Goertzen plans to retire as pastor

Staff writer

After 25 years of serving the fellowship at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren church, Gaylord Goertzen is retiring from his position as senior pastor.

“I am retiring for health reasons,” Goertzen said. “I feel that God is calling me away from full time ministry.”

He said he has enjoyed building relationships with people and would miss preparing for his sermons every week. For him, studying and interpreting God’s word is a tremendous responsibility that both humbles and excites him.

“I will miss making His word come alive,” Goertzen said. “God speaks first, and I have to respond with my heart change.”

Goertzen has been preaching for 38 years. He said he knew he had found his place when he first started studying at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary School in Fresno, Cali., in 1975.

After graduating in 1977, he and his wife, Peggy, moved to Balko, Okla., where he was the pastor for Balko Mennonite Brethren Church for 11 years. Then in 1988, Goertzen and his family moved to Hillsboro where he began his service at Ebenfeld Church as senior pastor.

“I am just astounded He has let me do what I love,” Goertzen said. “My home ministry is based on God’s grace.”

Goertzen has faced challenges and questions throughout his life. One major obstacle he overcame was a diagnosis of Meniere ’s disease in 1970.

In it, the cochlea swells and destroys the cells inside your ear that allow us to hear, he said.

“I already had a minor 20 percent hearing loss,” he said. “But while I was in was in seminary school, my hearing loss jumped to 65 percent.”

He wondered how he could ever become a pastor because his condition made communication very difficult, especially in crowded rooms and on the telephone, he said.

“While I was praying for healing I asked God why,” Goertzen said. “The Lord said that He had not called me to do something I could not do.”

In 1992, Goertzen’s hearing loss was at 98 percent and in 1997 he had a cochlear implant that reduced his hearing loss to 75 percent.

Goertzen said the implant electronically stimulated the cells in his cochlea. Things sounded different but he could understand everything people said.

“At first, I could hear everything again through electronic means,” he said. “But after awhile it slowly degraded.”

Even with hearing difficulties, Goertzen exudes a sense of love and thankfulness. He said Corinthians 12:8 was the basis for his ministry. It reads, “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

He explained that grace is giving people what they don’t deserve.

“We don’t deserve to be saved,” he said, “but God gives us salvation.”

Goertzen is also very thankful for all his wife has done for him over the years.

“I would have never been able to do this without my wife, Peggy,” he said. “She is a gem, without her it would be impossible. She has always calmed me.”

Goertzen’s last sermon at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren is Sept. 29. After which, Lynn Jost will be filling in as interim pastor through July to help the church make the transition and allow time to find a new pastor.

Goertzen said Ebenfeld will still be their home church, but he and Peggy will step back. They are looking forward to being able to sit together in church, and visit their children and grandchildren.

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