This is the letter I read in Church on Sunday Jan 24th
It has been seven years this month since the Hardin family arrived here at First Lutheran, and Matthew was only two months old. Jill and I have enjoyed the many blessings of friends and community here in Venice. After three years, I started feeling God’s call towards Pastoral Ministry. In the summer of 2007, while visiting family in Missouri, we made a bold move to look into what it would take to respond to this call and we visited Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. It was a great visit, but Jill and I both felt that God was not calling us to that place at that time. When you hear God calling it is best to respond. We understood that trip as God affirming that the great ministry we were involved with in Venice was where he was continuing to call us at that time. But the calling to pursue pastoral ministry didn't go away. I looked into another programs towards ordination and I found Concordia Irvine had a Multicultural Program. This program would allow me to continue in the ministry at First Lutheran while I studied to become a pastor. I applied and went to the interviews and felt very excited about the idea of starting school and continuing to minister here at FLV. As Jill and I looked at the idea of school and a four-year workload it became evident that this was not the answer. Last summer, Jill and I both felt God calling us to look into the Seminary in St. Louis once more. As I have ministered here at Venice several things became clear to me. I wanted to learn more about Scripture and I wanted to develop my skills as a leader. I have poured over the class schedules at the Seminary and I have found myself excited to dive into full time study. As much as the idea of moving cross county and becoming a full time student sound like an insurmountable obstacle I feel confident that this is the best for Jill and the family as we look forward to the future. I remember a Bible verse from Romans 11:29 “for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.” God has called us to Venice for many blessed years. God is now calling us to a new place to continue ministering in new ways. We invite you to support us with your prayers and financially if you wish, for we will be at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis for two years while I am a full time student. On the third year, Concordia will place me as a full time vicar in a congregation. I feel blessed to have Jill who shares my joy and call as well. Whenever Jill and I have separately prayed to God for direction, He has always given us the same answer. It is my hearts desire to answer this call from God. I feel humbled by this call and by God’s grace I will answer. Again, please pray for us as we work to make this happen. Classes start this summer in early June and we have many things to figure out between now and then. We will continue to minister here at First Lutheran until that time, and work towards a smooth transition for the Youth and Family program here at First Lutheran Venice.
Blessings and thank you,