Despite life's difficulties, new vicar still devoted

Faith -- a belief in things unseen.

John Turner questioned his on July 9, 2002, when a car accident claimed the life of his 17-year-old son, Robert.

He did the same during difficult times in his 23-year military career.

And, although the incidents didn't shake Turner's faith, it couldn't have been easy to understand an incident at his new Craig home Tuesday night, when a burglar broke in and accosted him.

Life is difficult, said Turner, the newly appointed vicar of Faith Lutheran Church, 580 Green St. And, there is only one answer for dealing with the hard times life throws us, he said.

Turner, while seated at one of the church chapel's pews, explained his sole inspiration by pointing to the large cross behind him.

"You turn back to the cross," Turner said. "As Saint Paul said, all I'm going through is nothing. ... It doesn't shape up against dying on the cross.

"It's that certainty of knowing that I will see my son again. It's that certainty in knowing that, though all these things happen, he is still with us. At the end of it all, he remains with us. His promise remains sure."

He also finds inspiration in the Apostles, Biblical figures who spread the word of Christianity despite the threat of persecution.

"They didn't have it great ... and yet, day after day, they stood and preached the word so others might have salvation," Turner said.

"They just gave and did for others. That's the example for all of us."

Turner, a recent graduate of the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be installed as the new vicar of the church at 5 p.m. July 2. He fills a post that has been vacant for about a year.

He will serve as vicar -- a nine-month internship of sorts before becoming an ordained pastor -- and, after an evaluation, he will become eligible to remain at the church.

The ministry is a second career for the 51-year-old Turner. He spent more than two decades as an infantry officer and paratrooper in the U.S. Army, a service that took him across the globe, including stints in Germany, the Middle East and Bosnia. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

Turner will give his first sermon at 9 a.m. July 9. Anticipation for that moment has been building inside him, he said.

"I woke up thinking about it today," he said.

He said that first sermon will be centered on the Gospel of Mark. The morality tale he will relay revolves around Jesus and his disciples navigating a boat through stormy waters. The disciples are frightened for their safety while Jesus lies in the boat asleep.

After waking him, he tells the disciples they worried for nothing.

"The fact that he is in control even in the worst circumstances," Turner said about the story's message. "Point being, he was there the whole time."

Although going from the life of a military man to that of the clergy isn't typical, Turner said he was joined at seminary by several men who spent careers in public-service fields but were seeking a higher path later in life.

The adjustment from man in uniform to man of the cloth is one Turner has been contemplating since 1978, a year after he enlisted in the Army. He struggled with deciding whether to enroll in the seminary, until finally he made the leap of faith that's landed him in Craig.

"Finally, it dawned on me that I wouldn't be happy doing anything else," he said.

As Tuesday's incident attests, the transition hasn't always been easy.

The burglar, of whom Turner saw only "a shadow and fists," who broke into his home attempted to hit him several times, and Turner had to defend himself. The burglar also tried to climb up Turner's gutter and steal his truck.

No one was hurt in the incident, and Turner isn't mad at the man.

"I've forgiven him," he said.

He's able to joke about the rough Craig welcome he and his wife of 30 years, Deb, received.

"We were talking this morning, and we said it's as if Satan has fired the first shot in trying to make sure we don't have a ministry," he quipped.

Turner said congregation members can expect him to be a church leader who provides a truthful proclamation of God's word. They also can expect someone who will counsel them through difficult times and reassure them.

"I've seen probably the worst of human beings and probably the best," he said. "The best always comes to us through Christ as a gift. What good we do is a gift from him."

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