Connections Pastor Candidate
I want to introduce you to Vincent Derr, a passionate and visionary candidate for our Connections Pastor position. Vincent currently serves as Director of Student and Children’s Ministries at Blessed Hope Church in Vinton, IA. The church has grown rapidly while he has been on staff, providing invaluable experience working side by side with the pastor addressing challenges of growth and change. Vincent is engaged to be married to Victoria Litwiller of Waverly, IA. They are both interested in establishing a home together in our area. The Search Committee is planning to bring Vincent in to candidate for our Connections Pastor position on the weekend of March 22, 23, and 24. This will give him and Victoria a chance to meet all of you and for you to see Vincent’s heart and calling. I hope you enjoy reading Vincent’s story of how God has worked to prepare Him for this time:
I didn’t grow up in the church; in fact in High School I was decidedly agnostic, almost atheistic. The first Bible I saw opened in my home was my own after I had become a Christian in college. Growing up I remember going to VBS, but it wasn’t really for spiritual formation. VBS was simply about being with my friends. I don’t remember much from VBS other than snacks, games, and a chipmunk video. That chipmunk I’ve come to learn is Chadder Chipmunk.
Anyway, going into college I wasn’t Christian or really anything. I got assigned a Christian roommate and I was really frustrated with the situation. Luke and I got along just fine, and he had a lot of Christian friends. His friends became my friends. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by real Christians and not the stereotypes I had in my mind. They believed, really believed, and lived it out. Luke and our friend Jake would be gone about three times a week leaving me alone and bored. I figured out they were going to worship and small group.
I eventually got up the nerve to ask if I could tag along to small group and they said yes. It was their Christmas party and I was shocked by how cool everyone was with me just showing up. I think Jake and Luke had told them about me and had them praying for me. Winter break came, and I kept pondering how nice they all were to me. During this time, I was really struggling with college and self-worth. Their hospitality and kindness made a huge impact on me. Spring semester started, and they decided to work through Crazy Love by Francis Chan, the first Christian book I ever bought. I didn’t talk much; I didn’t know anything. As I read and listened to them talk about God and the Christian life, my heart became softer and softer. They really revealed that I hadn’t really rejected God but a cultural caricature of God.
Winter Jam is a Christian concert tour that comes through Des Moines and all my friends were going. They kept asking me all week to go with them. I thought Christian music would suck, but they asked one more time before they left and, well, I didn’t want to be alone, so I said yes. We went and while there my notions of Christian music were blown apart. The whole-time thousands of people were praising God and I was wrestling. David Crowder came on, which was great; they put their lyrics on the screen. I could sing along and not just pretend to sing. The song How He Loves wrecked me; I had never heard the gospel until that song. I kept thinking, if that’s how God sees me, then I want that. I want to follow that God. Afterward the minister got up and gave the gospel with an invitation to stand up. I didn’t stand. I thought that was hokey, but I did commit my life to Christ that night, January 21, 2011.
From that moment on I consumed as much Christian material as I could: apologetics, sermons, and history. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I remember reading “well known” stories, freaking out and asking my friends if they knew these things were in the Bible. They did. Stories like Jesus walking on water, or a guy being lowered through a roof to Jesus, or the entire Exodus story. I kept thinking “is anyone telling people about this amazing stuff, like people need to know!” I was so on fire for Jesus and the Bible. God really started to impress on me to tell people.
My sophomore year I had heard about a mission trip that campus ministry was going on to south Texas over winter break; it sounded amazing. I could feel God pulling on me, but I thought it was too expensive. Then at the deadline God broke through and said, “Go, trust me with everything.” I went and helped build homes, feed the poor, and care for children. It was on that mission trip that God asked me to fully commit; up to this point I had been dating God, holding onto my old life while reaching for him. God completely had me.
One worship service, Joe Brummel, the campus chaplain, spoke so powerfully I was moved to tears. I hugged him after worship and said, “Thank you!” as I left the building. I sat down by a playset and just poured all my sin and life out before God. My friends came out and prayed with me as I confessed everything. In that moment I felt the embrace of God. I had never felt fuller and more loved in my life.
So, going into the spring semester of my sophomore year, I decided to be a Religion major. This was not a popular decision among my family. Everyone tried to convince me to pick something else. I had taken an Intro to the New Testament course my freshmen year, to get it out of the way, since it was required. In that class God awoke in me a deep thirst for knowledge about him. The more I got to know Joe and interact with him the more he encouraged me to step into leadership in campus ministry. I became part of team he oversaw, led small groups, and stepped into Intervarsity. Through all this God kept saying, “Yes.” Every close Christian friend and mentor were encouraging me and seeing things in me.
I decided to try my hand at camp ministry, so I became a camp counselor at the camp where Joe served as programmer. My relationship with Joe has changed greatly over the years. What started as a simple minister/college kid relationship turned to minister/summer counselor which turned to mentor/mentee and now friends. It was an honor when Joe said to me during staff affirmations that he didn’t consider me an employee or some college kid, but a friend. Joe has seen my faith walk from the beginning until now.
While working at camp, going on mission trips, and being near Christian ministers I felt God’s call to ministry. I ignored it and down played it for a long time, but I couldn’t ignore God anymore. At this time, I joined Trinity Reformed Church where I was baptized and in conversations with their pastor was encouraged to go to seminary. While still at Central College, I took a pre-ministerial class focused on calling. I read The Call by Os Guinness, that book impacted me and confirmed my deep suspicions of God’s call on my life. On March 16, 2014, I was baptized in obedience to Jesus’ call. I then went to seminary in Holland, Michigan where I studied for two years in residence. After my second year, I felt God’s call to leave and pursue youth ministry. I am taking courses online as I can pay for them. I have committed to no longer taking on debt for schooling. I am continuing my pursuit of my M.Div. The clear understanding of my calling is that one day I will seek ordination.
In seeking youth and children’s ministry, I found Blessed Hope Church in Vinton and have been ministering here full-time for over two years. There are so many details that are not in this short summary of my testimony and I’d love to share more fully or answer any of your questions. I love talking about how God has moved in my life; it reminds me of his faithfulness. Thank you for taking the time to read my story of faith.