Victor Kubik talks with Lena VanAusdle as she discusses her and her husband’s experience in the ministerial trainee program.
[Victor Kubik] This is Victor Kubik, President of the United Church of God. We’re back to doing our podcasts once again – we’ve taken several months off, and we’re glad to be able to talk to some interesting people. Well, today my guest is Lena VanAusdle. She’s a remarkable lady with whom I’ve worked the past five years in the United Church of God. She’s visiting the home office this week, working on the production of three Beyond Today television programs. Welcome, Lena.
[Lena VanAusdle] Thank you for having me today, Vic. It’s exciting to be here and I’m glad the podcasts are starting again.
[Victor] Yeah, we’re very happy because we have a lot of interesting people who have an amazing story to tell about what they do and why they do it. I’d like to mention first a few things about Lena, why she is remarkable. She has an amazing heart for disadvantaged and vulnerable people. She directs our Good Works program, which is the United Church of God’s outreach program, and has managed projects around the world, namely, Guatemala, Kenya, Chile – which also involves our Youth Corps, having our young adults travel overseas. And that’s really grown in the last couple of years and has become very popular. She’s worked on Beyond Today television productions and is known as the lady who runs the teleprompter. So we always can find her there.
But her life has taken a different turn in the past year. She and her husband Lewis have become some of our pioneers in the Church’s new ministerial training program, which has been really exciting to us as a concept of bringing in younger people into the ministry of the United Church of God. And she was – she along with her husband – were one of six couples who were selected for this. And we’re actually doing a first interview with a wife, not with a husband. Normally, you’d think that we’d want to talk to him, and he’d take center stage, but we just wanted to get her views and to get her feelings about her job involved in that ministry.
Her husband has made a major career change in moving from the work that he had. I’d like to have Lena tell us why you made that choice and how did you come about to make that choice?
[Lena] It was an easy choice, actually, for us. When Lewis and I first got married – we’ve been married for eight and a half years now – we talked about how we wanted our life to look and how we wanted to live our lives, and what we would be like as a married couple. And we decided way back then that we wanted our lives to be in service to God and His people, and so we said, you know, in whatever ways that we’re asked to serve, we’re going to do it. And when we made that decision, we were thinking picking up chairs and taking meals to ill people and visiting widows – and we love doing those things, and that’s what we had committed our lives to doing. So when Mr. Holladay approached Lewis and said, “We’d like you to join this program,” we couldn’t say anything else but yes. Our decision had already been made for us. And I’m – it’s an amazing opportunity, and one that we did take a week to fast and pray about it, because we knew that this is a huge step, and we’re going to need all of the strength that we can get from God to embark on this journey. And so we wanted to humble ourselves before God. But our answer was already – our decision was already made, our answer was already there. We were going to serve God and His people in whatever way He asked us to do.
[Victor] Well, when you left your other career, or Lewis left his other career – what was it, teaching?
[Lena] He was a speech therapist in a school.
[Victor] Yeah, I knew that it was with a school. And what did you find different in – how was your, so to speak, your baptism into the work of the ministry?
[Lena] Well, Lewis had really just gotten into his career. He’d gotten into the groove – he’s been working for about five years, and we had kind of settled ourselves into Cincinnati. I’d been here for close to thirteen years, and this was our home and we loved it. So the biggest changes – we packed up all of our things and said goodbye to our church family and our family and our friends, and we moved to Alabama. And we have the – just wonderful congregations in Huntsville and Gadsden and Birmingham in Alabama. We also go to Tupelo, Mississippi once a month. So the biggest change for us was we actually moved and left behind all the things that we knew and loved, and we’re creating a life in a new place that we – with people that we know, are getting to know, and we love now.
[Victor] Well, tell us a little about your week and when it comes down to the weekend, which is a very, very busy time, but also the other parts of the week are involved with visiting and writing and, you know, communicating with the needs of the people. Tell us a little about that.
[Lena] Well, you’re right. The busiest time of our week is on the weekends. So Mondays is usually a little bit of a down time for Lewis. He does paperwork and he’ll usually work about a half day that day. And he works with David Dobson, and he’s there in Huntsville with his wife, Denise, and they’re wonderful. Lewis could not ask for a better mentor than David Dobson. So then usually twice a week, two days, they’ll go Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually – this varies – they will go and visit, and sometimes I get to go with them if I don’t have too much work that week, and we’ll visit people who are ill or people who just want to talk, and it’s exciting to get to see people in their homes and talk to them and get to know them.
[Victor] Can you please tell us a little bit about your relationship with your mentors, the Dobsons?
[Lena] Okay. They are wonderful people. I just want to say that right up front. They’re so loving and immediately, when they found out that we would be being transferred there to work with them, they were so open and hospitable. They invited us to stay with them while we looked for an apartment, and they helped us move into our apartment, and we see them pretty, you know, relatively regularly – less so now, because we go out on opposite circuits. We go on opposite circuits. So Lewis is often speaking in one place when Mr. Dobson is speaking in another. But Lewis and Mr. Dobson get together at least twice a week, and they visit people and he will give him – he’ll talk to him about his messages, you know – how he is improving, how he can improve. And they impart wisdom. They’ve taught us how – not necessarily how to do things, but how they have done things, how they’ve responded in situations. And a lot of it is just sharing what they’ve learned in their life and how they put it into practice, and how they’ve served the brethren, and how they’ve maintained their family life, and how they’ve maintained a happy marriage, and just telling us stories, and I consider them very dear friends now. Because I feel like I’ve gotten to know them and spend time with them. So a lot of it in that mentor relationship is just sharing themselves with us.
[Victor] The ministry is sometimes looked at – in fact, a lot of times looked at – as a life of sacrifice. You have to give up so much in order to be in the ministry. But tell us about some of the benefits that you’ve found, and why you’ve found the ministry to be as enjoyable as it is.
[Lena] It’s hard for me to say that it is a sacrifice. We left some wonderful friends here, and Lewis did leave a job that he loved. He loved working with children. And he felt that he was a benefit to those children, and I know that he was. But it’s not a sacrifice. What we gain is so much more than we could ever give. I’m going to get emotional because God’s people are amazing everywhere you go. And we get to work with them. God says, “Here, go love them”. And so it’s not a sacrifice. We get to love God’s people. And that’s what He sent us to do, and that is – that can never be a sacrifice. Everything we get is more than anything we could ever give.
[Victor] What a story. I have been in the ministry for more than 45 years, and I can honestly say too, I agree with you. I don’t look upon it as a sacrifice. Maybe it was in the eyes of some people. But to me, it’s been a lifetime that I will never regret. I have just really appreciated and loved everything that I’ve done. I’ve had so many opportunities.
Well, thank you so much for talking to us, Lena. We really wish you the very best in this new change that you’ve taken in life and we know that – we pray that you’ll be successful in what you do. Well, thanks for joining us on Inside United. Come back and see us soon for more.