Greetings from Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Clarkston, Washington! The city advertises itself as “The Gateway to Hell’s Canyon,” a popular tourist attraction nearby on the Snake River. There is no better place to be for a thriving congregation with energetic enthusiasm for the Gospel! The city also claims that it has “golf all year round” and averages only one inch of snow per year. As this is being written in the last days of 2021, we have eight inches of fresh snow with more on the way—not exactly conducive to an afternoon tee time, or supportive of the yearly average. But no matter what the earthly conditions, by faith we know that the light of Jesus Christ our Savior shines in us and through us to a sin-darkened world. Each of our CLC congregations is a light shining in the darkness, and Saint John’s is no exception.
In our last Spokesman article in 2016, you were given the historical highlights of St. John’s. The culmination of those highlights was the start-up of a Christian school named Valley Bible Academy—St. John’s Lutheran. We went through the first year with Mrs. Desirae Naumann as the primary teacher for grades K-8, and the second year was set to begin with eleven students.
Now, six years later, we are half-way through our seventh year at VBA with fifteen students and two full time teachers. The Lord continues to pour out His steadfast love and kindness to both church and school in measures we could not have imagined.
The school has proven to be a great outreach tool for the spreading of the Gospel. The little lambs whom the Lord has entrusted to our care have been given an education with Jesus Christ at its center. This past Christmas Eve twenty-two children recited from memory the Luke 2 account of Jesus’ birth. They were encouraged to recite it at home to their families and friends during the Christmas vacation. This memorized account of God’s love will, by faith, serve them well throughout their entire lives. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) Several parents of students have taken classes and joined our congregation. In the first year of the school’s opening, twelve young people were baptized, and there have been many more since then. Contacts for congregational outreach abound through the school.
It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been blessed. When we needed more teaching staff, the Lord provided in various ways. In the spring of 2019, teacher graduate Nathan Buck was assigned by the call committee for graduates and was installed that summer. The following March, during the pandemic, the church and school went online for a brief time. In the fall of 2020, Teacher Desirae Naumann was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the Lord took her to her heavenly rest four months later. During that time, Teacher Nathan Buck, with the help of volunteers, continued the work of teaching Christ’s little lambs. In May of 2021, Teacher Buck accepted the call to Messiah, Eau Claire. God was with us and blessed the school by having two members of Saint John’s step up to the task of teaching. For the opening 2021 school year, Shantel Hocum was called as the primary teacher, and Moira Drager was called as the lower grades teacher. For family reasons, Shantel resigned by Christmas, but not before helping to train God’s next gift, Mrs. Margie Parker, as the primary teacher of Valley Bible Academy. The blessings of the Lord continue as His Word grows among us.
On a personal note, the Lord through His strong Word has blessed and healed me of my grief after the loss of Desirae. I was kept busy with the pastoral ministry in both church and school. After my ten months of living in a big empty parsonage alone, the Lord brought Christy Mattson and me together. We were married on Reformation Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington, and have begun our lives together as one in the love of our Savior Jesus. The loving-kindnesses of our gracious God are uncountable!
With the Lord at the helm, we the members of Saint John’s Lutheran Church and Valley Bible Academy look forward to His continued blessings. Like all our CLC congregations and schools, we, by faith, join you all in following His Word and finding joy in bringing the message of salvation through the cross of Christ to all ages, as the Holy Spirit gives opportunity.