Arno River, Florence, Italy; June 2019

I was raised in Colby, Kansas (far northwestern Kansas), out near the Kansas/Colorado border, where the arid wind usually blows, no matter the season. Colby is 235 miles east of Denver, CO, and 400 miles west of Kansas City. It’s out in the High Plains — way out there. “Hello rural America.” 🙂

I am the second of 5 children. Dad and mom were hard-working folks who always tried to treat people the way they wanted to be treated. They both grew up on farms on the Kansas High Plains. They were loving, simple people. Neither was afraid to put in a full day’s work. We went to church on Sunday. Hard work was a high value for my dad and mom. My dad used to joke that his favorite verse in the Bible was, “Work harder!”

From the time I was 8 my Grandma (mother’s mom) lived with us. After my grandfather died, my parents welcomed my Grandma Jennings right it to our home. We were 5 kids, 2 parents, the dog and now Grandma. Grandma helped cook, discipline kids, tackle the laundry, and welcomed us to watch TV with her. She made homemade bread that we ate topped her homemade jam.

In 1978 I married Jennifer Earles in Phoenix (Mesa), Arizona. She was raised in Phoenix and still loves the Sonoran Desert. Her favorite hike is in the Superstition Mountains, that borders Phoenix on the east. After our wedding on a hot desert morning [July 8], we drove from Phoenix to Champaign-Urbana, IL, where we still lived for 43 years!

I served as a campus pastor for more than 20 years. Along the way I  went through graduate school at the University of Illinois. I really got to know Church and campus life in this small university city. From 1990 to May of 2020, Jennifer was a faculty member in the college of Media at the University of Illinois, where she taught science writing, editing, news-reporting and Introduction to Journalism.

After my campus ministry days (1978-1999), I worked for 3 years in administration for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. From 2003 to 2009 I served in a large Vineyard Church in Urbana [2,500], working with me, mission and pastoral care.

And now for the last 11 years I have directed a ministry to pastors, a small nonprofit called Pastor-to-Pastor Initiatives. Mostly I meet with pastors and Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay the course. I counsel, mentor, coach, preach in churches, and occasionally serve congregations as their interim pastor. This ministry a good fit for me. I have had the honor of serving more than 200 pastors. Jennifer and I have led about 20 marriage retreats specifically geared toward pastors. I lead seminars for pastors called, “Discovering an emotionally healthy ministry,” and I lead a seminar for churches called, “Grieving in a Forward Direction.”

After spending 6 weeks in Phoenix in January and February of this January (2021), we decided to move here to the valley of the sun, where we can be close to our daughter and her family, back in the desert that Jennifer loves and where I can transfer my ministry of caring for pastors — counseling, mentoring and giving spiritual direction. After 43 years in Champaign-Urbana, Il, we did it. We sold our home in Urbana and bought a condo in Tempe (SE Phoenix).

Jennifer and I like to hike together. We both like to read. Jennifer loves to cook, and I write a Sunday religion column for the Champaign-Urbana, IL, News-Gazette.


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