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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

Nick Wallwork

Director of Youth & Children’s Ministries

My Sense of Call

I started out in a church in the normal suburban way. At the age of three, my parents, who hadn’t been to church since their own confirmations, enrolled me in the nursery school attached to a Presbyterian church. We soon joined the church and became involved in all the usual ways. I don’t remember Sunday School very much, but I do remember Vacation Bible School. It was always great fun with games and music and snacks. The one thing I remember anticipating is reaching fourth grade so I could participate in “Rev’s Woodshop.” This was an activity led by our minister (“Rev”), who was also a talented carpenter, where we worked on a woodcraft of some sort. I remember this because, until then, “Rev” was someone we all looked up to. During those four days in the summer, he seemed like a real person. To a ten-year-old, seeing a “man of God” as real made God seem real.

As I grew up in that church and became more involved, my mom served as an Elder and my dad helped on the finance committee. When I entered high school, my mom became the Youth Coordinator. I was so immersed in church life that my friends from school didn’t visit me at my house, they visited me at church. I attended Christian concerts and music festivals. I attended “The Dawn: An Epiphany,” a Presbyterian Youth event during the Y2K New Year. The following year, I attended Presbyterian Youth Triennium. At both of these events, I was charged up by some of the best preachers that PC(USA) had to offer. I was fired up for God.

This environment and experiences gave me the “call.” I wanted to fire other people up and make God real. I felt that I had a passion for Christ that I needed to share with people.

At church, several fellow youth and I formed a praise band. We were inspired by the bands we had seen and wanted to bring those experiences home. We played occasionally on Sundays until we had moved enough people to have a contemporary service. We started playing every week. I could really feel the spirit move through us. We started playing at other churches and helped them form bands of their own. This was a great way for me to spread the word using my talents.

All the while, I attended and then worked at Camp Johnsonburg, a Presbyterian camp in western New Jersey. There I saw the love and work of Jesus that I was so fired up for. I also learned valuable life lessons there. To this day, I use some of the mantras we were taught there. I also created a great passion for working with young people. I saw Jesus in them, both the good and the bad campers. I saw how they investigated the world with wonder and curiosity, and in them, I could see the love and forgiveness that Jesus calls us to practice.

I attended the 214th General Assembly as a Youth Advisory Delegate my senior year of high school. I went representing Newton Presbytery and sat on the polity committee. It gave me a great sense of the greater church. I was ordained an Elder and sat on my church’s Session the following year.

I was riding high on all of this, but within a short time, the beloved “Rev” died of a heart attack, my mom was let go from her job at the church, and my parents split up. Because of all these changes in my life, I gave up on church and God. I didn’t denounce God, but I just couldn’t be bothered. So for a few years, the church was not in my life. It felt weird to not be there, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back.

My distance from God changed in the summer of 2005 when I went to the New Jersey shore in June. The water was still cold, but several friends and I decided to go in, so we ran running down the beach and dove in. I, however, dove too deep into water that was too shallow. I felt my head hit the sand and suddenly I went limp all over. There I was floating face down, not able to move, feeling as though I was floating out to sea. Try as I might, I could not flip myself over. As I knew I had no more breath in me, I said a little prayer. I didn’t ask for help or strength. I remembered a prayer we said at Camp to center us based on Psalm 86, “Be still and know I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be.” At that moment one more wave came and flipped me over enough that I could call out for help. My friends pulled me out and I was rushed off to the hospital. After much rehabilitation, a semester off from school, motivation from wonderful friends, daily visits from my girlfriend and love from all, I am walking after breaking my C4 vertebrae, which most quadriplegics break.

The next year, I worshiped at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, NJ. I sat through the service and it seemed to feel right. After the service, the youth minister, knowing that I had worked at camp, told me to come to youth group that night to help out. I couldn’t have been more excited. I went that evening and was hooked. I am still helping out with those youth.

A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to intern with the youth program at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield. I got experience planning trips and talking with youth about Jesus and answering nervous parents’ questions. During the summer of 2010, at workcamps and the Presbyterian Youth Triennium with the Youth of the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair, I again saw the Spirit working through youth. I finally had that feeling I had when I worked at Camp. I felt at home in a church environment and again knew that this is what I was supposed to do.

I now have worked at the Grace Presbyterian Church as their Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries for five years. The wonderful and insightful and faithful people at Grace have continued to help me grow in my faith through mutual study, worship, and prayer. I have continued to live into my pastoral calling. I am no longer nervous when people ask me what I do for a living. I can say that I work at a church and not worry that they will treat me different. The other day, someone told me that I didn’t seem like a pastor. I took that as a compliment. I have had the chance to make God real for young and old people alike. I know that my call is to ministry. It is what God has been setting me up for.

Currently, Nick serves as the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at Grace Presbyterian Church in Montclair, NJ. He has served on the Board of Trustees for Johnsonburg Camp and Conferences Inc and on the Core Team of Presbyterian Youth Workers Association. He is married to Megan Hein, an Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Alina Lodge. They have one Daughter, Charlotte Mae who will be President one day if she doesn’t drive her parents mad first.