Two district presidents elected at district conventions

During this summer’s district conventions, two districts elected new presidents. The Pacific Northwest District elected Rev. Daniel Lange, and the Arizona-California District elected Rev. Joel Heckendorf. They will replace the outgoing presidents: Rev. John Steinbrenner from the Pacific Northwest District, who accepted a call to serve as pastor at Martin Luther, Oshkosh, Wis., and Rev. Jon Buchholz, who chose not to stand for reelection in the Arizona-California District.

Rev. Daniel Lange, Pacific Northwest District president

Rev. Daniel Lange currently serves as pastor at Light of Life, Covington, Wash. Lange was born in Arkansas where his father, Rev. Douglas Lange, was assigned to plant a mission church.

During his childhood summers, Lange, with his family, had the opportunity to stay at a family property near Eagle River, Wis. “This place holds a special place in my heart,” says Lange. “It was here that I received most of my ministry encouragement from my grandfather, Robert Otterstatter. It was at his side, fixing a broken pipe or shingling a cabin roof, where he spent hours talking to me about ‘the good Lord.’”

Lange met his wife, Sara, at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. “I didn’t know at the time how tremendously the Lord would bless me through Sara,” remarks Lange. “For all the sermons I’ve given, my wife has given more. Her text is ‘Love your husband!’ and her sermons are preached through her daily actions in our house, at our church, and everywhere in our life together.” The Langes have been blessed with three children—Madelyn (14), Olivia (12), and Zachary (9).

As he begins his new role, Lange is grateful for the support and advice he has received from the outgoing district president. “John Steinbrenner continues to teach me many lessons,” says Lange. “In all things, he has placed the kingdom first.”

He continues, “I look forward to visiting our churches and schools. I’m eager to witness how Jesus is blessing them, to pray with them, and to serve them in any manner possible.”

Rev. Joel Heckendorf, Arizona-California District president

Rev. Joel Heckendorf currently serves as pastor at Light of the Valleys, Reno, Nev. As a Wisconsin native who grew up on a dairy farm in Jackson, Heckendorf remarks, “When I took the call to start a mission in Reno, it was the first time I lived outside of Wisconsin and it was the first time I was part of a congregation with less than one thousand members. Being in a mission has helped me gain a whole new perspective on ministry.”

Heckendorf has gathered insights from various people and congregations throughout his life. First, he learned from his parents, who were both involved in their home congregation. But it wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he considered becoming a pastor. “The summer before my senior year, I’d spend a few mornings a week lifting weights and playing basketball with a seminarian from my congregation,” explains Heckendorf. “As he let 17-year-old me hang around his seminary buddies, I started to consider pastoral ministry because of their peer influence.”

Now as he considers his new role as district president, Heckendorf can see how the Lord has prepared him for this path. For example, while serving as pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., Heckendorf served on the praesidium of the Northern Wisconsin District and learned a great deal from its president, Rev. Joel Zank. Additionally, Heckendorf explains, “Being on Synodical Council the past few years, I admired the laymen and administrators of our synod. Also, serving as Multi-Language Productions’ administrative chairman has broadened my experience to consider many cultures and to work alongside many gifted people.” He also notes how God prepared him through his wife, Mary. “Whether it’s watching her use her gifts or receiving her support, I thank God for providing the perfect complement.”

Heckendorf says he is grateful for all the prayers and words of encouragement through the years. “The number of people who have said they’d love to be my ‘Aaron’— to help hold me up—is amazing,” he says. “No matter what challenges we experience in our personal or professional lives, we can rejoice in the Lord, knowing that he is our Savior.”

Learn more about the role of district presidents in WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder’s column in this month’s Forward in Christ.

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