Terry Strom grew up in a small town (Thomasboro) and relishes personal interaction when he pastors a church.
So when the Faith Lutheran Church in Monticello came calling earlier this year, he listened, despite the fact he was an associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington, which boasts three Sunday services and total attendance in the range of 800 weekly.
“I love the small church. I had so many more opportunities in a large church – so many different programs and stuff – but sometimes you’re just so busy you can’t spend time in people’s lives,” said Strom, who has a missionary heart that has taken him to Kenya, Guatemala, Haiti and the Honduras.
“So we did the interview process, and after talking to them, I felt like I was supposed to be here,” added Strom, who on June 30 was installed at Faith Lutheran, which has about 70 attending weekly services.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“After the first week I knew a higher percentage of people here than I ever knew in Bloomington,” he noted.
It isn’t the first time Strom has left what some would call a more comfortable life. He was working as a CPA and his wife, Sandy Hesterberg Strom, was a kindergarten teacher in 1992 when they were called to the ministry. They moved the family to St. Louis so Terry could attend Concordia Seminary.
“We both had good jobs at the time. Some people thought we were crazy,” said Strom.
But both he and Sandy felt it was the right decision.
“I thought that maybe God wanted me to do something else with my life. Finally, I was brave enough to say that to my wife – I remember that evening – and my wife said, ‘I have been having the same thought.’ So the Holy Spirit was working on both of us at the same time. That was almost 30 years ago.”
Strom earned his Master of Divinity degree, served a vicarage in Guatemala, then served his first call at the bilingual congregation at E. Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Lutheran Church in McAllen, Texas. He followed that up as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cissna Park for 10 years, Trinity Lutheran Church in Urbana for nine years, then Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington prior to moving to Monticello.
Speaking of moving, the Champaign County native and 1978 Rantoul High School graduate’s family have already purchased a home in Monticello, one that made remodeling one of his main out-of-church activities in recent months.
“We had been living in the basement, and moved upstairs on Thanksgiving Day,” he said.
As a pastor in Monticello, missions will still be on his heart.
“That’s always been a part of me, missions. When I got this call here, people in Bloomington asked what I would do with missions? But it’s already a part of my DNA. That’s going to happen. So we’re already planning our first trip for here, probably in March we’re going to Haiti or Honduras,” added Strom.
He also sees Monticello as another mission field, and hopes to encourage his congregation to help others in their daily walk.
“I want people to continue to grow in their faith, and by growing in their faith, sharing that love and forgiveness with people that God places in their lives each every day,” he noted.
While hard to narrow down, he lists two Bible verses as among his current favorites:
“Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10
The Stroms have three grown children, Gabe (Sara) Strom, Beth (Noah) Dodd and Kristen (Don) Stout, along with six grandchildren.
Their hobbies include bicycling, and the couple has bicycled across Illinois.
“Someday, my goal is to bicycle across the United States,” said Strom.
He is also impressed with Monticello so far.
“It’s a good place to raise a family. And they take pride in the community. You can see that just in people’s homes, and in the schools. The band won a big award, and the cross country team winning state,” he said.
Strom can be reached at the church by calling 217-762-9235.