After five years as pastor of Seventh-day Adventist churches in Cleveland and Jamestown and becoming part of the region’s various musical ministries, James Venegas has accepted an offer to lead two churches in Georgia.
Venegas and his wife, Kaylene, who is a partner in his musical ministry as well, left over the first weekend in February to lead Seventh-day Adventist churches in LaGrange and Carrollton, Ga., located about 60 miles southwest of Atlanta.
“It's been an emotional couple weeks since we made the announcement,” James Venegas said. “This is a very different culture than we were used to back in Australia, but it's amazing how we really connected with church members and community and the music ministry programs and concerts in central region and the state.”
The couple have made a lot of friends through their gospel music, whether fellow musicians or the faithful, he said. There are a lot of relationships to treasure and moving to another church is always a “happy-sad time” of looking forward and back at the same time, he said.
The Venegas family came to Jamestown via Los Angeles in 2014. He is originally from Sydney, Australia. He started with a gospel musical ministry rooted in his Spanish and South American heritage from Chile, and traveled with other musicians around the world before coming to America as a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Jamestown was unique in being the first place where his family experienced snow, he said. Some people think the weather is why he’s leaving but it is not, he said.
“God is calling and as long as people are there to minister to then we are happy to go, big city or small town, hot, humid or cold,” Venegas said.
There was also an offer to lead a church in Indiana, he said. The choice to go to Georgia hinged on several reasons, he said.
One reason is that both their children are in college just a few hours away by car in Tennessee, he said. Their son, Daniel, is studying for the ministry and daughter Leticia is studying elementary education.
The other reason is to again immerse themselves in another culture and minister in the heart of the Bible belt with all its history, he said. It will be the first time to try deep fried okra, and it will be exciting to experience Southern gospel music at the source, he said.
Coming to North Dakota was about getting to know the German and other Northern and Eastern European groups who make up most of the state’s population, he said. Down South it will be a chance to minister to the blend of white, African American, Latin American and Southeast Asian groups, he said.
“There is a cross-cultural blend of ethnicities down there and it will be an exciting change and a challenge,” Venegas said. “I am very much a people person and look forward to meeting the groups of people and see how it all works together.”
The Venegases could have asked for another assignment within the Dakota Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, but he said they decided to accept the call from outside. They felt God was directing them there, he said.
“I feel that we’ve put in a good five years and are comfortable that the church and school are in solid shape,” Venegas said.
There will be an interim pastor for several weeks until a permanent appointment of a new pastor is made, he said.