God’s power is unleashed in people who are out of their comfort zone, Lesch said, using the disciple Peter as an example.
Peter didn’t know God’s power until he left the safety of the boat and stepped into the water to walk to Jesus, he said.
Lesch and his family will not be moving to a place with tumultuous, Galilean waves, but one that has scorching summers and frigid winters. In the dead of winter, International Falls is the coldest spot in the Lower 48.
When Lesch traveled to Minnesota this summer for an interview with the head elder of the church, temperatures were in the 90s with humidity at 100 percent.
Lesch, his wife, Berta, and their son, Nick, left Kodiak for Minnesota this week. Their daughter, Olivia, traveled there earlier so that she could enroll in Maplewood Seventh Day Adventist Academy, a private school in Hutchinson. She will be in ninth grade. Nick, who will be in seventh grade, will attend a secondary school in International Falls.
At International Falls, Lesch will serve a small congregation as a full-time Bible worker. Even though he doesn’t carry the title of “pastor,” he will do pastoral work, as he did here. He hopes to become ordained while in Minnesota.
The International Falls Church is very small, Lesch said. It measures about 20 feet by 20 feet. He was told that three people regularly attend the church.
“That’s kind of like what it was here (in Kodiak) when I came in 2006,” Lesch said.
Obviously, part of Lesch’s work will be getting people back to church.
He hopes to grow the church by doing door-to-door evangelism, as well as training the members to be active in bringing in converts and lapsed members.
“I hear that there are a lot of people on the books that need visiting,” he said. Many of those inactive members live across the Canadian border from International Falls in Fort Francis.
Lesch’s ministry will go beyond the walls of the church sanctuary. He plans to go into jail ministry, lead Bible studies, and visit hospitals.
Lesch also plans to partner with ministers of the Salvation Army.
International Falls, said Lesch, is “very much a tourist town. In summer, the town booms because of the fishing. But it empties out in winter. It’s big on hockey. When you go into the sports stores, there are two sections — bicycle and hockey.”
The average income in International Falls is low, Lesch said.
Even though Berta Lesch hasn’t been to Minnesota, she said she is “really excited” about the new adventure. Having lived in Washington and New Mexico before coming to Kodiak, Berta loves moving.
“I have a little bit of the gypsy in me. My grandmother came from Mexico in 1917 and moved to Louisiana, to Texas and to Seattle.”
Berta said she hopes to volunteer with hospice care in International Falls. While living in Kodiak, she was a home care giver and personal care provider.
“I love helping the elderly, hearing their stories and getting a feel for the community, through them,” she said.
Lesch said he’s not sure what will happen to the Kodiak church once he leaves. A Bible worker may help the congregation until a replacement is found.
When the Lesches came to Kodiak, there were four regular attendees at the seventh Day Adventist Church, he said. Now about 25 to 40 come to Sabbath service.
“There had been a rift,” Lesch said. “We’ve overcome the challenges that were part of this church’s history.
“We went knocking door to door and did public evangelism. We held conferences.”
Lesch said the status of the congregation improved when the members put a priority of being community service-oriented and getting involved with Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Adventist Community Services, which provides disaster relief, education, emergency preparedness, food banks and other services.
Having a permanent spiritual leader on hand also helped the congregation, Lesch said.
“Nobody knew who was going to be here prior to our being here. When we came, that provided a sense of stability.
“We take no credit at all. The stability (of the congregation) drew the people. The members humbled themselves before the Lord.”
Lesch said the Lord changed his heart while he was in Kodiak.
“I came here with a pretty liberal point of view, doctrinally speaking. I learned to interpret the Bible more literally, through the Holy Spirit and members of church.” When he went to California for studies on evangelism in the fall of 2010, he learned biblical hermeneutics. “That had a profound effect on me.”
Besides leading the congregation at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Lesch was employed as a welder.
The Lesches said Kodiak taught them the importance of community.
“Our eyes opened up to the need for a personal relationship with the people,” Lesch said. “We love this place.”
“Kodiak has been a great place to raise our children,” Berta said.