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After serving Neligh and Elgin congregations for 24 years, Pastor David Kuhfal will give his final sermons on Easter Sunday.
Kuhfal and his wife Tami have made the “very difficult decision” to move as he accepts a new calling.
Pastor Kuhfal will leave Grace Lutheran in Neligh and Trinity Lutheran in Elgin after April 21 to lead the congregation at Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa—the same church his daughter and her husband, Christy and Matt Graves, attend.
“The decision to accept the call was very difficult, because of how much I love the congregations, community, and type of ministry where I currently serve,” he said.
In addition, Pastor Kuhfal said he has been very active among the Lutheran clergy in the area during his time here.
“Leaving these relationships will be very difficult,” he said. “Also, leaving a church where I have been able to train 13 future pastors (vicars), which I especially enjoy, made the decision difficult. And Tami loves teaching at Orchard Public School, and especially her relationship with Janna Wilhelm and the staff. These, and much more, were pulls making us want to stay.”
While weighing their choices, Pastor Kuhfal said he and Tami liked the fact that they would be living in the same town as their daughter Christy and be nearer their younger daughter Rebekah and her husband Jonathan of Joplin, Missouri (4.5 hours versus 9 hours from Neligh).
“A new challenge and start, a congregation that could use my gifts, a slower pace, and the opportunity for Tami to use her master’s degree in special education were some of the many pulls toward Des Moines,” he said. “And visiting the people of Our Saviour, we saw a people that love being Lutheran, love to sing, and love to study God’s Word.”
Pastor Kuhfal said Our Saviour Lutheran Church does not have a parsonage, so he and Tami will be buying a house, following in the steps of their daughters. Christy and Matt bought a house last March and Rebekah and Jonathan bought one this past January.
“The past few weeks have been a difficult mix of sadness of leaving a wonderful familiar place, and excitement of a new start in an unknown new place,” he said.
Before moving to Neligh, Pastor Kuhfal grew up in La Mesa, a suburb of San Diego, and then went on to earn a degree in history from San Diego State University in 1987. He attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis from 1988-1992 and was ordained into the ministry in June 1992. His first assignment was to Trinity Lutheran Church in Denver where he served as pastor of youth and christian education from 1992-1995. In 1995, Pastor Kuhfal was called to serve at Grace Lutheran in Neligh and started serving Trinity Lutheran in Elgin shortly after his arrival.
He currently serves as the third vice president of the Nebraska District, representing Region C, a quarter of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Churches in Nebraska, since 2015; and has been the president of the Neligh Ministerial Association since 1995. Pastor Kuhfal previously served as circuit visitor of the Plainview Circuit of the Nebraska District (2003-2015); advisor for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, Plainview Zone; member of the District Nominations Committee (2003-2005); and was a presenter for various conferences.
Pastor Kuhfal learned that a call was coming to Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Des Moines on January 24, the night before Grace Lutheran’s annual soup supper.
“However, I couldn’t say anything until announcing it publicly in church on Sunday, January 27,” he said. “Between that time, Tami and I had already planned to go to Des Moines to visit Christy and Matt for their new house warming on January 26. That morning we were able to see the church building and the area.”
They officially visited the church in Des Moines and its congregation on February 10.
“Our Saviour is a smaller church than Neligh (120 members and average attendance of 64),” Pastor Kuhfal said. “Demographically, they are similar to the Neligh congregation, except very few children in the congregation. The church was built in the 1950’s, as was much of the neighborhood. Many of the members commute to the church because of its conservative reputation.”
He said Tami hasn’t had the opportunity to look for a job much, but she plans to teach.
“She is going to look into special ed openings and possibly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) openings,” Pastor Kuhfal. “She also would be interested in using her experiences with coding, like the coding club she leads.”
So what’s next for Grace Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran?
“Before I leave, Pastor Terry Huber, the Plainview Circuit Visitor, will meet with Grace and Trinity to work out plans to set up a pastor who will serve during the vacancy,” he said. “Vicar Witmer will continue his service here until the end of July.”
Pastor Kuhfal said Nebraska District President Richard Snow will meet with the congregations and explain the call process and Huber will then help the congregations through calling the next pastor.
“The process will probably take at least 9 months,” he said. “After calling a pastor, that pastor will then need to decide where God can best use him. Often, it takes two or three calls before a pastor accepts.”
Pastor Kuhfal said when he arrived at Grace Lutheran 24 years ago, “the congregation was going through a challenging time.”
“The previous Pastor had left under a controversy,” he said. “Fifteen pastors had declined calls to Grace. But, since that time, much healing and progress has happened.”
Pastor Kuhfal said the Fellowship Hall was built “mostly with congregational labor, and really brought the members together.” He said starting the vicarage program “has given us yearly excitement,” and starting the After School Care Program 5 years ago “has given us a wonderful opportunity to serve those in our community.”