Reverend Gary and Lise Nawrocki
I was born on the Canadian Prairies in the dead of winter to a young immigrant meat cutter and his prairie girl bride. My sister was almost a year old when I was born, and would be my playmate throughout my growing up years.
My mother had grown up in the church, but my father had become a Christian after coming to Canada from Germany where he had very little religious training. When my parents looked for a church to attend and take their young family to, they had two main criteria: it had to be within walking distance, and had to be a Bible believing, Gospel preaching church. It was at this time they discovered the Church of the Nazarene, which became our church home throughout my growing up years. I was not yet a year old when we moved to Calgary, Alberta, where we stayed long enough for my second sister to be added to make our family complete.
We moved often throughout my childhood, twelve times my first twelve years. In my grade one year we moved five times which gave me a slow start to my education, but good teachers helped me catch up and eventually I did well at school. I loved school – in particular gym class, recess and art class!
During the summer, after my second grade of school, I attended a Backyard Bible Club with my sisters and friends. I listened intently as I heard again the stories of Jesus – His life, death and resurrection. I remember one day the truth hit me that it was because I had sinned that Jesus died that terrible death on the cross. I felt so terrible, so I went to the lady leading the club and said I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive my sin and come into my heart. I can still remember kneeling on the cement floor in her garage at an altar consisting of an old wooden chair, and there I made the most important choice of my life: I invited Jesus into my heart. Over fifty years have passed since that summer, but I am still living true to that commitment.
I had a great childhood, making many friends, many of which attended church with me. We had a happy home, filled with love and laughter. Time passed by so quickly, and soon I was a teen, enjoying the opportunity to participate in youth group, and trying to catch the attention of the girls! My older sister found the love of her life and was married at the young age of eighteen. But this happy occasion was marred by the knowledge that Dad was not well. He had bone cancer, and we watched helplessly over the next year as he slowly died before our eyes. It was Mother’s Day of my eighteenth year that our Lord called my earthly father home to Him.
If ever my faith was tested it was at this time. Well meaning Christians promised healing. Others offered pat answers that held little comfort. I would jog each morning out to the cemetery and back, always praying, often asking “Why, Lord?” In the quiet of those mornings I would sense God’s simple answer, “Trust Me. I am still with you.” And that is what I did, and healing began to happen in my heart and life.
I managed to finish my grade twelve and go through the graduation ceremonies without dad there to cheer me on. When September came, I carried through with my plans to attend Bible College. I left Mom and my younger sister behind as I made my way across the prairies to Winnipeg to attend Canadian Nazarene College. There I pursued a Bachelor of Theology degree, preparing to fulfill the calling I felt on my life to be a Pastor. Back in grade nine I sensed God’s calling to enter the ministry. I thought God was joking at first, for I was so shy and “ungifted.” I felt I could never be a pastor, but I also knew I had to say “Yes” to whatever God asked of me. The call was clear, and that call has never left me.
College years were great, living in a Christian community, studying the Bible and theology, and meeting great friends. I met the person who would soon become my best friend, my wife Lise, while at college. I noticed Lise the first day she arrived on campus. It took her a full two more years to even notice me! But God eventually brought us together and God has blessed us with thirty three years of marriage and counting. I am so grateful to God for my wonderful companion and help mate.
After college I felt led to go on to Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and there I earned my Master of Divinity. This was a wonderful two years. I had the opportunity to see the international headquarters of our church up close, and the people who worked there. I also met friends who now minister around the world.
After graduation Lise and I accepted the call to minister in the farming community of Claresholm in southern Alberta. We had six wonderful years there, and were blessed with a son, Peter. God then moved us to Kelowna, B.C. to an exciting new assignment, quite different from the first. A gorgeous daughter was added to our family, Amanda. For twelve years we pastored in Kelowna, leading the church through a building project to add the sanctuary, and see the start of wonderful ministries like the Haven, a ladies drop-in centre. Now God has moved our family to the very beautiful city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
We arrived to find the church was meeting in a funeral home! People teased that I had come to bury the hurting, struggling church, butu God had other plans. We soon saw God enable this congregation to grow and establish itself better in the community. In April 2013 we purchased a building formerly used by the St. James Anglican church, and from this location we continue to see the congregation grow and minister to teh community.
I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, soul and strength, and I am so glad I can give my life in service to Him. I know that if He had not called me to be a pastor I would serve Him just as wholly in whatever profession I entered. I am excited about what God is doing in the congregation of the Church of the Nazarene here in Nanaimo, and I dearly love the family God is building here.
I am so glad I made the choice to follow Jesus when I was still young. Today I realize that God was the one drawing me to Himself, and my “yes” to Him was preceded by his “yes” for me. God is so wonderfully loving and gracious. I am so glad I have been able to journey through life with God leading and guiding me. I hope you will also open your life up to the love of God, and allow him to guide and direct you. He alone can help you discover your purpose in life for he created you. You are never too young or old to choose to follow Jesus. But we must make our choice now, in this life, for there is no second chance after death.
“Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve …
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
If you would like to talk to me about making the decision to be a follower of Jesus, or if you need encouragement, answers or prayer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will certainly get back to you.
Blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Rev. Gary Nawrocki