I know this might seem awkward, but allow me to interview myself:
What is your name?
Mark Vander Pol
Who is the other person in the photo?
That is my wonderful wife of 6.5 years, Michelle.
Where did you meet?
We met at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. I saw her walking on campus, figured out who she was, called her up and the rest is history!
That is an interesting dog. What breed is she?
That is our dog Holland. She is a Louisiana Catahoula as far as we can tell. We got her from the pound so we aren’t exactly sure how old she is or if she is a pure bred, but she is a great dog and we figure she is about 1.5 years old.
What are you doing on this GHRBS site?
For a couple of years I had been thinking about planting a church in the Seattle area and I jumped on board with a church in Bellingham who had agreed to oversee a church plant in the Gig Harbor/Tacoma area. This blog is a direct result of the efforts to gather a group of people in that area who are interested in being part of a Bible study which, Lord willing could lead to the planting of a church.
Okay, so you are hoping to be a pastor. I assume you went to school to achieve that end?
Actually that is a funny story, and the answer is both yes and no. My undergraduate major was actually in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. However, I recently graduated from Westminster Seminary California with my Masters of Divinity, which was schooling in preparation for pastoral ministry.
Well… that is interesting. So did you do anything in Chemistry and if so what?
After graduating college I worked for 6 years in two jobs that were related to the Chemistry field. My first job was as a Hazardous Materials Chemist for a private company near Chicago. I worked there for 2.5 years until taking a position as a radiochemist at Argonne National Laboratory southwest of Chicago.
Radiochemist… chemistry on radios?
Not exactly. A radiochemist works primarily with those elements that undergo measurable radioactive decay, you know plutonium, uranium, etc. Many of our projects worked on spent nuclear fuel, but we also worked on projects for the Defense Department, NASA, and the Department of Energy to name a few. Most of my work was done in secure areas in glove-boxes and hoods because the material we were working with was quite radioactive.
Alright, so you were a chemist… now you want to be a pastor. What happened?
Well before I go there can I tell you a little bit about my upbringing?
Of course! You are interviewing yourself, you can say whatever you want!
Right. Well, let me tell you first a little bit about my upbringing. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home by two loving and godly parents. More than just a Christian home, I was raised in a Reformed home and catechized from my youth in the truths of Scripture and the Reformed confessions (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort). My father was an elder in the local Christian Reformed Church and was Vice-President of Development and Administration at Westminster Seminary California. When I went away to college and in “the real world” after graduation he was always my answer man whenever I had any theological questions. In the year 2000 my father suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 48. Among the many things that changed, one was that I had to begin answering my theological questions on my own.
Since I was catechized as a youth and went to Reformed Christian schools I knew most of the basics, and yet I took those doctrines for granted and couldn’t articulate them like I wanted to. This drove me first of all to rediscovering the Confessions of the Reformation. These are beautiful statements of the orthodox Christian faith, and they became a great source of comfort. Beyond that I was forced to look for other answers elsewhere and found articles on-line written by professors at Westminster. Since I grew up around that institution I immediately found people I could trust to learn from. I quickly discovered Modern Reformation magazine and the White Horse Inn radio show. I began talking to friends who also grew up Reformed, but took it for granted and we all began to discover our heritage together.
This went on for a few years when it began to dawn on me that I wanted to teach this great stuff to others. Certain things were happening in our lives where we were thinking about moving when I mentioned to Michelle, “What if I went to seminary?” Eight months later I was sitting in summer Greek at Westminster Seminary California.
My Graduation from WSC
So you went to WSC to be a pastor?
Actually I didn’t. I went to seminary with the intent of going on to pursue doctoral studies so that I could teach in a college or seminary. When I talked to a number of the professors they all said that I should enter into the M.Div. program even though I didn’t necessarily want to be a full-time pastor. Well, the M.Div. program did me in. Part of the requirements for the program is to participate in an internship in a local church and to exhort (preach) in public worship. I had the opportunity to exhort quite a bit during my time in seminary and the more and more I did it, the more and more I had the desire to preach regularly and I realized that there are many opportunities to teach God’s people in the pews. In the summer of 2008 I was presented with a 6-week summer internship in Lynden, Washington. I took this opportunity to really see if this is where the Lord was calling me. I preached every week and even twice a Sunday a few times, and wrote all new sermons for the following Lord’s Day. Even though I didn’t have the pressures of other pastoral duties, my time in that internship was amazing and I truly wanted to simply preach the Gospel.
Did you do anything else interesting while in Seminary?
Wow, what a great leading question… You must be referring to the Summer of 2007?
Yes. Yes I am.
Well, in the summer of 2007 Michelle and I joined three other classmates and went to the small southeastern African country of Malawi. One of our classmates was from there and he arranged for us to help teach some classes at small theological school there. We were in Malawi for six weeks (Michelle only for four) and we had an amazing time. I could say more, but for the sake of space I will refer people to our trip report with photos (M&M in Malawi).
We are getting close to the end, but if you could just briefly explain what is the URC and why that denomination?
Sure, the URC is short for URCNA, which is an acronym for the United Reformed Churches in North America. It is a small and young denomination, but with direct roots to the Reformation of the 16th century. It subscribes to what are called the Three Forms of Unity as its Confessional standards. These documents are The Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) and the Canons of Dort (1618-1619). The URC is committed to being faithful to Scripture in all areas, but most visibly in its preaching and in its worship. Even though it has many faults because it is still on this side of Christ’s second coming, the URC is one of the few denominations in America that I feel has remained true to the Reformed faith, piety, and practice; and is committed to bringing to the Gospel to lost sinners across the world. Because we are small those efforts may seem meager compared to some, but as the Lord wills he is using these ministers to proclaim the truth of Christ to his pilgrim people.
Before I let you go, just something about your other side. What are your other interests besides theology and church planting?
One of my biggest faults is that I have too many interests and it drives my wife nuts when I pick up yet another hobby. Yet there are a few other things that I am very passionate in addition to the ministry.
On top of Mt. Whitney
I love anything outdoors. I grew up camping as a family, and thankfully I found a wife who like that as well. Even though we don’t get out as much as we would like we both love camping and hiking. Beyond just camping, I also love backpacking (Michelle, not so much). In the summer of 2008 I went on the High Sierra Trail with three friends which is a 75-mile trail that goes across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, ending on top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. (Read more and see photos here)
I also love nature photography. Again, something else I don’t have near enough time for, but something I truly love doing. God’s creation is amazing and I love capturing bits and pieces onto film for others to enjoy. (I have a photography website here)
Other than those things, I love sports. I love playing volleyball, softball/baseball, golf and racquetball.
I think that about wraps it up. Thanks for your time.
No thanks for your time!