Some feel the spirit, and some hear the Word. While Alex Hogendoorn didn’t plan on following a career path with the church, he saw the light. It focussed him on his true calling.
Alex can be found at the Fellowship Baptist Church, where he has been shepherding the flock as senior pastor for the past 15 years.
Born in Ontario, Alex grew up travelling across Canada, never staying too long in one place due to his father’s business ventures. Growing up in a faith-based family, he never foresaw going into a religious career.
It was two impactful teenage years during a stay in Brampton, which set him up to dedicate the rest of his life to the church.
He joined a youth group where the community nurtured authenticity around his Christian faith.
“Back in the day, youth group was a chance for kids, for young adults [and] for teenagers to express life in the church in their way. It was a chance to express your independence in your faith,” the pastor said.
It was out east where his younger self found the people who would shape him and his understanding of the person he wanted to become.
“They were just peer mentors — just buddies who I also looked up to,” Alex said. “There was an authenticity to what they believed and how they lived that up. I saw the conviction and the passion.”
Alex’s youth pastor garnered a culture of empowerment and fun. He worked closely with the older kids so they would become good examples for the next generation.
The young man learned about community service, giving back and making a difference in the world.
“That would look like action into our schools. We would address what were the problems in our schools and how to be a good impact, or light, in the school,” Hogendoorn said.
Their group would organize anti-bullying talks, take on service projects and raise money for charities.
“Our events were usually crazy fun,” he said.
There were moments of tough and important lessons of learning among the good times.
Alex remembers one Sunday morning when two new kids came to weekly services, but no one took the initiative to talk to them.
“We were all having a great time talking with each other … we were so busy focusing on our own friends,” he said. “That was the one time I saw my youth pastor get mad at us.”
Afterward, the pastor scolded him and his classmates for not being mindful of others and being unwelcoming.
“He really put the onus back on us to be caring, not just for each other, but for anyone else who was to come,” Alex said.
It was a lesson well learned for the teenager shaping his views going forward.
Moving to Surrey and still in high school, his new church had no youth pastor. Alex advocated how great it was to be part of a youth group previously. He persuaded the junior pastor to be put in charge of them.
Even with the pastor on board, the clergy still couldn’t quite find the time to organize everything. So, Alex was asked to plan their first youth event.
Of course, Alex agreed to help. The teen then asked if the pastor could preach the sermon. Well, the pastor said he might need some help with that too.
“No problem, of course,” said the ever helpful and enthusiastic Alex.
“So I write him a sermon …, and I read it for him over the phone,” he said. The church leader told him the message was very good, but he couldn’t preach it. He was instead going to give Alex the spotlight to present the sermon.
It was in this second Alex saw the light.
“He had totally tricked me,” he laughed out loud at the realization.
Alex stood at the front of the crowd during the youth event and he lead his first-ever sermon.
“It was in that moment [where] it did make an impact in people’s lives — and it was because, I’m hoping, they saw the passion and the love of God in what I was saying.”
That was when he felt the spirit and the encouragement of those around him.
“My church, my school, my friends all pushed me into this because they said this is what you’re already doing.”
So with the decision made, when Hogendoorn graduated high school, he packed his bags and headed to Three Hills Alberta to attend Prairie College, a bible school.
He earned two degrees, over five years, in theology and intercultural studies. He also met his wife, Julie. Alex credits his multicultural upbringing from living in many communities as the reason he pursued intercultural studies.
“From a young age, I wanted to know how to bridge those gaps,” he said.
After spending six years working in 100 Mile House and Prince George as a youth and junior pastor, Alex said he felt challenged by his faith to be more present in the moment and to bring more authenticity in his work with people.
He felt the pull to complete a three-year Masters of Divinity, which he completed in two all while juggling two new sons and working part-time.
The next step was finding his family’s new home. He and Julie ultimately decided upon Prince Rupert.
“When we met the people and saw the community — there was just an agreement in our heart that these were the people we wanted to love and walk with,” Hogendoorn said.
Though it’s not uncommon for a pastor to move to a new church after five years or so, Alex doesn’t see leaving as an option.
The time spent in Prince Rupert and the connections he and his family have made in the community have had a transformational impact on them.
“Sometimes you’re at the bedside of someone who’s dying. Sometimes you’re with people who are grieving, and sometimes we are … you know, we’re dealing with big crises. And other times, it’s a lot of joy.,” the minister said.
“Walking the story long term with the community, you go through so much more. You really experience life together,” he said. “We have no plans to leave.”
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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