"The only reason I'm here over 25 years is the grace of God," says Pastor Rob McKenzie, of Bible Baptist Church in Huntersville.
McKenzie and his wife, Lynda, are celebrating their silver anniversary at the church this month.
"We've seen our children grow here, our church grow, our people grow," Rob said.
Photos provided and JOSH BROKAW/Sun-Gazette
Top left: A clipping from the East Lycoming Shopper announcing Pastor Rob McKenzie’s election as pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Huntersville in 1988. Top right: Lynda and Rob McKenzie on the steps of Bible Baptist today. Bottom left, Rob McKenzie in front of the sign at Bible Baptist in 1988, and at right, the Bible Baptist sign today.
All four of their children - Rob III, 25; Emily, 23; Ryan, a high school senior; and Ethan, a freshman - have been raised in Huntersville and attended Hughesville schools.
The McKenzies had no connections to Huntersville when they first arrived here in 1988.
Rob and Lynda met when he was attending Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lansdale, and they had every intention to returning to Burlington, Vt., to serve in Rob's home church.
"Circumstances arose in our home church that made that not possible," Rob said. "The president of my seminary was coming up here as an interim for a while and the church invited me to come visit. The first thing I noticed was there is such a friendly family spirit, and I believe that's something that has continued over the years."
After a weekend candidacy, the church invited Rob to serve as its pastor. Since then, his work has been a continual learning experience.
"In seminary, I was a member of a church of 2,000," he said. "I came here and thought we'd duplicate everything we did in that larger congregation. That didn't happen. Smaller country churches have strengths that larger congregations have to work at duplicating - the intimacy and involvement here are qualities that lead to everyone feeling they belong to someone."
McKenzie says he enjoys most his study of the Bible and the opportunity to convey that on to others.
"All of our ministries really center around the Bible - we really believe the Bible is God's Word and has answers to people's questions."
Bible Baptist's Vacation Bible School, held during June every year, has been "very effective at connecting with the community," McKenzie said. "We've gotten to know many families through VBS, and gotten a lot of people involved in our church through that ministry."
Like any vocational calling to the ministry, Lynda said, there have been tough times.
"Thankfully, the Lord brought us through those difficult days and taught us so much and brought about a lot of changes in us as we both had a heart to love God and please Him with our lives," she said.
"We've had our ups and downs, our highs and lows," Rob said. "Sometimes during the lows you wonder what you have been doing. You trust the Lord, wait on God and His timing and He works things out."
Rob didn't take a straight-line path to ministry. He attended the University of Vermont for a business degree, where he played basketball, then his father, who owned a meatpacking company, sent him to Hatfield Quality Meats, in Horsham, to learn the trade. After two years working for the family business, Rob "expressed his desire" to go to seminary.
Since, the McKenzies have seen many "lives that have changed over the years," Rob says. "You see the marriages restored, the people with addictions who are able to find victory and freedom, the people growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ."