The Great Lakes Region welcomes its new executive. 

By Tricia Leistra

On May 1, Rick Veenstra retired after eight years as regional executive of the Synod of the Great Lakes and 45 years in RCA ministry. In a joint service, John Messer was installed in the same role. Prior to becoming regional executive, Messer was lead pastor of Good News Community Church in Okoboji, Iowa, and a former strategic intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.

“When the search process began for my replacement … I was certain that the person would be from the Great Lakes Region and someone with whom I had worked and grown to respect over the years. I was wrong,” said Veenstra at the service. Yet after getting to know Messer, Veenstra gained a new perspective: “I can’t stop smiling. John is a capable, strategic leader who is deeply supportive of the mission, vision, and values of the Great Lakes Region.”

During his career with the RCA, Veenstra served as the called pastor of three churches and as a transitional minister to 12 congregations before moving into leadership in the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes. Reflecting on his own career and anticipating the transition to Messer, Veenstra says, “When you trust God, you are trusting a sovereign God, in ways I don’t perceive in the moment. God is always working beyond what I thought.”

“Nothing in the church is done well outside of community,” says Messer, who began his role by praying over all the congregations in the regional synod, church by church.

In looking toward the future of the region, Messer is thankful for the legacy left to him by Veenstra and the Great Lakes team. “I get to take the good things I’ve been given and build on them,” he says.

Tricia Leistra is a freelance writer and stated clerk of Great Lakes City Classis.