When God asked Pastor Zachary Bey to come to Newton, he was happy to do so. The First Lutheran Church welcomed its new pastor earlier this year, and he has a long history of serving God, including a overseas trip.
“I grew up in Cedar Rapids,” Bey said. “I actually went to college in Pella, at Central College. I graduated quite a number of years ago. I lived in Chicago, (and) I lived in Japan.”
During his time in Chicago, he studied the Word of God, and taught English in Japan.
“I was in seminary in Chicago, and between undergraduate and seminar, my wife and I spent two years in Japan teaching English.” Bey said. “It was a missionary opportunity for us.”
During his travels, he learned a lot about himself.
“In seminary, I learned a whole lot about who I am, about how I am as a person and as a pastor,” Bey said. “The foundation of that (his beliefs) was developed in my time in Japan. We are all shaped by our experiences. That’s what part of us that makes us human.”
When he was offered the position in Newton, he knew it was going to be special.
“The simple answer is that I felt God was calling me here,” Bey said. “It’s closer to family, (and) it’s a great community. I’ve got roots in Iowa, so getting back to Iowa was a great thing, but ultimately it came down to I felt God calling me here to do some ministry work here.”
Bey hired professional movers to help him, and when he arrived in Newton with his wife Juli, they only had some lawn chairs and a blowup mattress.
“The night we moved into town, it was maybe 8:30 at night,” Bey said. “We’ve been driving literally all day, and we pulled into the driveway of our condo and I just felt like I was at home. Even though (we) didn’t have any of our stuff. I had two lawn chairs and a air mattress. It was really all we had.”
Adjusting to his congregation would prove to be a learning process.
“There is that process, whenever you start a new place of learning the people and learning the space,” Bey said. “That is just a matter of taking time. There is a lot of positive energy. There is a lot of excitement about this. I am excited to be here (and) the congregation is excited to have me here. We’re at the point where we are still trying to learn who we are, and how we can move forward working together.”
Before coming to Newton, he lived in North Dakota.
“This is my second call (congregation),” Bey said. “ I served in two (congregations) in Medina and Streeter North Dakota for two and a half years.”
Moving to a smaller town in North Dakota was a major adjustment for him.
“(It was) pretty big,” Bey said. “Medina only (has) about 300 (residents), (and) Streeter (has) about 150 (residents).”
He is a firm believer in the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America’s motto of “God’s work. Our hands” and is working with his congregation to promote this message.
“I think that’s really where we need to focus on is asking the question, ‘How can we do God’s work in this place?” Bey said. “The First Lutheran (Church) calls itself the welcome place, and my question has been — since I got here and (will) continue to be — how can we be the welcome place? How can we make sure our building and our lives show the welcome of God in this community, (and it) is really what it is all about.”
“For me personally, my ministry has always been about hope,” Bey said. “It’s been about rooting ourselves in the presence of God and from that presence, reminding ourselves and remembering that God is with us always. That provides us with a tremendous amount of hope that the way things are don’t have to be, and that we can grow and change and have a real impact in the world rooted in with God’s presence with us.”
The First Lutheran Church is located at 309 E Third St. N., and Bey’s office hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon.