For Mark Vander Pol, the call to become Pastor of Congregational Life for Lynden United Reformed Church in Lynden, WA, came in God’s perfect timing. He and wife Michelle finalized the adoption of their two children on February 24, he planned to resign from his work as a chemist on March 18, and the family hoped to arrive in Lynden by April 1.
“I am still amazed at the Lord’s providence in his call to serve the Lynden congregation,” he says. “If they would have started their search process six months earlier, I don’t think that I could have participated. Even when they did send out their initial questionnaire in June of 2015, I wasn’t sure the timing would work out. As the year was coming to a close and the kids’ case was starting to have a brighter light at the end of the tunnel, Michelle and I reflected on all that had happened and how things looked like they could fall into place—only by God’s providential hand.”
Things did fall providentially into place in December as he accepted the call and the couple signed adoption papers. The February court date confirmed what the Vander Pols had known for almost three years—they were a family. With the legal red-tape finally behind them, the couple gleefully posted three years worth of pictures on Facebook and introduced the world to Jeremiah (6) and Jasmine (5).
Even the children’s initial arrival in the Vander Pol home was providential. The county usually keeps foster children within their original area, but due to a variety of circumstances this placement was beyond the normal bounds.
The Vander Pols currently live in Escondido, but are members of Christ URC in Santee, where Mark has served as an elder, Clerk, and was ordained two years ago as Associate Pastor. He’s also served four years as Clerk of Classis Southwest US of the URCNA.
Rev. Vander Pol explains that Escondido is “about 40 minutes north of Santee on Sundays, and about an hour north on Tuesday evenings.”
Mark Vander Pol is 2009 graduate of Westminster Seminary California, who initially worked for White Horse Inn while candidating in many locations. Although he was often part of a duo or trio presented to a congregation, someone else was always called to serve.
He says, “I was asked frequently, ‘Are you disappointed?’ To which I would respond, ‘Not really, how can you be disappointed when it is the Lord’s will being done?’ I was confident that I could have served well at those churches, but truly the Lord did call the better man.”
He additionally saw the Lord’s hand at work when his mother’s second husband passed away in 2010 (his father died suddenly in 2000). He views still living in the area as “a kind act of God’s providence” that enabled him to be nearby for his mom and her step-children during the years following this loss.
After Jeremiah and Jasmine came into the Vander Pol home in March of 2013, Mark had to decline a few inquiries from search committees due to the couple’s need to remain living in San Diego County while the adoption case was open.
The need to provide financially for the family led Mark to return to full-time work as a chemist in January of 2014, after eight years away from the field. He squeezed his work as Church Clerk, Clerk of Classis SW US, and Associate Pastor primarily into hours after the children went to bed.
Not long ago, a friend asked Mark if he had a deadline to give up as a candidate, settle into his career as a chemist, and serve the church as an elder.
“I believe at that time I told him probably in a year or two, I would ask the Consistory their advice on whether or not I should continue to pursue the pastorate.”
But then the Lynden consistory contacted him to determine his interest in a call.
“When I was progressing through Lynden’s search process, I was open and honest with them concerning the timeline with J & J’s adoption—the real bottleneck to any move,” he says. Although the Vander Pols had reached a point in the process that would have allowed them to move prior to finalizing the adoption, a move out of state would have added many more months to the timeline. By the time the Lynden consistory extended the call, the Vander Pols were unsure about when finalization would occur, but things looked promising.
As Pastor of Congregational Life for Lynden URC, Rev. Vander Pol will come alongside Rev. Mark Stromberg in ministering to God’s people. Rev. Vander Pol says, “One of my primary duties is to allow Rev. Stromberg to devote as much time and energy as he needs to prepare two feasts for God’s people on the Lord’s Day.”
The Lynden church has considered a minister of congregational life for some time, even prior to Rev. Stromberg’s arrival in 2013.
“I fully support the council’s decision, and I believe that with God’s blessing the Minister of Congregational Life will greatly enhance the ministry to this congregation,” Rev. Stromberg says. “Mark is a gifted administrator and writer as well as a wonderful teacher. It is hard to find a man that is gifted as an administrator/teacher who loves people. This is very important, because Mark is going to be assisting in the visitation ministry and he will oversee our counseling needs.” He adds, “I believe that the Lynden URC has found a great treasure in Mark Vander Pol. I pray that the Lord will give us many years of fruitful labor together and that we might be a great source of encouragement to one another as we labor together in the ministry.”
Although details are still being worked out, the installation service may be held near the beginning of April.
Rev. Vander Pol says, “For my ministry, my goal chiefly is what Paul exhorted Timothy, ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching…always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry’ (2 Tim 4:2, 5).”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the March 23, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.