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New Years Day celebrates 25 years of ministry

    Jan 11, 2005
Mennonite Church Canada release

Erv Wiens (fourth from left) and Marian Wiens (fourth from right) worship with the Jesus Village Church in Chun Chon, South Korea.

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Chun Chon, South Korea — January 1, 2005 is a significant date for Erv Wiens. It marks 25 years since beginning his career in pastoral ministry.

His calling began with a mentor and a dream about football.

In 1979, friend and mentor Ralph Lebold asked Wiens, at that time a teacher, to consider pastoral ministry. Although he laughed at the time, six months later Wiens found himself in front of a congregation.

“I remember sitting in our bedroom, thinking and praying about Ralph's challenge when I had this clear sense that God is doing God's work in the world through the church and I definitely wanted to be a part of this incredible adventure.” Today he is more convinced than ever that, in spite of the many short-comings of the church, it is still God's primary vehicle for bringing in God's kingdom.

Wiens reluctantly shares a dream that prepared him for his calling. In it he declines to play for a football team, even though it was something he had always wanted to do. Because the field was wet and slippery, he refuses to play for fear of being injured. At the conclusion of the game the team comes off the field muddy and bloody and beaten by the score of 49 - 0. In the dream he resolves to never again let his team down, no matter how dangerous it might be.

He recalls the first day of his first pastorate at Breslau Mennonite Church in Ontario. “How well I remember sitting in that cold office, thinking, ‘Whoa, what did I get myself into? Where is the schedule and who sets the agenda here?’” He now understands that he didn’t really get himself into anything, but that he was responding to a “higher calling.”

“The only thing I did was say ‘yes’ to that calling and today, 25 years later, I still marvel at this journey,” he says wistfully.

Although the football dream strengthened his resolve, he did not expect to stay in pastoral ministry for 25 years. Having previously completed three short term service assignments with Mennonite Central Committee, Wiens says, “Never for a moment did I expect this to become a life's calling.”

Fast forward to today. At age 62, Wiens is nearing retirement in a chronological sense. He and his wife Marian (Windsor Mennonite Fellowship) find their term of service with Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers drawing to a close in the summer of 2005. Their assignment has been to assist the Jesus Village Church and its school in Chun Chon, South Korea.

Together with Jesus Village Church, the couple has spent time discerning the next season of their lives. Their church community in South Korea has affirmed both his and Marian’s gifts and encouraged them to continue their work. “There was no doubt in any one's mind that I should continue my pastoral work as long as health and energy allow,” said Wiens, adding that the same sentiment was expressed for Marian’s counseling work. “So here I am at the age of 62 plus waiting for the next assignment.”

Wiens is grateful for his pastoral experience and the congregations who have been accepting and supportive of his ministry. He lists things he has learned from his time in ministry: God loves to meet us in surprises; when God calls, God also gifts; claiming God's gifts is fulfilling.

Having a supportive spouse is one of the greatest gifts Wiens claims in ministry. “She [Marian] never gets anxious about my role and is always encouraging and affirming,” he said.

More recently a football dream again gave him pause for reflection. This time he eagerly accepts the offer to play, takes the opening kick-off, and heads for the end zone. Swarmed by his opponents, he keeps pushing toward the goal, lunging forward as more and more players pile on top of him. With the ball just across the goal line, Wiens, under a heap of bodies, sees the referee signal, “Touch down!”

With a shortage of pastors forecast in the next 5 – 10 years, Wiens is a strong advocate for the benefits of choosing ministry over other career choices. He says that pastoral ministry is often difficult and lonely, even though surrounded by people, but he remains convinced of his choice 25 years ago.

“For me, pastoral ministry is the most rewarding work I can imagine.”