ALBION — Talk about your diverse backgrounds.
Mark Yeager, 58, grew up in northwest Indiana.
He found God in Los Angeles.
As recently as two years ago, he was a long-haul trucker.
Today, he is the pastor of Burr Oak Baptist Church.
“We have a good church,” Yeager said. “They are great people.”
Burr Oak was founded in 1892. He said it has been through God’s grace that the church has made it this long.
Yeager’s mission now?
“God, what would you have us do the next 130 years?” he asked. “I’m just the person who points people toward Jesus.”
Yeager returned to the pulpit for the first time in nearly three years when he had his first service in mid-September at Burr Oak.
His journey has been a wide-ranging one, and it started in the Hoosier state.
“I was born in Hammond,” he said. “I grew up in that area for 17 years.”
Then Yeager’s family moved to Los Angeles.
“That’s where I became a child of God,” he said.
Yeager stayed for 38 years in the City of Angels, working in a variety of religious postings.
For a time, he and 120 other ministers served a congregation of approximately 23,000 YMCA members.
In 2003, he started a church with a congregation of eight people. When he left in 2017, the church had between 500-600 members.
Yeager is registered as a deployment chaplain with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross. He has served his fellow man in multiple disaster areas.
In 2017, he was ending one such deployment when someone suggested during his debrief that he might want to consider taking some time off.
“People wait to take sabaticles until they’re out of gas,” he said. “It’s meant as a preventative measure.”
Yeager decided to take that preventative measure, and he took a job he’d always wanted to try anyway — as a long-haul trucker like his grandfather.
Driving flat beds and refrigerator loads, piling up more than 60,000 miles and making it to 22 different states. Then for a time, he drove tanker trucks in northwest Indiana.
In November 2019, he felt a call.
“What is the next season God has in store for me?” he wondered.
He returned to the ministry as a chaplain for a chain of funeral homes. Then the pastorate at Burr Oak Baptist Church opened up.
Yeager had never been to Albion before, but he had spent time on Lake Wawasee in the 1970s.
“I have always felt so comfortable in a small town environment,” he said.
A man who at one time preached before so many doesn’t mind a smaller congregation.
“I minister to build big people in the Lord, not big churches,” he said.
With the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest in some areas, these may be difficult times, but there have always been difficult times, Yeager said.
“When Paul wrote a lot of his letters, he felt he was in the end times,” Yeager said. “If we keep our focus (on the world’s tough times), you could find yourself in tumultuous times.”
Instead, Yeager encourages people to turn to God and follow His commandments.
“We’re supposed to love people,” he said.
Yeager has felt the love from his new congregation.
“They’ve all accepted me,” Yeager said. “I’m really excited about the season God has in store for me.”