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Dr. Giese selected as new President of Oak Hills Christian College

Dr. Martin Giese's responsibilities at Faithbridge Church in Park Rapids will officially come to a conclusion at the end of June. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

Last week, Dr. Martin Giese and his wife Marcia were honored for their 23 years of pastoral service at Faithbridge Church in Park Rapids.

Giese has been chosen as the new president of Oak Hills Fellowship and Christian College in Bemidji.

He grew up on a farm in western Minnesota, where he assumed he would follow in the family business and become a farmer himself. But through a series of events he became intrigued with the study of the Bible and decided to attend college at Oak Hills Christian College after having already attended a couple years of college.

"I was a married student by that time and while at Oak Hills I believed I was being called into Pastoral Ministry," Giese said, adding that in 1977, he began serving at First Baptist Church in Parkers Prairie. "It was a nine-month internship that lasted 17 years."

In 1993, while at Parkers Prairie, Giese continued his education and obtained a master's degree from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

In 1994, he and Marcia moved to Park Rapids to join the pastoral staff at Faithbridge, which was then called Faith Baptist Church, where he has been serving as lead pastor for the past 23 years.

They raised their family of three daughters and one son here in Park Rapids, all of which are now married with families of their own. They have eight grandchildren with number nine on the way.

After a number of years, Giese obtained his Doctorate in Ministry and Leadership from Bethel University in St. Paul in 2012.

"While doing a master's degree at Moody Graduate School, I developed a training seminar for pastors in town and country settings called the 'Country Shepherds Workshop,'" Giese said. "And that helps pastors understand some of the socio-cultural distinctives of rural areas. Most pastors train in urban environments and are not as familiar with rural environments, so for the past 25 years I've been doing extension ministry, helping leaders in organizations to understand how rural culture works."

As part of that extension, Giese teaches graduate courses for seminary students and pastors in a program called Town and Country Training (TACT.) He is often asked to speak at different training events and conferences in several different locations.

"It's part of what I do when I'm not here," he added.

According to Giese, Oak Hills Christian College contracted with a recruitment organization that did a profile of Oak Hills' needs and because they are a national organization they began to search out candidates nationwide. Giese's name was submitted into candidacy.

"Over a period of time during that candidate search project I became part of a smaller group," he explained. "At one time I was one of three, then one of two and finally one of one. They approached me seriously with the position and we had a certain amount of time when we considered that carefully and in the end chose to accept that position."

According to Giese, Oak Hills is a four-year Christian liberal arts college with majors in Bible and a variety of other liberal arts majors; it's also in connection with an entity called the Oak Hills Fellowship.

Oak Hills Fellowship is a mission grouping that involves not only the college but a resource center for Native American Ministries and Camp Oak Hills, which is a Bible camp for both youth and adults.

One of the responsibilities of the president is to make contacts not only regionally but nationally as well and there is a certain amount of travel involved. He will also be focusing on development of the Oak Hills Fellowship and doing some teaching.

The Gieses do intend to continue living in their home here in Park Rapids. Dr. Giese will make the 50-minute commute everyday while Marcia continues to work for Dr. Jay Jorgenson at Pleasant Avenue Dentistry.

Giese's responsibilities as lead pastor at Faithbridge will come to a conclusion at the end of June and he will begin his responsibilities as president at Oak Hills on Aug. 16, followed by an inaugural installation event in September.

According to Giese, there will be a process in seeking a successor for the vacancy he will leave behind. As is tradition, the church will likely enlist an organization to help them in the process of finding someone to take on the role, but ultimately the church will make the final decision. In the interim, Dr. Ken Polley has consented to fill in as lead pastor and oversee the process of selecting a successor.

"It's a blessing to the church to have excellent leadership onsite so that the transition will be as smooth as possible," he said, adding that there will be four individuals who assume pastoral duties, even though not all are ordained.

"There have been some tears of parting and farewell. Emotionally, it's difficult because we really love the people of this church and of this community. We want to express our gratitude to the Park Rapids community and to the members and friends of Faithbridge Church for wonderful hospitality and an extraordinary experience," Giese said. "We are grieved to leave but excited to be beginning a new venture and have received all kinds of affirmation and encouragement from the folks here and from other community leaders as well."