp family included our family in their annual gathering on Christmas Eve. We had the honor of commissioning Kirsten Hermstad, missionary to Bangladesh, on January 7, 2001. You granted me a sabbatical on May 6, 2001 which we spent at Holden Village, a Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. We worked hard for room & board in the Holden Village kitchen and laundry-it was a relief to get back to work. Immanuel was blessed to receive Charlie & Pat Brinkmeyer as new members January 2003; we are so grateful that
retired Chaplain and Pastor Brinkmeyer has been willing to serve when and where needed for the past 15 years.
Members of Immanuel have answered the call of God to serve in many ways. Robin Christian who served with Immanuel’s youth and Sunday School attended the synod’s Lay Ministry Academy and was commissioned February 12, 2006 as a Parish Lay Minister. The congregation decided to make a bold move in purchasing ten acres of land at the corner of Elms and Cunningham. Ground breaking for our new worship facility was December 2, 2012; Immanuel’s new church home was dedicated November 2, 2014.
One last statistic to share is amazing to me. Over the past 24 years, Immanuel has received into membership (members and associate members since we are in a military setting) a total of 447 families, which includes 1100 individuals. Wow! If everyone stayed, we would be bursting at the seams. But as people retire, move on by military assignment, leave home for college, or become employed elsewhere, we lose about as many as we gain.
When I arrived in Dec 1993, Immanuel had 400 baptized members, 287 confirmed members. I finished the 2017 end of year report to the ELCA and the NTNL Synod today; currently Immanuel has 394 baptized members, 317 confirmed members. Basically, our gains have kept even with our loses. We have certainly grown in giving, we are growing into a new worship space, and we have grown spiritually over the years. Think how many lives are touched through sending out vicars to minister elsewhere, and families who leave us taking with them a bit of Immanuel experience wherever they go.
It is my prayer that Immanuel has built a solid foundation upon which you will continue to move into God’s future, certain that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide you in the coming days, months, and years ahead. Being a mega-church is not our calling; being faithful to the Gospel for 129 years and serving the Lord in this community is what Immanuel is meant to be and do.
With heartfelt thanks for our ministry together!