Jen grew up in a Lutheran home, and was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith. Throughout her childhood she attended Ness Lutheran Church in Litchfield, MN (which is now a historical site), Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar, and Zion Lutheran Church in Litchfield.
I remember attending religious release time on Wednesday afternoons through elementary school as well as attending VBS and summer camps.
Jen’s grandfather was an inspiration to her faith. When she was growing up, she would arrive to church each Sunday to find her grandfather in the pews and sit with him.
He was always at church and I could talk to him about everything. He always had Lifesavers candies and would explain things if I didn’t understand. I also remember attending funerals with him.
One of Jen’s favorite Bible verses is Matthew 19:14
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
We are all God’s children and to me this just states how important we are to Him.
Her favorite hymn is Amazing Grace.
I think the title says it all and I feel God’s arms wrap around me every time I hear this hymn.
Jen married Alan in 1983. They lived in St. Louis Park where they were members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and Jen started teaching Sunday school. Their growing family moved to Buffalo in the fall of 1988 and started attending Zion a few months later. They were driving to Prince of Peace in St. Louis Park each Sunday, where Jen was teaching Sunday school, when they had a message on their answering machine from Pastor Ed Blair, telling them about Zion and inviting them to worship.
It happened to be a very snowy Sunday morning in January, so Sunday school was canceled and we decided to check out Zion. Zion was meeting in the Junior High auditorium at the time, and when we came through after worship Pastor Ed shook our hands and we told him our names. He was amazed that we were there as he had just left his message the week before. The fact that he recognized our name was awesome. Then when our son Ben was born in April the same year, we were visited in the hospital by the pastor. Well, that just clinched the deal for us. We felt that we didn’t need to look any further.
Even though Zion is a huge church with a huge congregation it also has a huge heart and a small town feel. We are all here to support each other in our faith journey, and lift each other up to give each other strength.
Jen continued teaching Sunday school for 19 years and is now in her fifth year of being a confirmation guide. She has an AAS degree in early childhood education, and has worked with children from babysitting to childcare centers to home daycare. She has been a leader for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts since 1989.
She is currently working with Kids’ Place, Zion’s Wednesday after-school program.
When my children were young we were very involved with the various youth programs at Zion and we knew many families and kids. Once my children outgrew these programs I felt a disconnect with the youth at Zion. When the position opened up I thought this would be a great way to reconnect with the youth of Zion.
Kids need love and attention. We at Kids Place can give that to kids who are attending while they are waiting for their choir practices. I think Kids Place offers parents the opportunity to get their children involved with the various music programs at Zion that they wouldn’t be able to attend without this after school care.
She enjoys working with the diverse group of kids who attend Kids’ Place, from kindergarten through fifth grade, some also participating in Zion music ministry and others not.
They come from all walks of life. I love how we all come together with a common bond…God. This is a safe place for kids to come and grow in their faith, hang out with other kids their ages. We offer a snack, games, crafts and quiet time.
Jen has also served as Cradle Roll coordinator (sending birthday postcards to Zion’s youngest children), volunteered in the nursery, at VBS, and at the Lutefisk Dinner, and participated in women’s Bible studies, and Prayer Sisters. Each November, she works with the Social Ministry Committee to highlight military outreach in a partnership with Blue Star Mothers.
Jen and Alan have a deep family history with the United States Armed Forces. Jen’s father served in the Air Force, a brother served in the Navy, and another brother served in the Army. Alan’s father served in the Army, and a brother retired from the Air Force. They also have an Army veteran nephew, Air Force veteran niece, and a nephew currently serving in the Air Force. Three of their eight children are currently serving in the military.
Doug is a Staff Sergeant Army National Guard and has been in for 13 years. He has been deployed once to Kuwait. He is currently stateside and engaged to be married to Leah in April at Zion.
Ben is a Tech Sergeant in the Air Force Reserves. He has served in the Air Force for ten years and just recently switched over to Reserves. He has served in Turkey, Japan and USA. While serving in Japan for four years he met and married his wife Sachi and they have three children, two year old twin boys and a one year old daughter. They are now living in Minnesota.
Vinnie is a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force and he has been in for a little over three years. He has served in Japan for two years, Utah for a year and is now in Germany.
Jen became a Blue Star Mother the day that Doug enlisted in the Army.
My mom was a two star mom and that is how I learned about Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. I knew I wanted to get involved with this organization of military mothers because I knew they were a good support system and they supported the military men and women.
At that time, the closest Blue Star Mothers chapter was an hour drive from Buffalo, and Jen knew she didn’t want to be driving all over for meetings … so she ran an ad in the Journal Press to connect with other moms.
We started our chapter in October of 2007. We became officially chartered and installed on February 3, 2008. Next year we will be celebrating ten years of service to our military men and women and support to our fellow moms and veterans with a dinner on February 3, 2018.
As a military mom there is no other person in the world that understands what we go through or how we feel than another military mom, not even a military dad. We moms need to support each other and our military children and the veterans. It is our mission. When [our children] are sitting in a foreign country, defending our nation, we don’t want them to feel alone. We need to let our military men and women know that we love and support them. We are here to educate the civilian population about our children and their missions. We are supporting the human beings that are defending our country, that give us the right to freedom of speech and to live free. We don’t always agree with our children’s missions or the war, but that’s not what we are about. We laugh together, we cry together.
Jen also loves to travel, knit, read, bake, do cross stitch and embroidery, and spend time with family, friends, and especially her seven grandchildren.