North Branch’s Trinity Lutheran Church welcomes new pastor
The Rev. Jon Yurk felt the call to be a pastor after serving as a counselor at a youth Christian camp he attended while growing up in rural Nebraska.
“I really loved it,” he said. “I’d actually been bullied quite a bit in elementary and junior high school. Camp was the one place I could go where I could be myself and not have any of that in my life.”
In an introductory letter he wrote to the church, Yurk, 35, detailed how that bullying affected him on a deep level and led him into ministry.
“This bullying began in third grade and lasted until my freshmen year of high school,” he wrote. “It took me a long time to heal from those emotional wounds. When you are basically told you are worthless every day for seven years, you begin to believe this message. This experience is one of the reasons I am so passionate about ministry, particularly in communicating how God loves us no matter what. I believe that this experience allows me to empathize with others who are struggling and suffering in their own lives.”
After Yurk, the son of a pastor, found his path while going to college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he transitioned to Minnesota to attend Luther Seminary. During that time, he worked at an inner-city church in Minneapolis. He described that experience as a valuable one that taught him how to relate to a variety of people and be adaptable in his ministry.
Upbringing in Nebraska
Also in his letter to the church, Yurk talked about his family live, particularly the fact that he is adopted.
“My mother was a 20-year-old college student who wasn’t married,” he said. “She decided that she could best care for me by giving me up for adoption. She worked with Lutheran Social Services to find the best family to take me in. I was adopted by a Lutheran pastor and his wife, Helmut and Jodeen Yurk. When I talk about my parents, I am referring to my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and provided the best care they could. I am so grateful that I was placed in a loving home.
“I was actually the first open adoption that took place in Nebraska through Lutheran Social Services, so my adoptive parents got to meet my biological mother and father. They were always open with me about the fact that I was adopted. As I grew up and started to have more questions about my birth mom, they encouraged me to contact her. I met my biological mother for the first time when I was 17. It was a wonderful experience, though I admit it was strange as well. It was kind of surreal to meet my mother for the first time and within five minutes identify all of the traits I got from her. She was loud, dramatic and loved to laugh, just like me. I feel so blessed that I got to meet her and form a deep bond with her for the next 17 years of my life. She never married or had any other kids, so I know she treasured reconnecting with her son. Sadly, she died suddenly last spring at the age of 55. I miss her very much and am so glad she was a part of my life.”
Yurk quipped that North Branch doesn’t feel like that small of a town to him, even though he and his family spent seven years in Reno, Nevada.
Yurk grew up in the 600-person town of Axtell, Nebraska. At that size, Yurk said, “everyone knows your business.”
He said North Branch feels like the perfect fit for him, his wife, Jaime, and their two children, 7-year-old David and 3-month-old Ramona.
“We just wanted to come back to the Midwest, since we have a family now,” Yurk said.
Even though Yurk has only been in North Branch for about a month so far — he is still unpacking boxes in his office at Trinity — Yurk said he and his family have felt warmly welcomed by the congregation at Trinity and community in general.
“People have really made us feel at home,” he said.