With a new year comes a new slate of leaders who have become elders and deacons at First Pres.”There is a lot of depth and richness and maturity” in this group, Pastor Jon Heeringa said during their recent installation.
Elder Mike Robison
Mike Robison and his wife, Margie, were attracted to First Presbyterian some five years ago by the church’s commitment to global missions and by the numbers of serious followers of Jesus. Mike spent nearly thirty years with Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center as a teacher and principal. In 1993, he was certified by PCUSA as a lay pastor and began preaching throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He worked in global missions, beginning with Ethiopia ministry, and later served with Frontier Fellowship, encouraging small, underground house churches in Muslim-majority Asian countries and developing ties with U.S. congregations. Not surprisingly, Mike is inspired by Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Mike’s hope for the church is to “make disciples who make disciples.” Of his new role as elder, Mike says, ” I believe listening not only to each voice on the Session but also the voices of Covenant Members to be critical as we bring to God ideas and seek to make faithful decisions through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Mike and Margie, who uses her own musical talents with the worship team, live in Stuarts Draft where Mike grows roses and enjoys relaxing on his back deck. The couple has two adult daughters.
Elder Don Shiflet
Don Shiflet, a member of First Presbyterian for more than two decades, is returning to Session, a position he has held twice before. He sees our church as “a Christ-centered body with a loving, committed family of believers who genuinely try to follow Christ and to love one another—and to serve others.” He understands his role as an Elder as an important one, to provide leadership and encouragement to the church body as we seek to live into the mission God has laid before us. Don lives what he believes; he is often seen ushering, and recently chaired an ad hoc committee looking at our new digital ministry. Originally from the valley, Don and his wife, Donna, have lived many places for his work in farm credit. He retired as CEO of Farm Credit of the Virginia’s. A graduate of Davis and Elkins College, he also holds a master’s degree from UVa. Don has seen God’s hand during the COVID crisis: “God is sustaining us through this difficult season in all our lives. I believe he has given a special measure of protection to our family, given the high-risk nature of certain underlying health issues.” A longtime fan of Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for his Highest, he has recently been inspired by Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.
Elder Mal Lane
After growing up in Florida, Mal spent 19 years teaching computer science at West Virginia University before joining JMU’s College of Integrated Science and Technology in 2000. Between 1983 and 2015, he consulted in information technology with more than 35 developing countries and still enjoys “technology challenges.” He retired from JMU in 2010, the same year he joined First Presbyterian. Mal believes in the power of the Holy Spirit as explained in Romans 8:26. “The Holy Spirit has guided me throughout my life,” he says, “and has been there during times of joy and trouble. In my Christian life, the groans have been nudges and sometimes kicks for me to step up to serve Christ in the church as a choir director and a deacon, and the community with service to Central Valley Habitat for Humanity and Mercy House.” Mal’s list of First Presbyterian favorites is long: “The people, the ministers and church staff, the Sanctuary Choir and the Traditional Worship Service, Men’s Small Group Bible Study, outreach and missions to our community (Soup Kitchen, Open Doors, Kerus Quilters), global missions, very effective virtual ministry (on-line live services and zoom gatherings) and preaching the Word of God.” In addition to his new role as elder, Mal serves on the Administration-Finance committee. His talents aren’t all organizational. Until the pandemic hit, Mal played trumpet and flugelhorn in a Shenandoah Valley swing band. Mal and his wife of 55 years, Maureen, live in Broadway. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.
Elder Rich Ours
Rich Our calls himself a “valley boy” since he has lived her in the area most of his life, except for a few years spent in Kansas. A graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, Rich spent 31 years in the Quality Control Department with Merck and Company in the Elkton plant. Now retired, he continues to consult part time for the company. Rich has two married sons. He and his wife of 20 years, Trish, who has two adult children, have 11 grandchildren. He and Trish enjoy traveling and he, in his downtime, enjoys music, reading and golf.
Elder Bob Augst
Bob Augst came to know Christ during a job crisis. God met Bob, drew him in and changed his life. As a result, the story in Genesis 22 of God testing Abraham resonates deeply with Bob and enforces his faith. Most recently, he has seen God’s hand heal his grandson when the newborn had to be put on oxygen for six months. Bob and his wife Judy, who is part of the Stephen Ministry, moved to Harrisonburg from Richmond several years ago. Bob was finishing a 44-year career in the commercial glass industry from which he retired last year—a development that freed him up to become more involved with First Presbyterian. As a new elder, he “hopes to continue to grow in my servant leadership.” His commitment is to shepherding, leading, oversight and teaching. Bob and Judy, married 45 years this year, were sweethearts at then-Madison College after meeting on a call-in radio show. (It’s a great story! Ask him to tell you.) The couple has three married children and two grandchildren. In his down time, Bob enjoys golf, gardening and reading history. In addition to his new duties as elder, you will occasionally see Bob filling in as a drummer with the worship team.
Deacon Marnie Godfrey
Marnie Godfrey grew up in First Presbyterian Church, attending youth group and Sunday School throughout her childhood and high school years with her sister Rachel. In 2014, Marnie and her husband, Brent, returned to Harrisonburg from Cleveland, Ohio, to be closer to her parents, Charles and Sara Runyon. Marnie joined Young Mother’s Bible Study and reconnected with her church home. “I grew up attending here,” she says, “and it feels ‘right’ to be back with my church family.” Marnie and Brent have three children, Gabe, Grace and Greta. While Gabe attends Blue Ridge Christian School, Marnie homeschools their girls, leaving her little down time. What time she does find, however, she enjoys yoga, genealogy and playing the piano. As the mother of three, Marnie understands and appreciates the role of a ‘servant’ and her new role as a deacon. She says she has “learned to ‘let go’ and be ‘present’ while trusting His plan for my life and that of my family.” Over the past few years, she has demonstrated that as her mother struggles with dementia and her father with eye surgeries. Her personal goal is “to continue to grow in my faith and spirituality, and to spread God’s word and show the love of Jesus.”
Deacon Bea Ammons
Bea Ammons has a heart for helping. It is something she loves about First Presbyterian, and it is a talent she practices with her friends and neighbors. She sees this as an important ministry and a hallmark of First Presbyterian. In her role as deacon, Bea strives to be “a servant of the church to work in ministries that nurture fellowship and caregiving within the congregation and beyond.” Bea and her husband, Charlie, have two sons and two grandsons. One of Bea’s favorite things to do is to spend time with family and friends and to watch her grandsons in all their sports activities. She also enjoys knitting, needlework, golf, yoga and Bible studies. Bea has often seen God working through the church through the leadership and through the teaching of our pastors. A faithful prayer warrior, Bea has seen God’s faithfulness in answered prayers. She says, “I have seen his healing power many, many times…” For Bea, prayer is an essential part of church life and she loves its emphasis at First Presbyterian: “We are so faithful in being a praying church.”
Deacon Janice Pence
Newly installed deacon Janice Pence, who joined First Presbyterian in 2006, is part of the Stephen Ministry, one of numerous roles she has assumed in the life of the church. Service, Janice believes, is an essential and endearing trait of our church. In her own life, the retired educator serves on the Local Missions Committee, has helped with the soup kitchen and attends the Women’s Bible Study. This past year particularly, Janice has seen God work as He has helped people weather all the changes in the nation and the upheavals created by the pandemic. In this season of challenges, she says that Micah 6:8 holds special meaning : “He has shown you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” She hopes to see more and more Covenant Partners taking active roles in serving the church and the community. When she has time, she enjoys playing Bridge and reading. Her favorite authors include Harper Lee, Kristin Hannah and Rick Warren. Janice, a widow, has two sons, two daughters-in-law, two grandsons, six granddaughters, and one granddaughter-in-law.
Deacon Mary Scott
Mary Scott has been an active member of First Presbyterian for more than four decades—and the key word here is active. Trainedas a teacher, Mary taught Sunday School during the 1960s, but her service later moved from the classroom into the kitchen. She is a regular figure when ministry calls for food, whether it be Open Doors, which she chairs with Elder Pat Haden, Soup Kitchen or Sunday morning donuts. As a teenager, Mary and her twin sister were helped by her local church after the untimely death of their father. Out of this experience, Mary developed a deep and abiding commitment to living with the same heart of service—to demonstrate the love of Christ through the ministry of the church. Mary and her husband, Charlie, have two adult children and two grandsons.
Deacon Russ Lawrence
Russ Lawrence is returning to a familiar role as he assumes the mantel of deacon—and few rival Russ’s commitment to serving the body of Christ. During the 33 years he has been part of First Presbyterian, he has served as elder, deacon, Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school treasurer, Christian Education committee, Sunnyside bus captain, usher, and president of the B.F. Wilson Bible class. Over the years, Russ has taught both children and adults in Sunday school. He also takes his role as a committed believer into the community as an active member of the Gideons whose mission is to make the Word of God available to everyone and to spread the Gospel. Russ is a graduate of WVU. He and his wife, Glenda, live in Penn Laird. Russ’s two adult children both grew up a part of our church.