MILLERSTOWN - Juniata-county native and pastor Jeremy Kerstetter has found that following blindly into "new" territory just might lead you back home.
The congregation of Central Baptist Church in Millerstown will welcome their new pastor this Sunday.
Kerstetter, who grew up in McAlisterville, left the area eight years ago after serving five years as director of the Christian Retreat Center in East Waterford. Kerstetter journeyed to Virginia to attend Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg and following his 2009 graduation began serving as a discipleship pastor at Mecklenburg Baptist Temple.
The son of Bill and Dorothy Kerstetter, Jeremy felt he was being called to leave Virginia and serve elsewhere.
Kerstetter recalls the day the urgency in his heart began.
"I sensed the Lord was calling us somewhere, but I wasn't sure where," he said, referring to his family which at the time included wife, Wendy, and daughter, Kara.
That Sunday afternoon a year ago he shared this feeling with his wife who had just finished studying her Bible.
"She told me, 'I was just reading Hebrews 11:8," which makes reference to Abraham who obeyed by faith to go and do the Lord's work without knowing for certain where he was going, he said.
Kerstetter jokes he thought his wife was grasping at straws. That evening the family went to their church to listen to a missionary speak.
"That night all (the missionary) spoke about was Hebrews 11:8. It was the only verse she focused on."
At that point Kerstetter knew he had to follow the lead and began updating his resume. Though he was willing to go wherever the Lord led him, he admits there was a place in his heart that hoped he could come back to the Juniata County area.
Kerstetter soon became linked with a website for Baptist Fellowship-based churches. He spoke with the director and asked about openings in Juniata County. Vacancies in the county were being filled when Kerstetter inquired. The director shared, however, "there is an opening coming up soon that no one knows about yet."
That opening was in neighboring Perry County in the town of Millerstown. The senior pastor at Central Baptist Church just off U.S. 322 was about to retire. Rev. Robert Meyer served the church 21 years. Kerstetter, his wife, daughter and newborn son, Adley, visited the church in November, 2010.
"I found (the congregation) to be super-friendly and welcoming," he shares. The Kerstetters were especially pleased with the preschool-age Sunday school program and how their 3-year-old daughter was happy to report all she had learned.
The pulpit committee liked Kerstetter as well and offered him the pastorate position. The McAlisterville native and East Juniata High School graduate will take the pulpit as senior pastor Sunday.
"I really want to coax the people there to impact the community in a powerful way," the pastor notes.
Kerstetter has a heart for discipleship, or teaching others how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Wendy sees a quality in her husband she believes the church will appreciate.
"He is good at relating to people. He uses practical applicationsjust very simple."
The couple shares they are in awe of God's timing as they are placed at the Millerstown church, a short distance from Kerstetter's family and less than two hours from Wendy's parents.
"For years I was praying to get back into this area to minister," Kerstetter recalls, "but it wasn't time. Everything is always better in His time."