Brad Keller, senior pastor of Journey (South Royalton Foursquare Church) in South Royalton, Vt., has been the congregation’s pastor for only nearly two years. But in that short time, he has found favor. He has been asked to lead the Vermont state Senate and House of Representatives in prayer, and marvels at how God is using the people of Journey to minister in this rural town.
But Pastor Brad is the first to say that what God is doing in his church is a result of the solid foundation laid by the previous pastor, the late David Wright. In fact, Brad has placed several stones in the church sanctuary as literal reminders of the vision God gave his predecessor.
Years ago, David Wright gathered the stones during prayer walks around property he believed would be the future home for the church. The property was close to the Vermont Law School, and Journey member Nancy Ellen Kenyon remembers, “It was from this property that Pastor Dave saw many of the dreams the Lord had placed in his heart.”
He had only begun to see the fulfillment of that vision when, in January 2009, five days after preaching his last sermon, David suddenly died in his home. In his pocket was one of the small stones he cherished, a reminder of God’s vision and faithfulness.
Brad previously pastored in Oklahoma for five years and was far from what anyone thought the church’s new pastor would be. They thought it would take a “Vermonter” to maintain the ministry David Wright had spent so many years building.
“We certainly never expected God to choose someone who had never experienced mud season,” says Nancy Ellen, in reference to the time of year in New England when the deeply frozen ground begins to thaw and causes muddy, rutted dirt roads. When Brad and his family arrived from Oklahoma, she recalls, “Only the Lord knew that he would not try to step into Pastor Dave’s shoes, but instead would build on the foundation Pastor Dave had left behind.”
In less than two years, Brad and the people of Journey have experienced increased ministry in the community. They hosted 500 people for a fall festival funded in part by nearby Vermont Law School, which also has financially supported Journey’s food ministry. Journey serves food to 100 people each month—impressive for a small community with a population of 2,600.
The partnership with Vermont Law School goes both ways now. In November 2010, Brad led a leadership workshop on the school’s campus, and plans are being made for a repeat event.
Journey’s children, called “Prayer Bears,” have learned to knit hats for homeless people in shelters and regularly raise money for church planting in other countries.
Volunteers from Journey have mentored South Royalton junior high students in an after-school program. They also served an appreciation breakfast to teachers at the school and hosted the school’s baccalaureate for its graduating class.
Journey is realizing the vision of God for their community. Today, Pastor Brad reverently takes the stones from Journey’s sanctuary—the silent memorial to the vision God gave Pastor Dave—and reverently places them throughout South Royalton. It’s his way of symbolically spreading around what God wants to do to reach his community.
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles