NEIGHBORS: ‘Hand of God’ points pastor to Grayling

by Kurt J. Kolka

GRAYLING–In April of this year, the Rev. Joe Polzin and his wife Jennie had no idea what lie ahead for them and their growing family. They hadn’t even heard of Grayling, Mich.

Jennie was pregnant with their third child and Polzin was awaiting his first call as a pastor. the future was one big question mark at that time.

Polzin had spent the previous school year as a vicar at a church in Frankenmuth, which he enjoyed. While he had spent most of his childhood in Cincinnati, his family was from Wisconsin.

Jennie was also from Wisconsin, but they did not meet until they attended the Miami University in Ohio together.

While he was studying to become a teacher, his college pastor asked him to consider going into the ministry. The pastor saw something in Polzin he had not seen in himself. However, Polzin pushed the idea to the back of his mind. Little did he know it was taking root.

Unable to find a teaching position, he ended up taking an insurance sales position in Wisconsin, where he and Jennie spent their first three years as husband and wife.

During that time, Polzin said the words of his pastor kept coming back to him. Soon, he began to struggle with a calling from God to become a pastor.

Finally resigning himself to the call, Polzin enrolled at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

Now, after four years there, Polzin, Jennie and their two sons awaited Polzin’s first pastoral call in April.

Meanwhile, the sister congregations of Mount Hope Lutheran in Grayling and Trinity Lutheran in Gaylord were seeking a pastor to shepherd their combined congregations. They contacted Concordia Seminary about calling one of their recent graduates.

Polzin notes he doesn’t know how they were matched up exactly, but he believes the Hand of God was at work in the selection.

“It was definitely God at work,” says Polzin. “There is no doubt His hand was evident.”

Then, within a matter of months, the family headed north, bought a new house, welcomed their first daughter and Polzin began his first pastorate.

“I get a sense of enthusiasm here,” he says about the sister congregations.

“At Mount Hope there is an overwhelming sense of closeness or family. We’re a community, a fellowship.

“The congregation is very motivated to be part of the community. We’ve been sponsoring some movie nights at the Rialto Theater. We’ve been working with schools.”

Mount Hope Lutheran in Grayling recently hosted a movie and discussion about bullying this past fall and plan to do more in the future.

Anther project the church works on are the food trucks. These have supplied food for the those in need within the community. They are hoping to bring the truck to Grayling four times in 2017.

The Mount Hope congregation will turn 67 years old in February. It was started by the Bidvia family, Hoerl family, Plagen family and Jeanette Henig, wife of a local doctor. Their first church building was at 710 Spruce St., the current home of St. John Lutheran Church. In 1980, they finished their current building on the I-75 Business Loop.

Mount Hope is part of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. They are a conservative, confessional Lutheran congregation which values Bible-centered teaching and preaching, the Sacraments and strong families.

Since arriving in Northern Michigan  this summer, the Polzins have enjoyed nature walks in local parks, building sand castles on the beach, taking some train rides and gardening at their new home.

As a pastor, Polzin says he has a passion to make the Word of God known to people wherever they are in life. He loves to show how passages of Scripture are still relevant in today’s world.

“It’s important to have a constant in the culture we live in. Both of these churches view themselves as families.”

Mount Hope Lutheran is located at 905 I-75v Business Loop, just south of the high school.  Sunday morning Bible study is at 10 a.m., worship at 11 a.m. and adult Bible study on Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m.

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