When Church Becomes Family

Jon and Keri Pasko wanted a change, so in 2011 they moved from their home in Lucas, Ohio, to Glenrock, Wyoming, a town of just over 2,500 people. Keri’s parents, sister, and one of her brothers quickly followed. By 2014, Keri’s father, Ted Schowengerdt, accepted a job as the lead pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Glenrock, Lighthouse Worship Center, Wyoming’s first AG church founded in 1925. Between their family and their new church home, the Paskos realized they had found a deeply rooted community.

Keri and Jon, who met while attending Ashland University in Ohio, began attending Lighthouse Worship Center regularly soon after their relocation, but they stepped up their involvement when they started a youth group in 2019. At first, their relatives — nieces, nephews, and their own children, 13-year-old Jayden and 8-year-old Leona — constituted the bulk of the group. But gradually the attendees expanded as other local youth joined. Five teens have committed their lives to Christ since the group formed.

Likewise, the Paskos are involved in several other forms of outreach besides the youth group. They host men’s and women’s Bible studies, teach Sunday School, and organize a gospel concert at Glenrock’s annual town festival.

The local grocery store has become a ministry base, too. Keri, her sister, their mother, and another woman from the church are all employed at the store and have become acquainted with many Glenrock residents through interactions over the counter. As locals came to know them as adherents of Lighthouse Worship Center, they began seeking them out at the grocery store to ask for prayer.

“We’ve been able to find ways to reach people within the community by showing them that we’re a church that cares and is there for the community,” says Jon, 36.

Lighthouse Worship Center had only eight regulars when Ted Schowengerdt became pastor. Currently, around three dozen attend. The church is moving to a new building, which Schowengerdt hopes will be more conducive to hosting community events.

Though the Paskos are deeply invested in the church, they’ve also learned how to balance their commitments.

“It is important to be able to refresh and not burn out,” says Keri, 37. “My dad wants it to be a blessing to minister instead of a burden. Having that accountability with the family and being honest is super important. We support each other a lot.”

Keri’s father tears up as he reflects on the impact the Paskos have made on the church.

“I know that sometimes they’re tired, but I’m proud of them for putting themselves aside and caring about the eternity of these teenagers,” says Schowengerdt, 64. “It helps me keep going, because I know I’m not the only one out there working.”

When not at church, Jon and Keri both hold full-time jobs. Keri is an eighth-grade math teacher.

“I want to be the kind of teacher that students can rely on and believe what comes out of my mouth,” says Keri, who also served as the Assemblies of God Wyoming Ministry Network kids camp assistant coordinator this summer.

Jon owns Integrity Electrical, which he opened in 2021. Previously, he had a career as an accountant, but found that sitting behind a desk day in and day took a toll on his mental and physical health. In 2013 he began an electrical apprenticeship, and last year he passed the exams to become a master electrician.

Amidst his career change, Jon received a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015. During his successive battle with cancer, the Paskos experienced care and support from congregants. He now is cancer-free.

“It’s not a church, it’s a family,” Keri says. “We help each other out.”

TOP PHOTO: Keri (center) and Jon (right) Pasko feel at home listening to Ted Schowengerdt’s seromons.

Source: AG



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