Pastor Returns from Iraq

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Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker, pastor of Beaverdam (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church, has much to look forward to in the new year, but parenting and preaching Christ will be his top priorities.

Wagenmaker, a chaplain in the U.S. National Guard, returned home in October after serving in Baghdad for 15 months. His deployment brought extra challenges because he is the sole pastor of Beaverdam CRC and a single parent to his 17-year-old son, Jeremy Zimmerman.

Wagenmaker said his church council “stepped up,” employing an interim pastor while he was away, and two families from the congregation cared for Jeremy.

Filling Wagenmaker’s ministerial boots was a hefty assignment. His involvements include teaching 11th- and 12th-grade catechism; leading the youth group, the young adults’ group, and the men’s society; pastoral visiting; and writing two sermons each week.

But Wagenmaker’s main concern while away was for Jeremy, whom he began foster parenting in March 2003 and officially adopted in November 2005. Jeremy, in grade 11 at Unity Christian High School, Hudsonville, Mich., missed his father. “I wanted Tyler to be there to see what I was going through—the good and the bad,” he said. “You don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s gone.”

Beaverdam CRC sent Wagenmaker letters, e-mails, and care packages and prayed for him faithfully. Church members said they learned from his absence.

“It drew us together; we all stepped in,” said Sid Van Tuinen. Added Rhonda Schreur, “It was hard because our kids missed him a lot—it was hard for everyone.”

Upon returning home, some 40 church members, along with his family, greeted Wagenmaker at the airport and sang “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

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