Beloved pastoral couple concludes 251?2 years at Ebenfeld

Gaylord Goertzen retired Sunday as full-time pastor at Ebenfeld Mennonite Breth?ren Church in Hillsboro.

Prior to becoming Ebenfeld?s pastor 251?2 years ago, Gaylord said he first started preaching in 1975 at a small country church while still in seminary.

At age 66, Gaylord said he and wife Peggy agreed it was time to retire because of health concerns related to his heart and hearing.

?God is calling me to retire,? Gaylord said. ?He called me to the ministry, and now he is calling me to retire.?

It will be hard leaving, he said.

?I will miss being a pastor, studying God?s Word and preparing the sermon.?

On the flip side, Gaylord said he is ready to be more relaxed, have weekends free and see their four children and 14 grandchildren more frequently.

?I haven?t had a Saturday night free in 38 years,? he said, needing to be back in time to review the next day?s message.

?Gaylord and I also haven?t sat (in church) together in 38 years,? Peggy added. ?It?s not that people haven?t been gracious, and I always found people to sit with. But I am ready to sit with my husband.?


After 38 years in the ministry, Gaylord said he has many notable memories.

One happened on an Easter Sunday when Gaylord was ?terribly sick and dizzy.?

?My husband couldn?t even stand,? Peggy said.

To avoid falling off the platform, Peggy said Gaylord laid down on the annex as the service continued. He was checked by nurses while some members prayed over him.

When it came time for the sermon, Gaylord suddenly felt better.

?God raised him and he got up and preached a wonderful Easter resurrection service,? she said.

The minute the service concluded, Peggy said Gaylord gave her the car keys and asked her to drive him home.

?God gave him what he needed for that particular sermon and that was our miracle for Easter Sunday,? she said.


The Goertzens have seen many changes in nearly four decades of ministry, but probably the biggest change is the young people coming up in the church.

?The church is in good hands with this new generation coming up,? Gaylord said. ?(My) generation is moving on?we are reaching retirement age. But the new generation is excited about church, Jesus, serving and making a difference.?

Gaylord said when he was in seminary in Fresno, Calif., during the mid-1970s, a lot of peers in his generation chose to leave the church.

?This new generation has chosen to change the church,? he said. ?I am just amazed (with them).?

A pastor?s wife

Peggy said she enjoys being a pastor?s wife. Being a pastor and a pastor?s wife, she said, is a full-time job with a variety of duties vying for attention.

?We have a group of people who pray for us (and me),? Peggy said. ?These women, who are my support group, pray for me.?

The Goertzens also consider themselves a team.

?I love being a pastor?s wife and where God put me,? she said. ?I love being part of a team with my husband.?

Peggy said she felt God?s call even before Gaylord did. She said she came from a non-Christian home as opposed to Gaylord?s upbringing in a Christian home.

The two met at a Bible study group while attending Fresno Pacific University.

?At that time the ?60s was a time of disillusionment,? Gaylord said. ?Then I saw her and others in this Bible study group and they were excited about following Jesus. All that helped me renew my commitment.?

Gaylord said he had no intention of becoming a pastor. His major was in psychology. But in 1974, he and Peggy attended a mission conference at their home church in Bakersfield.

Each time he attended, Gaylord said he was ?excited? about what God was doing.

Peggy said it must have been written on their faces that they were being called.

?People did shoulder tapping and we were being asked: ?Do you think you are called into ministry or mission work???

Even before completing seminary, Gaylord had an opportunity to go to a small country church 60 miles away. For the next 21?2 years, he and Peggy were the pastoral couple there.

?I knew I had found the purpose for which God created me,? Gaylord said. ?For the first time in my life I was happy, I was contented and I wasn?t grumpy all the time.?

Trust in God

Gaylord said he lost about 35 percent of his hearing in 1970.

?In my second year of seminary, my hearing crashed and went to 65 percent loss,? he said. ?I was diagnosed with Meniere?s disease and I wondered how I could ever be a pastor.?

Gaylord said he also had a type of vertigo, but continued his pastoral duties. One of the seminary professors said he wanted to have a private prayer service for him.

?Anointed with oil, and praying Lord heal me, I could hear the Lord say, ?Will you follow me on the way to deafness and beyond??? he said.

Gaylord wanted God to ?heal his hearing,? but eventually he asked how he could be a pastor and be deaf.

?The Lord said to me: ?I have not called you to do something you cannot do and I will give you the strength?trust me and follow me,?? he said.

?So all these years I have been a pastor by God?s grace,? he said, ?and by the grace of the people allowing me to be a pastor.?

Hardest part

Facing change, he said, is the hardest part of the job.

?The whole world is changing, and I think sometimes people want the church to be the one thing that doesn?t change in their life,? he said.

But to make the church relevant for a new generation, change is inevitable.

?The gospel?basic foundation of God?s Word?never changes, but the way we present it has to change and it?s hard for me and everybody,? he said.

But God gives a lot of grace, he added.

?Just keep on loving and just keep on giving. Yes, there are sorrows, but 80 to 90 percent is joy. Focus on that?and that is what has kept us going.? Gaylord and Peggy Goertzen have viewed their pastoral assignments as a team effort. ?I love being part of a team with my husband,? Peggy says.

Written By
More from Patty Decker
County acquires declining Florence school building
What once stood as a proud symbol of secondary education in Florence...
Read More