Ken Van Vliet, senior pastor at Monte Vista Chapel in Turlock, hasn't strayed far from his roots. Born in Escalon, he worked with his older brother and parents on their land.
"We worked hard and we played hard," he said. "I was involved in working on the dairy and the farm as long as I can remember, but at the same time, I have great memories of riding motorcycles and horse riding, and going water and snow skiing, so I had a wonderful childhood. My parents were very committed to Christ, and I was very fortunate to grow up in a home that held that as a high value."
He said he was "never rebellious" and still has grade-school friends.
"I'm still friends with them today, although they live all over the country."
Van Vliet said he also enjoyed sports but didn't focus on academics "because I wasn't intending to go on to school past high school."
His goal of being a farmer got sidelined "about 15 years ago when I came to the point where I couldn't figure out a way around it. ... I knew in my heart that God wanted me to be involved in full-time ministry, but I had a lot of fears and concerns and issues stepping into that kind of life."
The 40-year-old pastor has found joy following his calling. Here's more information:
Family: Wife, Michelle, 38; children Ben, 11, and Rebekah, 9
Education: Bachelor's degree in business/finance with a minor in music/vocal performance from California State University, Stanislaus; master's of divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and San Diego
Career: College pastor at Monte Vista Chapel and later oversaw adult ministries there; became senior pastor in August 2001
Future: "I really have a sense of calling to place. I really love the people in the Central Valley."
Greatest challenge: "Overall, the biggest challenge is to help the church be relevant to its community so the community sees the church as a viable answer to some of the community's problems. To help the congregation learn what it means to be in the world but not of the world. To transform the culture without the culture transforming the church."
Greatest passion: "My greatest passion is that our community would see that a life surrendered and lived for God is the best life you could ever live. I truly believe the church is the keeper of the most transformative message in the world."
Personality: "I'm a rather driven person. I enjoy spending time with people, although I am an introvert as well, so I need my own space and time. I have a good sense of humor, but I can take myself too seriously."
Spare time: "I love to be outdoors. I like to fly-fish. I ride motorcycles; I have a Ducati, and my friend and I ride quite a bit. I'm involved heavily with my children in their sports -- swimming and baseball -- and also involved in community issues, like homelessness and crisis pregnancy."
"Leading the Way" profiles faith leaders -- ordained and lay -- in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.