Bergman, who joined Paynesville Lutheran Church last month as its second pastor, grew up in Fridley and earned a forestry degree from the University of Minnesota. After six years in that career - working for both the city of Plymouth and a private landscaping company - he went on the Mexican mission trip that opened him to a new calling.
He was off to Hawaii in 1993 to learn the songs, skits, and mimes the team would use in its ministry. Then it was on to Japan to catch a boat for Vladivostock, the eastern Russian port on the Sea of Japan.
Bergman spent four months in Russia with a missionary team, traveling on the Trans-Siberian railroad and getting off for up to three weeks at a time to spread God's word. The group traveled to the Ukraine and back to Vladivostock before heading for home by ship and plane again.
"I loved to see the excitement in other people's eyes when you help them out," he said of his mission work in Mexico and Russia. "Sometimes we put our faith in a bottle and don't want to share. They were so excited."
"I just really loved it," he added.
On coming home, he debated between more mission work and the ministry. When he set foot on the campus of Lutheran Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul, he knew it would be the ministry.
Of the four years in seminary, the third is traditionally spent as an intern. Bergman interned at Rejoice Lutheran in Clearwater, where he worked with Pastor David Nelson and Diane Nelson.
"It was a good relationship that we started and built. Their ministry style and mine kind of blended together," explained Bergman.
Now, having completed his seminary work, Bergman accepted a call to Paynesville Lutheran, where he will continue to work with the Nelsons. David is the new senior pastor at the church, and Diane is the youth and family coordinator.
Bergman, who was ordained at his home church in December, is looking forward to using a team approach for ministry, with the two pastors splitting the preaching, teaching, and administration duties. "For my first call," he said, "I really love the atmosphere of learning the total ministry."
Bergman met his wife, Sharon, at their home church. Both will be getting their first taste of rural living in Paynesville. The helping hands that turned up to help unload the moving vans were a good start, Bergman said.
Jeff and Sharon have a seven-and-a-half-month-old daughter, Kylie. Sharon has taught middle school math in the past, but will be a stay-at-home mom for now.
Outside of the office, Bergman also likes to read and run. (He's training for his second marathon.) He's also looking for golf partners and for someone to show him the hot fishing spots.
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