They Deserve a Chance
Believing mission is important, Pastor Dan leads the students and church members on a mission trip every other year.
When Dan Jacko isn’t busy helping people learn to walk again, he’s assisting his church members with their spiritual walk. Pastor Dan, a professional physical therapist, is also serving as lay pastor for the Mountain View Conference in the two-church district of Elkins and Parsons, West Virginia. He also teaches biology and chemistry to the academy-level students at the Highland Adventist School in Elkins. His wife, Cheryl, is an educator and registered nurse, and serves as the principal of the K-12 school. Their son, Jeremy, teaches Bible, math, and history.
Believing mission is important, Pastor Dan leads the students and church members on a mission trip every other year. So far, they’ve been to Mexico, Panama, Honduras, and, in 2014, Costa Rica.
While in Costa Rica they built a church during the day, and presented evangelistic meetings and Vacation Bible Schools in four different churches in the evenings. In spite of his own full schedule Pastor Dan was impressed with the dedication of the pastor in Costa Rica who shepherds six churches—and doesn’t have a car.
Not only does Pastor Dan and his members build churches abroad—they also build them at home, where they recently completed their own church and school, located on five and a half acres (2.2 hectares), all are completely debt-free.
Overwhelmed with Requests
The most recent challenge for Pastor Dan and the 80-member Elkins church is keeping up with the many Bible study requests coming from their community. Over the course of three mailings in 2013 and 2014, everyone in the state of West Virginia received an invitation for the Voice of Prophecy’s Discover Bible course. The response was overwhelming—with 10,000 people indicating that they would like to have Bible studies. Of that number, more than 200 came from the Elkins/Parsons area.
“Some are face-to-face Bible studies,” explains Pastor Dan, “and others prefer to take them by correspondence, which are then graded by our local church members.” The local churches are responsible for purchasing the lessons and providing postage for correspondence students.
“What makes this area even more of a mission field,” says Pastor Dan, “is that you’ll get a lot of people who say, ‘I believe this,’ but if their family isn’t in favor of it, a lot of them just won’t make the commitment.”
Nevertheless, Pastor Dan and the small churches he leads see reaching people for Jesus in their territory as an important mission and are willing to give the time, effort, and funds needed to help it succeed.
There Are Rules
Two members of the Elkins church who have already made a positive impact in their neighborhood are Paul and Christie Brown. When the Browns moved into a less than desirable area of Elkins, they didn’t know that their home would become a magnet for young people.
“I’ve always been youth-focused,” says Paul, “so when the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out with our kids at the house, we said, ‘OK, but there are rules:
1. Respect. You will treat yourself and others respectfully, with no swearing and no name calling.
2. No lying. You lie to me, and it’s done—you are out the door.
3. Health/dietary issues—no drugs, no alcohol, no unclean meat.’ ”
Once the young people understood about clean and unclean foods, they tried sharing what they had learned with their families. “The grandfather would be cooking a groundhog,” says Paul, “but the kids would tell him, ‘No! We’re not going to eat that!’ ”
Before long the visitors were asking to move in with the Browns. “Brayden spends every weekend at our house,” says Paul. “It’s his Sabbath retreat, and gets him away from his house.” During the week Brayden tries to avoid his abusive alcoholic stepfather as much as possible.
Hunter and Wyatt are two others who spend much time with the Browns Both coming from difficult situations, the boys feel safe with Paul and Cindy, whom they consider to be their surrogate parents.
“I try to treat all the kids as if they’re my kids,” says Paul, “because they deserve a chance too.” That includes providing clothing, bicycles, and various other items. “Even the vehicle I drive—an extended-cab truck—is based on how many kids we’re looking after, so we can take them to and from school.”
With parental permission, the Browns have taken Brayden and Hunter with them to Pathfinders and to church, and are even paying for them to attend the local Adventist church school. Unfortunately Wyatt’s mother will not give permission for him to join in these activities, but for Brayden and Hunter, their experience has been life changing. On November 2, 2013, both boys, along with the Browns’ son, Payton, were baptized at the Elkins Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“We’ve been living here for three years now,” Paul says, “and my wife really feels that the Lord put us in this neighborhood. It’s not where we would have chosen, but we are sure that the Lord led us here.”