by Steve Peterson
An auction of family items belonging to Christian Reformed Church of Hawarden Pastor Tom Van Engen and his wife, Rose took place at the church’s parsonage April 20 as Van Engen prepares for a new chapter in his preaching life.
After five years leading Christian Reformed Church of Hawarden, Van Engen has accepted a call to be a pastor on the South Pacific island of Guam for the Christian Reformed Church there.
“They were advertising for a pastor two-and-one-half years ago. I applied. I never thought I would be a finalist. But it is God’s plan for me. We thoroughly enjoyed our week there,” said Van Engen.
“I am going to miss the church and the community here. We’re not leaving because we want to leave but God has a plan for me,” he said.
“We’re selling basically all of our possessions,” said Van Engen of the auction. “I plan on taking one hobby with me, that of being a Mr. Fix-it, with my small tools but I’m auctioning the big ones.”
He described the setting of the Micronesia country with a population of 159,358.
“The congregation is about 15 percent smaller than ours in Hawarden.
The Christian Reformed Church of Guam where Van Engen is going also has a preschool.
“They would like to do more evangelization and reaching out to the U.S. military stationed there,” said Van Engen, adding he has already met several area people who are relocating there.
Van Engen is a captain in the Civil Air Patrol, a division of the U.S. Air Force of Sioux Falls, S.D., in addition to his pastoral duties in Hawarden. He is also chaplain of the Hawarden American Legion Post No. 254 and its honor guard for military funerals. Van Engen is a regular helper at the Hawarden Community Food Bank.
He came to Hawarden from Spicer, Minn. He served in the Minnesota state legislature from 1992-1996 as an Independent Republican while he was pastor at Spicer, a town about the size of Hawarden, before coming here five years ago.
Thanks to modern technology, Van Engen’s first interview was via Skype. The two finalists were brought to Guam and both spent a week there.
Guam is an organized territory of the U.S. Its Chimaeras population is almost 40 percent of the country, while Filipino is at 25.5 percent and whites are 10 percent, according to Wikipedia, an online source.
“The U.S. Navy and Air Force is their largest employer and tourism, which is its main industry, is second,” said Van Engen.
Roman Catholicism is the main religion of about 80 percent of the population. There are 19 villages or municipalities and several U.S. Navy and Air Force installations.
Instead of tornadoes or snowstorms as the biggest weather woes, the Van Engens may soon have to deal with typhoons. Shutters for windows are advertised in real estate based on the type of typhoon they can withstand, said Rose.
The area is known as being the deepest part of any ocean on Earth and having a great coral reef network which protects the beaches.
Van Engens leave for Guam on May 11. They will go to California first, then Hawaii and on to Guam.
They have three children, Matt, who works in Minneapolis, Minn.; Dave of Worth, Ill., and Jeremy of Tinley Park, Ill., and six grandchildren. Tom will get to baptize the newest grandchild before his duties begin in Guam.
As for his successor at Hawarden Christian Reformed Church, Van Engen said there are plenty of retired pastors in the area or possibly a seminary student who could fill-in.
The Hawarden Christian Reformed Church held a send-off potluck for the Van Engens April 14, Tom’s farewell sermon day.