(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018. This critical topic was later included in the book. I invite you to check it out.)
I want to share a few highlights of my varied and unique career path. This has truly been a spiritual journey for me. I discovered a while ago that each of the three main chapters of my career path since I graduated from high school nearly 40 years ago begins with the letter “M”: math, ministry, and military. I did not plan it this way; that’s just the way it turned out.
- Earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from CSU, 1980
- Taught math (public junior/senior high), 1980-1982
- Taught math & science (Christian junior/senior high), 1984-1985
- Felt called to the ministry, 1978
- Youth ministry intern, 1980-1982
- Attended Western Seminary, 1982-1985
- Part-Time youth pastor, 1983-1985
- Active duty Army: Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Specialist, 1986-2006
- Civilian contractor: Lessons Learned Integration Analyst, 2006-2008
- Department of the Army Civilian: Operations Officer, 2008 – present
There is not much I want to say about math. I was good at it, and I had a great math teacher my senior year in high school that inspired me. More importantly, I wanted to do something to help people. My dad was a successful businessman, and I knew that I did not feel led to go in that direction. However, I did not stay in this field very long.
I draw your attention to my short ministry career. I sensed a call by God in 1978, served in my home church as a junior high youth ministry intern, attended seminary and served in youth ministry from 1982-1985, and then saw this significant chapter come to an abrupt end.
Notice the picture above. That is my daughter (whose first name also begins with the letter M). She was a year old when I joined the Army. She gave birth to our first grandchild in April of last year. When she was a few months old, my youth ministry position was terminated. I worked a couple of jobs after that, but none of them met our needs long-term. So, I dropped out of seminary in December 1985 in order to take care of my family, joined the Army in February 1986, and served on active duty for over 20 years. In 2006, I retired from the Army. Since 2008, I have worked at Fort Leonard Wood as a Department of the Army civilian.
For a couple of years after I joined the military, I felt a lot of guilt. I felt called by God to serve Him. I did all I could to pursue becoming a youth minister, but due to my financial circumstances, the door was shut in my face. I had to find a “secular” job. I felt I was a second-class Christian.
Then in 1989, while serving my first unaccompanied tour in Korea, I read a life-changing book, Your Work Matters to God, by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks. The authors tore apart the myth of “sacred” vs. “secular”, and clearly explained the intrinsic and instrumental value of everyday work which I will discuss later. I began to see how God could use me wherever I was. I have been teaching the principles found in that book over the last 25 years.
The main point of sharing my career journey is to demonstrate the faithfulness of God. He has been with me and my family every step of the way. He will do the same for each of you.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
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