It’s too late to congratulate Pastor Nate Belkstrom for receiving the Rotary Club’s “Service Above Self” on April 15.
Belkstrom is back in Eastern Europe for another month, showing why the Redwood Falls Rotary Club gave it to him in the first place.
Belkstrom sums up his mission: “A huge part of what I do is try to help people find meaning in the work they do.”
He does it in his pastor duties in Redwood Falls, but also around the world. He comes by his respect for a good day’s work for a good day’s pay honestly.
“I was in the restaurant business before I went into pastoring,” he said in his office at the Living Word Church in Redwood Falls. “I was at the Decathlon Athletic Club in Bloomington. It was supposed to be the busiest private athletic club in America.”
How did Belkstrom’s pre-pastoring jobs influence what he does now?
“It’s given me a passion to find the connection between what people do Monday through Friday, and what happens Sunday in church,” he said. “I’m convinced that disconnect isn’t something God ordained, but is something we’re allowing in our thinking.”
Other religions have influenced his thinking, too.
“The Jewish people have a phenomenal work ethic. A Jewish woman I know told me that to Jews, work, synagogue, and family are all equal.”
Former Redwood Falls Rotary Club President Robin Stegner stated, ““Since 1995 Pastor Belkstrom has traveled twice each year to provide service to citizens in cities formerly dominated by the Soviet Union.
“Suring the Soviet management of these countries, citizens were assigned jobs and their pay was not earned by conscientious effort. Over time, the work place often evolved into a culture of intimidation and disrespect by supervisors and disinterest and dishonesty on the part of employees....
“Pastor Belkstrom identified a significant need in these countries. If they are to evolve from a socialist economy to a capitalist, free-enterprise economy, it is essential that workers learn how to honor their work and, more important, to be honorable at work.”
On April 22, Belkstrom left for another month in eastern Europe, this time in Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
In eastern Europe, Belkstrom is often asked to leave the religious angle out of his seminars, and just concentrate on the more secular side.
He says it’s not a problem.
“When I’m in a university setting, I’ll use the same information, but just not share the Bible verse it’s based on,” he laughed.
Page 2 of 2 - “In theory, eastern Europeans now have a lot of religious freedom. In practice — not so much.
“People don’t understand that opportunities in Europe are increasing, not decreasing,” said Belkstrom. “When I have a chance to speak to someone on a university who’s never been in a church before, that’s a golden opportunity.
“I try to help people change their lives by changing their everyday work experience. The value of who you are, and of what you do, makes a difference.
“Everything in their Communist-based culture has told them the opposite.
“The greatest experience I’ve had was in a eastern European classroom with 175 students or so.
“I was talking about honor, and about how God honors and values you as a human being. You could hear a pin drop.
“Afterward, the teacher told me that may have been the first time many of those students had ever heard anything like that.”
As part of presenting Belkstrom with the Service Above Self award, the Redwood Falls Rotary Club gave him $500 to help purchase items for the needy in Europe.
“We’re really limited in what we can ship nowadays,” Belkstrom said. “The airlines used to have a ‘missionary rate’, but you know how economics are. We’re better off buying items there instead.”
“Pastor Belkstrom is a wonderful example of a man spreading peace through service,” said current Redwood Falls Rotary Club President Jan Madson.
“I think I’m a better pastor in Redwood Falls because of what I do there, and a better speaker over there because of what I do here,” he said.