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Lifestyle

Serving the church together

Gary and Lois Taylor find joy in pastoral ministry, but Lois didn’t always see it that way

16th in a series on long marriages

Lois Taylor said she would marry anyone but a pastor.

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, Lois saw her dad working long hours of ministry. She perceived her mother, who was always at home, as isolated and lonely. At church, people expected her mom to do particular ministries just because she was the pastor’s wife. Lois remembered her mom also believed she couldn’t have friends in the church, as that might look like favoritism.

Working as a student editor of the yearbook at Cairn University near Philadelphia in 1976, Lois met and fell in love with another yearbook editor, Gary. Two years later, they married. But as it turned out, Gary wanted to become a pastor.

Gary, who was also a pastor’s kid, had expectations for ministry very different from hers: He enjoyed church, led Sunday school for teens, and sang in the choir. He was excited to enter pastoral work and had come to Cairn to study music and Bible. 

After Gary attended seminary, the couple moved to rural Pennsylvania, and Gary began pastoring a small Baptist church in a county that did not yet have a traffic light. With his Type A personality, Gary did his best pastoring a laid-back country church, even though he had come from the city. Five years later, the Taylors moved to another church, First Baptist of Morrisville, where Gary worked to overhaul the church budget and establish a team of elders.

Initially, though, Lois struggled in her role as a pastor’s wife. When congregants criticized Gary—critiquing his preaching or blaming him for declines in attendance—she felt it most deeply. She worried congregants would disapprove of her, too, or would try to force her into ministries she didn’t want to do.

She also felt, early on, that Gary did not spend enough time with the family. One day, she became upset and told him, right before he left to chair a church planting meeting, “You don’t care about me. All you care about is doing ministry.” 

That day, instead of going to the meeting, Gary decided to stay home with Lois. She realized then that she was more important to him than his work.

And over time, Lois adjusted to other aspects of pastoral life. She learned not to take criticisms personally, and to her surprise, people didn’t try to force her into specific ministries. She worked in ways that fit her gifts and interests, such as teaching Sunday school and children’s Bible clubs. Lois also gained friends at church: Someone told her, “You are closer to some but friendly with everyone,” which is her goal. The biggest challenge, she says, is to invest deeply in people who later leave.

After 31 years at First Baptist of Morrisville, Gary, who also serves as an Army chaplain, says he has deep relationships with families in the church and has seen multiple generations walking with God. 

Lois believes the joys of pastoral life far outweigh its challenges: “I know this is where God would have us, and He has us together.” She and Gary have been married 42 years, and she says it’s “a joy to serve with him.”

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Photo by Sharon Dierberger

Tiki Blackamore, Geoffrey Oja, Cory Blackamore, Naimo Ali, and Doris Poole (clockwise from left). (Photo by Sharon Dierberger)

Lifestyle

Minnesota foster mom always had an open door

Doris Poole welcomed dozens of children into her home over the years

THEY CALL HER THEIR SPECIAL ANGEL.

She helped them at a crucial time, and each felt unconditionally loved. They developed character and life skills: Geoffrey gained control of his anger. Tiki found her voice. Naimo learned to forgive. Chaltu started trusting.

Doris Poole was their foster mom. She is now their friend. She fostered 60 children over the course of 40-plus years and raised six biological children of her own, all as a single mom. She sheltered other kids unofficially for parents needing a break.

At 84 years old, Poole, who fostered most recently several years ago, is one of the longest-serving and oldest foster parents in Minnesota. Last year Ramsey County recognized her service to families.

With close-cropped gray hair and a ready smile, Poole lives in a two-bedroom St. Paul apartment filled with mementos such as the teddy bear perched on a bed. The kitchen counter displays a decades-old photo of her nursing class next to a portrait of a young Poole from the same era.

Today, the Fourth of July, the soft-spoken woman is eager to visit with some of her adult foster children as they arrive on her front porch. One young man can’t resist giving her a long, tight hug. He tells her how much he misses her.

I’d tell them, ‘this is your home away from home.’

She remembers back to when she met each one.

A four-bedroom home down the block is where Poole greeted so many children, trying to make them feel safe and welcome: “I’d tell them, ‘This is your home away from home.’” She gave everyone the option of calling her “Grandma.” She asked permission to hug them, then fixed their favorite foods. The first week, she let them just observe life in her house.

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Illustration by Cap Pannell

(Illustration by Cap Pannell)

Lifestyle

God always provided

Ron and Sandra Johanesen strove to trust God—and each other—while raising a family and living on a single income

15th in a series on long marriages

High-school senior Ron Johanesen was visiting his best friend Leeroy’s house after a game of mud football when he first noticed Leeroy’s sister—a “beautiful blond girl.” Ron learned he and Sandra went to the same Portland, Ore., church. He soon asked her to be his date for a formal event at school.

Sandra, a shy sophomore, was surprised Ron noticed her. But she admired his compassion as he cared for his grandparents and befriended students with disabilities at their school. Sandra and Ron married in July 1976, after finishing college. 

About five years later, Sandra became pregnant, and six weeks before the birth, they learned they were having twins and rushed to prepare. “We’d bought one set of everything,” says Ron. In the next eight years, they had four more children.

Then in the fall of 1998, things changed for the family. Ron stood on a 5-foot ladder, preparing the house windows for the approaching winter weather. As he shifted his weight, the ladder crumpled and 44-year-old Ron landed on the driveway, shattering his pelvis. Two surgeries and 12 screws followed, and Ron was out of work for three months. 

With an annual income of only around $30,000 or less, the Johanesens knew those three months would be financially difficult. Yet they saw God provide during Ron’s recovery: Their church bought Christmas gifts for their kids, and Ron’s employer continued paying their health insurance premium. One night, a stranger even brought them a box of food.

There is a huge temptation to feel inadequate as a wife if you’re not seen as helping. People don’t think you’re adding to your family unless you’re making money.

Seeing God’s provision gave Ron courage, and he decided to open his own accounting practice. “If the Lord can provide for me when I’m unable to even get off my back, surely he can provide for us through these hands,” he said. Sandra agreed, and the family cleared space to put Ron’s office in the basement, beside the laundry room. Their youngest child was 4 years old. 

Losing steady income and insurance was stressful: Ron paid the business expenses each month before paying himself. Sandra worked hard to stay within their budget and teach the kids to be content. Each month, they wondered if they could cover expenses, including the costs of homeschooling their kids. 

Once again, God met their needs. When their daughter’s appendix ruptured, they rushed her to the hospital for life-saving surgery. The family didn’t have insurance at the time, but the hospital did not charge them for the procedure. 

Sandra, though, felt friends and family members judging her for not getting a job. “There is a huge temptation to feel inadequate as a wife if you’re not seen as helping,” she says. “People don’t think you’re adding to your family unless you’re making money.” Sometimes she suggested the idea to Ron, but he reminded her how important her presence in the home was.

One morning, Sandra fought frustration as she read her Bible. Then a passage in the book of Numbers caught her attention: It emphasized the faithful leadership of Moses. Sandra felt God reminding her that He had chosen Ron to lead their home and she should trust God by not complaining and speaking against her husband. That day was a turning point for her.

Now, after 43 years of marriage, the Johanesens are empty nesters and plan to sell the large house in Portland where they raised their children. Ron still works from home and keeps an office in his garage. He is a few years from retirement, and he hopes to cut back his hours soon. 

Ron reflects on the years when money was tight: “Right at the beginning, we stopped and we prayed and we asked the Lord to give us peace and that He would provide. And He did. He always did.”

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