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God provides harvest workers: One family’s story

Recently retired pastor Richard Lehmann shares a personal story of how God continues to provide harvest workers for his field:

My father—Dr. Arnold Lehmann, music professor at Northwestern College, Watertown, Wis.—retired from his kingdom work in the summer of 1979, the very same summer that I was ordained and installed at St. Paul, Muskego, Wis. This past July, I ordained and installed my son, Jonathan, the same summer that I retired after 42 years.

But here is where the irony builds.

On Aug. 24, 2009, Jonny began his first day of classes at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. The day before, my wife and I attended the opening service and then went to the hospital to visit my father, who was weakening in his time of life on this earth. We reminded him that Jonny was going to be starting the next day at the campus his dad and grandpa attended, said our loving goodbyes, and left so we could travel to New Ulm by the next morning. Our oldest son, Steve, was going to be ordained and installed as a tutor at Martin Luther College (MLC), and I was going to be involved in the installation.

Three generations of pastors
Three generations of pastors—(left to right) Dr. Arnold Lehmann, Steve Lehmann, and Richard Lehmann—at Steve’s seminary graduation in 2009.

The next morning at MLC, I was waiting with the participating pastors for the service to begin. About 15 minutes before the service started, the hospital called to tell me that my father had just died. I turned to Pres. Mark Zarling (a long-time acquaintance and former student of my dad) and told him, “Dad just died.” His first words were compassionate, and then he said that they’d have a prayer for our family with the student body in the opening service. At the point in that service where I laid my hand on Steve’s head for the installation, with tears in my eyes and a choke in my throat, I said that as he was about to be ordained and installed, the Lord had finally taken his kingdom-worker grandpa to his heavenly home within that very hour. Yet he was supplying two replacements—Steve, who was being ordained, and Jonny, who was beginning the long trek into the ministry in his first day at Luther Prep.

Left to right: Richard Lehmann, Jonathan Lehmann, and Steve Lehmann at Jonathan’s ordination and installation at Christ, Clarksville, Md., in 2021.

Roll the clock ahead to July 11, 2021. Jonathan was being ordained and installed into his first call at Christ, Clarksville, Md. I was again part of the installation. Steve had just preached the sermon. As the installation began, the vivid memory of Aug. 24, 2009, was in my thoughts. Once again I held back tears as I reminded Jonny that his long preparatory trek was over and that God had provided both he and Steve as replacements for Grandpa as well as me. I retired as a full-time pastor on Aug. 31, 2021, three days after my 71st birthday.

While God calls home kingdom workers—or brings them safely to retirement—he also supplies “replacements” so that his Word may be proclaimed and his kingdom continue to come into the hearts and lives of his people. I will always cherish the irony of God working in such a “coincidental” way in our family.

Volume 108, Number 10
Issue: October 2021

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