Congregation members at California United Methodist Church have a new face at the pulpit.
Nicholas Van Dam and his family have officially become a part of the California community after he recently accepted the position of reverend at California UMC, coming all the way from Anderson.
After moving around from place-to-place throughout most of his life, Van Dam said he is eager to continue his career in his new community. The son of a preacher himself, he said moves were frequent. Van Dam was born in Iowa and eventually moved to Springfield when he was in sixth grade.
Van Dam explained that later in life, he felt a strong calling to preach the word of God. While he said he was hesitant to follow in his father's footsteps, he soon became sure that he was forging his own path for himself as he moved forward with his faith.
"Eventually, it became apparent to me that this is where God wanted me and if you figure that out, then you can't say 'no,'" Van Dam said. "One of the wonderful things (about being a reverend) is that God gives you a group of people to love, and that's such a privilege and such a joy."
Van Dam said God not only gave him the people of California UMC but of the entire surrounding community. He said establishing himself has been a "wonderful privilege" and, while he is still exploring, he finds California very promising.
"The town really seems to live up to the slogan on the sign when you come in" Van Dam said. "It's big enough that it has all the stuff you need but small enough to where you actually get to know people. It's been great and, although I'm still learning about the community, the reception that our family has gotten has been great."
Van Dam said he hopes to continue to build God's Kingdom within the community. He said his job is to see what new opportunities there are for his church to administer God's word and do good works. He has already met with the Moniteau County Ministerial Alliance and said he is grateful the faith communities in California are willing to move together.
"For me, the best place to start is to love God and to love your neighbor," Van Dam said. "So if I can empower our church to do that better or in a new way, then that's what I want to do. But right now, my role is to listen and to get to know the church, the community and find out what good things God is already doing here and see how I can help encourage that."
A man of many interests, Van Dam said he enjoys participating in triathlons and plans to join the local fire department. Both are important parts of his life, he said. However, Van Dam credited his wife, Megan, and their 1-year-old son, William, with giving him his direction in life.
Van Dam said establishing his new home here in California has been a blessing. As a reverend, he and his family are often sent to different churches to spread the word of God, and he said he would like the community to know that even though he just settled in, he already cares very much about the well-being of his neighbors.
"(I want the community to know) that we want to be partners, that we care about you and that we want to share Jesus with you," Van Dam said. "Now is a great time, if you're not a part of any church, to come and join us because I'm new, so be new with me. We want to meet people where they are, because that's what Jesus does, and move people into a relationship with God. That's one of the greatest gifts that somebody can receive, and we want to give it."