What is it like for a pastor’s wife to live her vocation? Her own vocation. This month we are
catching up with Pastor Paul’s wife, Jenny, to learn about how life led her to her current roles
as a wife, mother, and woman living her vocation.
Jenny has lived in Plymouth for 35 years and graduated from Armstrong High School. She
then attended Gustavus Adolphus College (with one semester in Dijon, France), where she
earned degrees in International Business and French. Next, she earned a Master of Divinity
degree from Bethel University and an MBA from the University of North Dakota. In her career
and education, there has been a dual focus on business and ministry.
Shortly after college, Jenny helped to start a church for young adults, and she later joined
the staff. This congregation eventually merged with Woodridge Church. While there, she led
outreach and missions for five of Woodridge’s campuses and was very involved with Interfaith
Outreach. She started the non-profit Every Meal (formerly the Sheridan Story), which today
gives 2.5 million meals each year to kids, filling the food gaps children face on weekends,
extended breaks, and summer when there is no access to school meal programs. After ten
years in this ministry, she left. Although she loved the community work, her theology evolved
toward the ELCA. She then worked at 1517 Media, the publishing house for the ELCA. There,
she was the Director of Marketing and the Director of Analytics. Two years ago, she moved to a
position with Vanco, the processing company for Peace’s online giving, becoming the Director
of Faith Partnerships. At Vanco, she leads the collaborative work with denominations such
as the ELCA, United Methodist Church, the Presbyterians, and the Episcopal Church. Jenny
loves non-profit work and the church, but neither of these fields makes sense for her or her
family. “I enjoy the types of challenges and growth I have in a corporate career, and I’m grateful that my job serves the church,” she says.
While working at Woodridge Church, Jenny led mission trips to Haiti and Haitian villages in the Dominican Republic. During these visits, she saw how many children were in orphanages. She wanted to be a mom, had a good job, home, and supportive family, and decided to adopt. Two years into the process, she met Paul. She told him about the adoption on their first date and was happy to hear that he had always hoped to adopt. He proposed to her four months later, and after she said “yes,” she proposed to him to become her future daughter’s Daddy. There were significant setbacks in the adoption process. She lost two matches before being matched with Annika, which was heartbreaking. “Haitian adoptions take a very long time,” she explains, and for Jenny, it took more than four years. After Jenny and Paul were matched with Annika, they traveled immediately to meet her and stayed for two weeks. “We were instantly in love with her,” she shares. “The greatest pain and the most tears I have ever cried were when Paul and I walked out of the gate, leaving Annika at the orphanage, and returning home knowing it would be months before we saw her again,” Jenny says that being a mom and a wife has been a great gift to herself. Because she was single for the first forty years of her life, she thinks that she appreciates the life she has in her family of three even more. It is sometimes complicated for her not to be as involved in international work as she was in the past, “but there will be a time for that again.” In the meantime, she can show Annika what it means to be a career woman who serves her community and church. She says that “there is still plenty of opportunity to be involved by being married to a pastor. I like church life together as a family and wouldn’t want to be working at a different church where we would have separate church lives.”
When asked how she sees her vocation, she replies that she sees it as serving populations in poverty, serving the church, her family, and her career. A joy of her vocation is that she believes she has become more compassionate from seeing populations living in poverty. “I’ve always been drawn to people living in poverty and understanding their stories,” she states. Sometimes, she can feel uncomfortable in circles where there is an incredible privilege. “I try to turn that inner agitation into a further commitment to the work of justice, which is a joy,” she shares.
Since Jenny and Paul were married five years ago, Paul has served at churches that were between one and three and a half hours from home so that Jenny couldn’t become very involved in congregational life. At Peace, she has been able to develop friendships and opportunities, and she is grateful for that. She has been helping with Sunday School as well as with Journey Together. She is also part of the Fertile Soil group, has helped with the church website, and helps to serve communion.
Jenny, we at Peace are so grateful for the work you have done in the community and overseas,
and we feel fortunate to worship with you and your charming daughter (oh, and your husband,
too!) at Peace.
Merci beaucoup for all you do!