Nothing like a first impression
"First impressions are important," says the Rev. Erik Galenieks, who became the new pastor of Detroit Lakes' Seventh Day Adventist Church a little less than a month ago.
And if his first impressions of Detroit Lakes are anything to go by, he and his wife Anna will be very happy here.
"We will need more time to get acquainted, but our first impressions are very positive," he said.
"It's a very beautiful town," said Anna, whose surname, Galeniece, is the feminine form of Erik's."It seems like a very nice, small community."
Erik Galenieks is actually the district pastor for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, serving parishes in both Detroit Lakes and Moorhead. As such, he and Anna have settled in Dilworth.
Their two children, Andrejs and Estere, are grown and attending college at Andrews University in Michigan -- the same university where Erik and Anna both earned their respective degrees in ministry. Anna holds both a degree in pastoral ministry and a doctor of ministry degree; Erik holds a master of divinity degree and Ph.D. in Old Testament exegesis, with a minor in New Testament interpretation history.
Erik and Anna moved to Michigan from their native Latvia in order to further their studies; prior to moving to the U.S., Erik had served as a minister and district administrator for the Latvian conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church for 12 years.
Erik's position in the Latvian church organization was more academic in nature, he added.
"I took part in many different international meetings, and wrote articles for academic publications," he said.
After completing their degrees, the couple moved to Minnesota, where Erik was assigned his first ministry as district pastor for the Seventh Day Adventist congregations in Bemidji, Park Rapids and Hackensack, Minn.
They were there for nearly two years before receiving the call to work in Detroit Lakes.
Erik said his first impression of Minnesota was that its climate was similar to that of Latvia -- though "the winters are colder here," he said.
The people of Minnesota also share several common cultural traits with their Scandinavian ancestors.
"Latvia is neighbors with Scandinavia," Anna noted. "Their culture is very familiar."
Erik noted that the spring and fall climate in northern Minnesota is very similar to their native Latvia.
"And they have beautiful summers here," Anna added.
Though Erik said he enjoys teaching students about pastoral ministry in an academic setting, "even in that setting, you need to show the practical applications of that information."
"Teaching and preaching go together -- you can't separate them," he added.
One of the main goals of the church is "to lead people to Jesus Christ," Erik said. "I strongly believe that those who say, 'I'm a Christian' should be the most balanced and healthiest people on earth."
One of their church's central beliefs is that coming to know Jesus Christ "should change all aspects of a person's life -- physical, mental and emotional as well as spiritual," Anna added.
Because Christ has the power to affect change in a person's life, putting one's trust and faith in him should bring all those aspects of one's life into balance.
In fact, Erik noted, studies have proven that those who ar practicing Adventists tend to life 10-11 years longer than the general population.
This is, in part, because a practicing Adventist -- i.e., one who attends church regularly and is actively involved in its activities -- is expected to adopt a healthier, natural lifestyle. Eating healthier foods, drinking real water instead of coffee, soda and similar beverages, getting plenty of sunshine and healthy exercise are all part of that lifestyle.
"If you are physically healthy, that will affect your mind and spirit (positively)," Erik noted. "People can become physically ill because of their state of mind -- there is an interrelationship."
"If you trust in God, that strengthens you in all other ways -- physically, mentally, emotionally," Anna added.