There aren’t many pastors who are as absolutely honest about their life like Virgil Amundson is. Officially retiring from pastoring the Full Gospel Church in Shell Lake for the past 50 years, he has written a tell-all book, Called to be Faithful, that chronicles his walk in the ministry, including an honest accounting of life before Christ.
“In my late teens, I had begun to rebel against God and against my parent’s authority. Satan had tricked me into believing that I was missing out on having more fun in life. Rebellion breaks down all of the safe boundaries and opens wide the door to sinful behavior.
“I fell in love with party life and with friends who were running wild. I would fake illness when my parents asked me to go to church and in the middle of the night I would sneak out my downstairs window to join friends who had alcohol and wanted to party.
“A compulsive person is not able to stop at one drink so I usually drank enough to intoxicate me and get home and back through my bedroom window before daybreak. My parents never knew.
“I was busted by the law on two different occasions for contributing to the delinquency of minors and received fines, along with my name written on the front page of my hometown Rice Lake newspapers. It “got worse.”
Twenty three chapters later takes the reader through his life in the fast lane; his embarrassing alcohol-related incidents that exposed the severe problems in his life as he fought hard to keep running away from God. But he had parents who were relentlessly praying for him knowing that his compulsive nature and submission to Satan’s lies would end up destroying his life.
It was at a party that God stepped into his life when his father came through the door and asked him to come home with him. How embarrassing. “My decision to go with my father that night would be the beginning of the change in my life. I ultimately surrendered my life to the Lord and felt His complete forgiveness of my sins. I made restitution to people that I had stolen money and items from. I had been forgiven much and God had put a great love and compassion in my heart to help others recover from their failures. I had been genuinely saved!”
Virgil continues to tell of what God has done in his life, blessing him with a wife and three children and seeing the humble beginnings of his first church in Barronett, “in a small uninsulated brick building with a coal furnace in the basement and an unheated privy for the inconvenience of our small congregation.”
For two and half years, the Amundsons would drive a half of an hour from Rice Lake three times a week to hold services and in 1969 a decision was made to move the people to Shell Lake into the old St. John’s Lutheran Church and the Amundson’s to the parsonage next door, now owned by the Shell Lake Historical Museum. Here they stayed for nine years while God was greatly increasing the congregation.
In 1978 they sold the old Lutheran church that was built in 1889, plus the newer parsonage to begin building a new facility and parsonage on five acres of land south of town.
As the new church grew, so did the ministry opportunities. For thirty years Virgil hosted a radio ministry on the local Shell Lake station, WGMO, and began the Washburn County Jail outreach, reaching out to men with his own story of how God is the only one who completely changes men from the inside out.
In 1998, Reg Myer, another reprobate saved from a life of disobedience, came to the church. He started out on the maintenance staff and as God grew him into the man He could use, he moved into creating a men’s prayer ministry that was held every Tuesday at 6:30 am. By 2002 he had graduated with both a BA and a Master’s in Biblical Studies and moved into the position of Assistant Pastor.
Throughout Virgil’s ministry he and the church body grew. A Compassion House was begun as a spiritual halfway house for those whose lives God had changed and Virgil found his own ministry stretching out to churches and organizations throughout the United States and around the world.
The church is known for their annual World Mission Conferences which began in 1987 with eight missionaries and continues to this day with forty seven missionary families that represent outreaches in thirty two countries. It’s become one of the highlights of the church year.
Out of the many memorable people he’s met during his fifty years was Mother Teresa when he was in Calcutta, India. This missionary, who went to India in 1954, spent the rest of her life ministering both physically and spiritually to the very poor and neediest. One year she was asked to address the Prayer Breakfast in Washington when Bill Clinton was president and she stated boldly that the United States kills too many babies. She told the president to let the children be born, and if they were not wanted, she would take them. She then told them that the greatest threat to world peace is abortion.
She and Virgil had a thirty minute conversation, of which he can recall almost every word, she told him that “For love to be real it must cost something-it must empty us of self.”
As of Saturday, October 30, a public ministry of fifty years of faithful service will come to an end and Reg Myers, another of God’s faithful servants, will take over the reins of a church that was built on faith and operates by God’s love through His amazing grace.
You have to know that Virgil will not be the kind to retire into the shadows. He and his wife, Linda, have a home in Florida and spend several months each year there already with summer’s back in Shell Lake.
He’ll stay active in the congregation, being used wherever needed, even being a greeter, and will also be available to officiate at weddings and funerals.
Accolades are already coming in from all over the globe; one from African Missions who have named their student dormitory after him because he was the catalyst for Full Gospel’s giving the funds to supply electricity to the area by buying the electric power plant.
Refugees from all over war-torn Africa have found protection in this particular town, the school in particular which trains people spiritually.
DrydenWire wants to extend their heartiest congratulations to Virgil Amundson, God’s man, pastor and dear friend and to let people know his book is available through the church and also Rice Lake’s Bible book store called Kingsway or online at Amazon.com in print or the Kindle edition.