'It's nice to be back home'
Though he's only been the pastor of Detroit Lakes' Seventh Day Adventist Church since Nov. 20, Fred Crowell is no stranger to the lakes area.
"I grew up here in Detroit Lakes, until I was in the fifth grade, when we moved to St. Paul," Crowell says. "I went to junior high and high school there (in St. Paul).
"We joined the Adventist church when I was in the fourth grade," he adds, noting that he has eight brothers and sisters.
Throughout his formative years, Crowell remained a part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church organization, attending Union College in Lincoln, Neb., which is an Adventist-sponsored college.
"We have the largest Protestant education system in the world, from preschool all the way up through graduate school," Crowell says.
While he was away at college, Crowell's father passed away, at age 51. He was 20 years old at the time. It was also the year when he met his future wife, Roberta.
But during his first year at the college, Crowell was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. His religious status as a conscientious objector led Crowell to participate in the Army's "Project White Coat," which involved medical research into developing antibodies for infectious diseases such as anthrax, as well as ways of fighting other types of biological and chemical warfare.
"While I was in the military, I felt my calling to the ministry," he says. "One night I heard this voice that said, 'Go into the ministry.'"
He would hear the same voice in his head three times before he sought out the pastor of the local Adventist church for advice.
"He said, 'Come and work with me,'" and Crowell began accompanying the pastor on home visits, Bible studies and church board meetings.
It was through this process that Crowell's initial interest turned into a conviction that the ministry was in his future.
So after returning to complete his education at Union College, Crowell finished his bachelor's degree in theology in 1977, and entered the seminary at St. Andrew's University in Michigan, where he began working on his master's degree in divinity.
"I was there for one year," Crowell says, before receiving a unique opportunity to do an internship with the Maryland pastor who had first mentored him on his road into the ministry.
The internship lasted for two years, after which he spent three years as a pastor before going back to the seminary to finish his master's degree, which he completed in 1983.
He would spend the next 17 years as a pastor at various churches in Iowa and Missouri, then another five years with the state Adventist organization, working in administration.
"Then we went to Denver, Colo.," Crowell says. "I spent five years pastoring a church there, and I was also the mid-America director of disaster response for the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I was responsible for all the disaster response efforts in the greater Midwest, which covered about nine states."
It was during this time that Crowell began working on his doctorate of ministry -- a process which he has not yet quite completed.
"I have just the dissertation left," he says.
Crowell went on to serve as pastor of a church in Downer's Grove, Ill. -- a suburb of Chicago -- and simultaneously served as the state community service disaster response director, "covering all of Illinois.
"We moved to Texas from there," he adds. "I pastored a church in Fort Worth, and was also the assistant director of disaster response for North America."
After five years in Texas, the Crowells learned of an opening for a pastor at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Detroit Lakes.
"When I went to college, my family all moved back to Detroit Lakes," he says. "We kept coming back here for vacations and family reunions.
"One day the church here called me and asked if I would be willing to minister to their congregation," he says.
Though it was a smaller congregation than those he was used to, with about 200 people, Crowell said yes.
"This is home for me...it's nice to be back," he says.
"My mother is 89 years old, and lives at Emmanuel (nursing home). It's real nice being able to visit her."
The timing also turned out to be good for them to make the move last fall, as "everything fell into place," Crowell adds.
"We just felt that we've lived in big cities for so many years, we just wanted to slow down and live in a smaller community that's a little more rural."
Also, he noted, "God leads, and we go wherever He leads us."
Crowell wasn't even worried about his flock back in Texas, believing that he had left them in good hands -- those of his own son-in-law, with whom he had served as co-pastor.
"We moved here within a month of me accepting the position -- we wanted to make the move before winter came," Crowell says. "We feel like the Lord really blessed us and helped us with this move...it worked out perfectly for us."
After 34 years in the ministry, Crowell is enjoying the opportunity to get to know Detroit Lakes, and to work with other ministers in the community, through the Ministerial Association.
"It's been a good experience so far," he says. "I am really enjoying nature here -- we didn't have a lot of trees or walking trails in Texas, and I've been able to go ice fishing. That's really been nice.
"The people here are so friendly and warm and nice -- we're really enjoying the spirit and feeling of community here.
"It's really been nice coming back home again."