New St. John’s pastor feels at home in Rush City
If a newcomer to town stopped by a gas station in Rush City and asked an attendant, “Do you know where St. John’s Lutheran Church is?” the Rev. Tim Renstrom hopes that employee could reply, “Oh, yeah, it’s right down the road; they do this, this and that.”
Keeping church integral in the lives of community members is the aim for the new pastor, who has been serving at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Braham for about the past year and a half. He started at St. John’s in July after the Rev. John Beck was called to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Frazee, Minnesota.
The two churches are trying out a multicongregational arrangement, and so far Renstrom said it’s been going smoothly.
“We want to see how we can better serve our purpose proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in this area,” he said.
From farming to ministry
Renstrom grew up in Elbow Lake, in western Minnesota, on a farm with crops and animals.
“I farmed until I ran out of money,” he said. “I was part of the group that ran out of money farming in the mid-’80s. You had the farm crisis, the savings and loan crisis, the banking crisis, and everything was just on top of everything.”
After the tough years farming, Renstrom worked for his brother-in-law in Juneau, Alaska, as a carpenter for four years.
“It was warmer (in December 1987) than it was here when we left,” he remembered with a laugh.
Renstrom liked the area and the work, but he said when it came time to sit down and think about what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, carpentry just wasn’t really in his blood. He had felt the pull to become a pastor since his youth.
“When I was about 16, I had done a youth service along with a number of other youth in our congregation, and some little old lady – who was probably neither little or old, but when you’re 16 years old, anybody who is over 45 is old – said, ‘You should be a pastor someday,’” Renstrom said.
Those words stuck with him, so he wrapped up his carpentry years in Alaska and went to Portland, Oregon, for undergraduate work at Concordia College, and then Renstrom did his seminary work at Concordia College in St. Louis.
His first call was out to the West Coast, in Newport and Toledo, Oregon. Renstrom said he and his wife, Charlotte, and their two children, Chad and Jennifer, enjoyed West Coast life.
“I thought I was going to live out in that area forever, but God had different plans.”
Those plans included being called back to his home state, to Appleton. He served there for 11 years before being called to St. Stephen’s in Braham.
Renstrom said he’s felt very welcomed in Rush City, and he described the congregation as “good people.”
“Nobody has thrown any rotten vegetables or fruit at me yet,” he quipped. “They still like me.”