Lifelong faith leads to new calling
Since he was a young child, Cory Manning has been involved in Christian ministry in one form or another.
As the son of Mel and Shirley Manning -- founders of The Refuge Christian Outreach Center in Detroit Lakes -- it would have been difficult not to be a part of their work.
"My dad was an evangelist, and we had a bus that we would take out and do a lot of traveling to different area churches, and even up into Canada," he said, noting that they also did some mission work on American Indian reservations during the summers.
"There's six of us (siblings), and at one time or another all six of us have been involved in the music part of it (Christian ministry)," Manning added, noting that he played drums. "I grew up with Christian parents, and I had a lot of good mentors growing up that helped shape my beliefs."
So it's not exactly a huge surprise that Manning would end up as an associate pastor at the church that served as his home congregation growing up, the Northern Lights Tabernacle.
Still, he says, "It's pretty exciting. I'm very happy about it."
Manning began working part-time with the church, located north of Detroit Lakes, back in September.
"I still have a full-time job," he said. "Me and my dad have a small asphalt business."
With all the things that have been going on at The Refuge this past year -- most notably the opening of the community's first homeless shelter, the Compassion House, slated to open toward the end of the year -- the younger Manning has essentially been running the asphalt business.
"We do parking lots and driveways... that's kind of where my work is in the summertime," he said.
But ministry -- particularly youth ministry -- is where his heart lies.
"It's not a full time ministry, but everybody who believes in Christ or is a follower of Him, we're all called to share the gospel," Manning said.
His work at Northern Lights Tabernacle involves leading the music ministry during the Sunday morning worship services, as well as the youth group meetings on Sunday nights.
"Sunday nights at 6 p.m., that's when our youth group meets, and we do a lot of different fun things -- watch movies, play games -- and get into the Scriptures a little bit," he said.
"Other than that, it's working wherever and however I can help Pastor Bob (St. Claire, the lead pastor of Northern Lights Tabernacle) and the congregation," he said. "In the summer months, we'll do some tent meetings, and there are lots of different little things a person can find to help out with."
When he's not working, most of Manning's time is spent with his family, which includes wife Jennifer and their four children.
Cory and Jennifer Manning, who will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary this fall, were the quintessential high school sweethearts.
"We started giving each other looks in seventh grade and started dating, all the way through high school and our college years, then ended up getting married when we were 22 years old," he said. "I got to marry my school sweetheart, and she's still my sweetheart."
Over the past decade, the Mannings have welcomed four children into their family, starting with oldest daughter Grace, now 8; followed by son Levi, 5 (who will be 6 in December) and daughters Hope, 4, and Faith, 2.
Though Manning does occasionally help his parents out by volunteering at The Refuge -- most often by taking caring of any small construction projects that need to be done, such as constructing an outdoor stage in the backyard -- much of his spare time is taken up with family activities.
"The three oldest kids are all in gymnastics, so we have to run them into town a couple times a week," he said, adding that the family's home is located between Audubon and Lake Park.
"Levi is also learning piano, so we spend some time on that with him, once or twice a week. It doesn't take long before the week is taken up with activities.
"The kids go to school at Lake Park-Audubon," he continued, adding that while it might have been nice to live a little closer to work, he and Jennifer both knew as soon as they found the small piece of property on the south side of Boyer Lake that they'd discovered the place where they wanted to raise their children.
"Family takes up a lot of a person's time," he said. "We're always together, for everything it seems.
"They keep a person hopping, that's for sure."
Not that their dad would have it any other way.
"We enjoy going out to dinner as a family, and sometimes we take them to the park and let them play," he said.
"We haven't quite taken that full, all-American family vacation together yet," Manning added, joking that he's seen the film 'National Lampoon's Vacation' a few too many times to be anything other than wary at the thought.
"We did take the two older kids on a trip to Florida once," he said. "That was fun."