Dear Brothers and Sisters at Westview:
I know the Westview council recently announced their call to me to serve as your transitional pastor. I readily accepted. I look forward to life and ministry together. While my full role begins in January, I have agreed to get a running start now.
So, let me introduce myself and my family. I grew up in Sheboygan, WI. Our house was just a block from the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. My father (93) still lives there. My parents were whole-hearted believers in Jesus and committed to the church. I was blessed by quality Christian education. I enjoyed sports, music, books, and table games. When I was seventeen, I made a public profession of my faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
I attended Calvin College. These were terrific years: I grew academically, socially, and in my walk with the Lord. I played varsity tennis all four years. My junior year I served as a resident assistant. I earned a Business/Economics degree with a pre-law emphasis.
After graduating in 1979, I spent a year as a youth worker in Hayward, California. While there I helped with an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry at a nearby college. That led to two vibrant years on InterVarsity staff at the University of California- Berkeley. Through it I sensed a long-term call to gospel ministry.
In 1982 I headed back to Grand Rapids for equipping at Calvin Seminary. During my first three years I continued to serve part-time with the InterVarsity group at Calvin College. There I met a staff volunteer: Ruth VanWylen. Ruth had a masters degree in social work and was working at Wedgwood Christian Services. We married in 1984.
I completed my Master of Divinity degree in 1987. That year I was tapped to become a church planter in California. After a ten month residency, we moved to Santa Rosa (north of the Golden Gate Bridge) and launched Hope Community Church in 1989. Over the years a trickle of people came to saving faith in Jesus and connected with the church; worship attendance grew to 70 people. While there we we adopted our first son, Paul, through Bethany Christian Services. Two years later we adopted our younger son, Derek.
In 1996 I accepted a call to Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church in Champaign, IL. It was near the University of Illinois; the church featured many professors, graduate students, and international students. While there Ruth worked with Bethany, providing home studies in downstate Illinois for couples seeking to adopt.
In 2001 I accepted a call to West Leonard Church. I ended up serving there for nearly fifteen years. We relished the dear saints and hearty fellowship. While there Ruth worked through Pine Rest as a school social worker and then at their contact center.
The church and the schools and Grand Rapids were a great place to raise our sons. Paul and Derek both graduated from West Side Christian and Calvin Christian High School. Paul headed on to Trinity Christian College; Derek attended Calvin College for a while.
At Trinity Paul (34) was recruited into the officer ranks of the Marines. Recently he was promoted from captain to major. Paul is now stationed for two years in Yuma, Arizona at a Marine air base. Derek (32) is an engineer with Specialized Computer Solutions. The firm is located in Grand Rapids; it provides businesses with IT support. I have a low tech IQ; I’m glad Derek can help me too.
About ten years ago I felt a call into specialized transitional ministry. Crossing paths with Pastor Larry and hearing more about this ministry was a key step. In 2015 I was formally endorsed as a transitional pastor and received my first call that fall. So we said a fond farewell to the West Leonard church family and the west side.
The past eight years I’ve served six churches: Bethany Church- Gallup, NM (2015-17); Fredericton Church- New Brunswick, Canada (2017-18); Faith Church- Nashville (2018-19); New Life Church in a Chicago suburb (2019-21); Highland Church, by Cadillac (2021-22), when Ruth had major surgery for tongue cancer, which took 20% of her tongue; and most recently Palos Heights Church for a year. These have been challenging and deeply satisfying years in helping build up churches after they encountered some rough waters.
The greatest cost of transitional ministry is coming to know and love churches and being invested in their ministries- and then move on. After all these moves Ruth was ready to settle down. In September we rented an apartment in Holland, where Ruth has family ties.
I continued to feel a deep sense of calling to transitional ministry. Soon after our move I was contacted by Westview. In all this I see God’s gracious hand of providence.
Next week I will summarize the role of a transitional pastor and some classic stages of transitional ministry. In a third installment I will address natural questions about my time at Westview and some specific challenges we will be addressing.
Warmly yours in Christ,
Pastor Neil Jasperse