Aaron grew up at Zion, the son of Pastor John and Judy Folkerds.
Zion is where I was baptized and raised in the faith. Zion is the place where Mary and I were ordained in 2007. Zion is also where our daughter Helena was baptized and also the place where we had her funeral when she died eight years ago. Helena is also buried in the Zion cemetery. Zion has always been there for my family and has worked to anchor both my family and me in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Naturally, Pastor John was a big part of Aaron’s faith journey.
He is the reason I went to seminary to become a pastor. His quiet faith and confidence have always been a source of comfort for me throughout my life. My earliest memory of Zion was at the old church when I would go early with him to get the church ready for Sunday morning. We always started off the morning by going to McDonald’s to have breakfast. I always had pancakes and Dad would get the McDonald’s Big Breakfast. Upon arrival at the church, Dad would have me turn on all the lights and I felt a great sense of responsibility to be entrusted with such an important job.
Aaron went on many trips throughout his time at Zion, including Pine Ridge Reservation twice, Sky Ranch Bible camp in Colorado, and the ELCA youth gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. His last trip with Zion was twenty years ago, to Wind River Reservation in the summer of 1996. He recalls excellent faith role models in Zion’s youth program, including Sherri Larson, Chad Brucklacher, and Jim Onstad.
Chad was the director in my early years of high school and I remember him being a talented musician and leading us on our trips out to Pine Ridge. Chad and I golfed together on many different occasions and I also built him an air conditioner stand! Chad is now a pastor in Grand Forks and we still get together to golf. I also got to know Sherri quite well and she was also a great youth leader who also worked to build a great confirmation program. My friend Hans and I used to work with her to develop skits, most of which included a Sven and Ole bit. I was lucky to have such great youth leaders!
Aaron also saw how much his father enjoyed being a pastor, and the difference he was making in people’s lives.
I saw that and thought that that is what I want to do too! It was a call that was just always there.
Aaron studied psychology at the University of MN-Morris. He then went to seminary at The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and the Escola Superior de Teologia in São Leopaldo, Brazil, with financial support from Zion. Aaron is married to Mary, also a pastor. After ordination they served together at Prairie Land Lutheran Parish in Hanska, MN for five years.
They moved to Moorhead in 2012, where Mary took a call at her home church, The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. Aaron has continued his studies, worked as a counselor at a mental health hospital, and is currently called to The Lutheran Church of Christ the King in Moorhead. He is also a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT), and is currently finishing his dissertation for a doctoral degree in Counselor Education at Minnesota State University Mankato.
The Lutheran Church of Christ the King is a church of around 1500 people. The Senior Pastor that I serve with is Rev. Matt Valan and is simply a great colleague to have. We both love to downhill ski and enjoy the outdoors. Our church is a wonderful place to be and it feels a lot like Zion. My colleague and I share preaching duties, and I have a special focus on pastoral care. One of my latest projects is that I have started a grief support group.
So much in life has to do with relationships, and I am thankful for the relationships that I developed in Zion’s youth program. I now try to be that example for the youth I work with at my church in Moorhead. It is my hope that through those important relationships that their own faith in Jesus Christ will grow and flourish.
Aaron and Mary have one son, Paul (4).
He is an amazing light in our lives. We love to spend time at our camper located on Straight Lake in Osage, MN. Paul and I especially love to fish and spend much time in the boat.
Aaron also loves to downhill ski and hunt pheasants. He volunteers as chaplain for the Moorhead Police Department. He has many favorite Bible verses, including Psalm 121:
I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.
As I write this I am at Flathead Bible Camp near Kalispell, Montana and there are mountains and hills everywhere you look. Each time I look at the hills I am reminded that my help comes from the Lord who is the maker of heaven and earth!