Editor’s note: The following is the third of a four-part series in honor of Father’s Day.
COLUMBIA CITY — David Salyer is a father to two sons, but a source of guidance to many.
As the pastor of Victory Christian Fellowship, Salyer, with the support of his wife Michelle, has been leading his congregation for 14 years.
Salyer has had to re-invent himself three times. With his military service record, an engineering background and finally as a clergyman, Salyer has evolved into a father who basis his decisions on faith and family.
Q — Your boys are older. What are they up to now?
A — “Jonathan is married and is currently serving in the army working with special forces overseas in Afghanistan. Tim went through basic training and tech school.”
Q — You were in the military. Is that a long tradition in your family?
A — “Michelle’s dad is retired airforce and her brothers were in the navy. I was in the airforce for four years. My brother, brother-in-law and nephew were in the service as well.”
Q — How did you feel when Jonathan and Timothy told you they were enlisting?
A — “When they said they wanted to do it, I tried to steer them away from it. I know the danger and that military life is tough on marriages and families. We were hoping they would go a different direction, but that was truly in their hearts, so we supported them in that.”
Q — Jonathan got married recently. How is his wife handling being a new bride with a husband currently overseas?
A — “Brenda, being a new wife, has a good support structure. Her dad is retired from the army so, her mom has been there. She has people to talk to and of course, she has Michelle to talk to as well.”
Q — What was it like watching the boys graduate from basic training?
A — “It was emotional. It was more emotional with Timothy because he was the youngest. I was bawling like a baby.”
Q — From the airforce to the pulpit, that seems like two ends of the spectrum. How did you take that turn in life?
A — “I was actually going to stay in the military. My plan was to stay until I retired, but I was injured and got a medical discharge. When I knew I was getting out, I went to school for engineering. Once I got out I got hired in Ohio. I was worried about getting out of the service and having to start something new, but I knew God had a plan for me and within a few days I had a job. Then a year later I was called to ministry at a youth convention.”
Q — How does being a pastor effect your parenting style?
A — “Obviously being in the ministry, you’re in a bubble and you’re an example to an entire church. As a pastor, there is a difference. Everything you do matters and every decision you make matters because you know people are watching.”
Q — Did the boys ever feel singled out because they were preacher’s kids?
A — “I tried to give them the freedom to be who God created them to be and not who people thought they should be as a pastor’s kid.“
Q —How has Columbia City supported you as a pastor and as a family?
A — “This is a good place for us. We looked for God to give us a place to raise our sons so we wouldn’t have to move around and God did that. We have a good community and the right church that allowed us to raise the kids in a way that works for us. The church was small and I grew as a minister as the church grew.”
Q — How do you think Jonathan and Timothy felt growing up as preacher’s kids?
A — “My job allowed me to spend time with the kids without having to give them over to daycare. In the summer,I would take them with me to the church and they would play there. The church was a home to them. If they were sick they were on my couch in my office. It allowed me to work and parent at the same time.”
Q — How has things changed in your relationship with your sons now that they are grown?
A — “Now it is about guiding not so much ‘you will’ or ‘you won’t.’ I give advice and try to offer my wisdom and opinion, but now that they are adults, it’s their decision.”
Q — What advice would you give to parents who might have kids going into the service?”
A — “Every young man should have some time in the military. The discipline and teamwork that is taught is invaluable. Every one shouldn’t have to go to combat, but should have the chance to experience the lessons the service can bring. So, I would say to parents don’t be overwhelmed by what their kid is doing. Trust God. Whatever decision they make or whatever happens is all a part of God’s plan in life.
Q — It’s interesting that is the advice you’d give since recently you found out that Jonathan’s unit had seen some action and he was injured. Were you as trusting then as you were before?
A — “I found out on Facebook that he was hurt. We were talking back and forth. I wasn’t really that shaken by it. I trust God wholeheartedly. Michelle, took it hard. It shook her. I know she trusts God, but as a mom, it really hit her. I knew he was OK. I knew he was going to be alright.”
Q — How do you sleep knowing that he was hurt once and could be hurt again?
A — “I’m not consumed by worry. We have a lot of people praying for Jonathan every day. So I am just not consumed with worry. I think about him daily, but I’m not consumed by worry or fret.”
Q — Do you ever get to be just “David” and not a pastor?
A — “One of things we’ve done is make our home a sanctuary. So, when I come home I could just be ‘David.’”
Q — When your sons were young, how did you juggle the roles of father, husband and pastor?
A — “During meal time I wouldn’t answer the phone. We tried to not have too many things during the week. We allowed the boys to be involved in things and play sports, but we tried to keep it in check. The most important thing, we felt, was their spiritual life. Nothing that we did superseded the church. To have time to ourselves, we would go on vacation every year so that we had sometime away and be together.”
Q — What superhero would you like to be?
A — “Iron Man. Michelle says that I‘m steady. She says that I’m solid. So Iron Man...that’s who I would be.”
Q — Do you feel like a super hero kind of dad?
A — “I don’t feel like, in myself, I have any special abilities, but because of God, all of my special abilities come from Him.”
Q — How do the boys differ?
A — “Jonathan is a lot like me and Timothy is like Michelle. Jonathan is a lot more even keel and Timothy is more spontaneous. Jonathan has always had to work really hard at whatever he does, but he’s always good at it. In the army it’s that way, too. He wants to be the best. Timothy is gifted and everything comes so easy to him. He has unlimited potential.”
Q — What does the big picture look like for you as a dad and as a pastor?
A — “Well, our family is going to change with grandkids in the future. For myself, I want to look back and say that I was like my dad and be able to say I did alright. For the church, I want to leave a legacy. I want the church to be so strong, that when the time comes, it is one of the best churches in the area and it doesn’t depend on me. I want Victory Christian Fellowship to have a great foundation and the church to be full of great people.”