Mike Maroney was sitting inside his truck in the parking lot of Union Pacific Railroad. He had a full-time job working on rail cars while also serving as the interim pastor at a Covenant church outside of North Platte, Nebraska. Alone in his truck and about to turn in his resignation to the railyard, he asked, “Lord, is this You?” Not long before, Mike had received a Facebook message from
a family friend who was a board member at the Assembly of God church in Wadena. Named after an Ojibwe chief, Wadena’s population sits just over 4,000 and is close to Verndale and Staples. That friend was wondering if Mike had any interest in pastoring in Western Minnesota. With only a few connections to Minnesota pastors from his time at Trinity Bible College, he had no intentions
of leaving Nebraska. But as he was mowing his lawn later that week, he felt the Lord prompt him to send his resume to the church.
Pastor Tracy Srock was serving as the interim pastor at Wadena AG and connected with Mike after receiving his resume. One of the first questions Tracy asked Mike was — “Why would you want to come to Wadena?” He responded by saying it’s what he felt called to do. Mike, along with his wife Janice, accepted the lead pastor position at the church and started a little over two years ago. His calling behind the lawnmower that day has been the foundation of the Maroneys’ ministry in Wadena. It’s is a unique rural community with rehab centers that draw in people from the surrounding areas and the Twin Cities. The church’s location in the center of the city makes it a frequent stop for this transient demographic. Prior to the pandemic, one of those rehab clinics, the Bell Hill Recovery Center, would even bus people from their program in on Sunday mornings. Some make Wadena their home after treatment, but most head back to their own cities.
Ministering to people who come and go requires open-handed ministry. Mike emphasizes, “You have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit. Ministry by the Spirit is week to week. There’s a reason why Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.” He recognizes that he might have only one opportunity to preach the Gospel to those who come through the doors of the church. Ministry in Wadena hasn’t been without its challenges, but God has been faithful. Not long after starting at the church he got a call from his cousin who worked at the railyard with him in Nebraska. He found out Union Pacific had laid off 75 employees. Mike would have been one of those laid off had he stayed.
Mike knows he’s breaking ground in the community and that takes time and perseverance. Pastoring isn’t just his profession; it’s also his passion. He encourages fellow pastors, “Pray, and know the Holy Spirit has called you.” God has continually confirmed Mike’s calling and that has given him the confidence to know the answer to His question is a resounding “Yes!”