LEWISTOWN - The Rev. Jim Thomas always has ended up in unlikely places: When he did not want to go to Minnesota, God sent him to Minnesota. When he did not want to be a youth pastor, God called him to become a youth pastor.
Last fall, God called Thomas to another unlikely - yet not familiar - place: Back home to Lewistown.
Thomas, who graduated from Lewistown Area High School, began his secondary education at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with majors in psychology and mass communications.
Although he attended Evangel Baptist and Calvary Bible churches as a child, Thomas said he became involved in a Presbyterian church in college.
After graduation, Thomas said he "wasn't really interested" in becoming a pastor. He said he worked as an anchorman for WQJU 107.1 FM radio in Mifflintown, a place that soon influenced him to make ministry his career.
Pastors who worked at the station "took me under their wings," Thomas said. "I credit them with my call to ministry."
Within a year of working at the station, Thomas applied to seminary, though he still had no thoughts of becoming a pastor, he said.
Even while attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, "I was thinking about Christian counseling," Thomas said.
After taking several courses, Thomas said he felt God's calling to become a minister. In 1994, he was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor.
Since graduating from seminary, Thomas has opened his life up to God's will by going places that he did not want to - like Minnesota.
"He knows better than I," Thomas said, referring to his early years of ministry.
He said he grew to love his experiences in Minnesota with youth ministry. Thomas continued to work with youth as well as whole congregations as assistant and senior pastors.
Thomas said last year he felt that it was time for him to look for a new church. He said he applied to Lewistown Presbyterian and two other churches, all of which offered him positions.
"It was discernment time," Thomas said. "My family was here, and I just felt like (Lewistown) was the right choice."
Since he began to serve at the local church, Thomas has been active in creating new opportunities for ministry, including a Lenten Kidz Klub and a 50-day Lenten series for small groups.
Thomas said his goals are to encourage the congregation "to represent the heavenly realm rather than themselves and the world."
"I have many hopes for the church," Thomas said. "I want to make sure worship remains relevant to the congregation."
While the church currently has one traditional service, Thomas said he is considering beginning a second, contemporary service. He said he also hopes to continue to build the church's youth program.
Along with his own church, Thomas connected with the Lewistown Ministerium and was instrumental in organizing a Lewistown concert by the Essence of Joy, a Penn State University choir that performs sacred and secular African/African American traditional music.
When asked about future plans at the church, Thomas said, "I'd like to do more small group ministry. We have a leadership retreat in April. From there we'll discern where to go."
Lewistown Presbyterian Church holds weekly services at 10:30 a.m. with Sunday school at 9 a.m. It is located at the corner of Third and Brown streets in Lewistown.