Sometimes in life, we take quite the winding path to get where we are going, and Father Dave's journey has been no exception. Born in Ohio, but living since he was a small child in the expansive Big Sky state of Montana, Father David found the Lord at a very young age. Even at the age of 7, he wanted to be a priest so badly that he formed what he called the "Jesus Club" with neighborhood kids, dispensing crackers and grape Kool-Aid in backyard communions with all the sincerity of a little boy's heart. He was raised a Roman Catholic where he served as an alter boy and completed confirmation. It seems that for as long as he can remember, he had two goals in his life. He wanted to be a Catholic priest and to be a United States Marine. During the time when most kids are beginning to rebel, instead he begged his parents to let him go to a strict military high school, and in his adolescence, took his first solo trip to the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas.
As he grew older nothing changed with his resolution to join the U.S. Marine Corps, except that he had begun a rigorous weight-lifting and athletic regime and had even won 3rd place in the state body building championship. He was as ready as he could ever be, and despite all of the grueling training and the physical endurance required, he honestly thought that he had his entire life mapped out. He was a recon Marine, gung ho as they come, and eager to defend his country, wherever that would take him.
He had no idea that he was about to learn an earth-shattering life lesson--that life is never so easily controlled or planned. On a routine training session climbing a cliff, one of his favorite things to do and something that he had done numerous times, he made a slight mistake. A plunge of fifty feet left him with a seriously injured back. The next few days passed in a fog of pain and the growing realization that not only would he not be able to stay in the Corps, but that his body would probably never be the same. The honorable discharge was scant comfort, as he looked at his future and believed that it was as broken as he was.
But in his depression, another lesson awaited. The lesson that even after the most savage storm, there comes a time to rebuild, and that there is divine help, if we will only ask. At his lowest point, feeling like he wanted to die, he got on his knees and asked God to show him what to do with his life. He poured out his repeated questions, asking God why He had allowed this accident even to take place. The very next day, he went to his hometown college class, where one of his professors approached him, asking him if he might be interested in studying Buddhism in India.
Believing this is what God wanted him to do, he prepared and left for England, India, and Myanmar, where he would study Buddhism and ordain as a Buddhist monk. Brother David completed the program and returned home. During this time, he continued to refine his martial arts skills and took on work as a bouncer in a couple of popular local bars. Interestingly enough, his training as a monk actually came in handy; he was known as a man with extensive fighting skills and quiet force who was known for his ability to use calming words rather than his fists to de-escalate a heated situation. It was then, ironically, that people began to affectionately call him "Brother Dave." He graduated from college with a degree in philosophy and religious studies.
Still torn between his home and his passion for Eastern culture, Brother David returned to South Korea in 1999 where he worked as a visiting professor teaching English and Cultural Studies in the Center of International Studies at Chungbuk National University, while simultaneously pursuing his graduate degree in philosophy. His job was to prepare students to study in English speaking nations. He spent his weekends exploring ancient temples in the mountains surrounding his city, visited nearby Japan multiple times, and made scores of friends from all walks of life, including professors, politicians, missionaries, ex-pats, and martial arts champions. An avid student of Hapkido, (Korean kick-boxing), he competed in the Korean National Championships in Seoul, still admitting with a rueful chuckle that his winning competitor was 'really, really good.'
The horror of 911 sent him rushing home to the United States. Law enforcement was again a natural fit, and he accepted a position working as a reserve deputy sheriff and detention officer at the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, working with them for sixteen years. He was appointed to form the Yellowstone Valley Gang Task Force and to serve as its commanding officer for five years. Today, he is their chaplain. He served as the regional coordinator of the Northwest Gang Investigators Association, and the Information Liaison Officer to the Montana All Threats Intelligence Center.
During this time, he met his wife, Cory, and fell in love. God's timing is indeed perfect; to their surprise Brother Dave and Cory discovered they had many mutual friends and that their paths had crossed numerous times at school and at various jobs, but that they had never met previously, and in fact, did not recall each other at all. Cory still maintains that on their second date, she heard God whisper in her ear, "This is the one." They married in August of 2004.
God's ways are indeed mysterious, and Brother David found his way into chaplaincy while working as a transport officer. The nearest mental health hospital is over 200 miles away from where he resides in Billings, Montana, and he would often be tasked with driving a seriously disturbed individual up to the facility for help. Conversations are inevitable during such a long stretch, and he was surprised to find out how, even with the most delusional and psychotic, that so often the topics would turn to expressions of faith, despair, and the great question, 'why'. Suddenly, he began to see that chaplaincy could be a way to unite both sides of his personality--the warrior and the priest.
He began to take seminary classes, and while attending a chaplaincy academy, Brother David met Anglican Bishop Dr. Tim Klerekoper, a chance encounter that was to change his entire religious perspective. Completely fascinated by the bishop's intensive study and knowledge of the early Church, Brother David immersed himself in everything he could learn about this tradition, which is believed to be the closest to the practice of the early apostles. He was warmly embraced by the King of Glory Church in Seattle, Washington, and was made a deacon of the Anglican Church in 2013 and later a priest in 2015. Father Bill Shepard and Father Tim Whipple, along with Bishop Dr. Klerekoper, have become trusted mentors throughout the years.
Brother David has been assigned by Bishop Dr. Tim Klerekoper to lead St. John the Evangelist Anglican Mission in Billings, Montana. His mission is to work with law enforcement officers, veterans, prisoners, and gang members to bring them encouragement, support, and strength during times of trials and loss. His favorite oft-repeated motto is a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, "At all times, teach the Gospel and when absolutely necessary, use words." And that is what he wakes up every morning to do.
A primary component of Cory's calling is to redefine the 'prim and perfect' stereotype of the 'minister's wife'. She is passionate about the needs of Christian women today, and understands deeply the 'women at the well' types...because she has indeed been one. (The Woman at the Well is a story that appears in the book of John, Chapter 4. Jesus is talking with an outcast, promiscuous woman, and essentially shows her acceptance and understanding. His knowledge of who she really is transforms her and she resolves to ecstatically, joyfully, 'sin no more.' )
Although there are many influences that make up a human life, it could indeed be argued that in many aspects Cory's childhood reflected the turbulent, conflicted era in which she grew up. In the 1970s and '80s, when 'sexual liberation' and 'legal abortion' were promoted on feminist march signs around the nation, Cory was raped and nearly killed by a classmate at the age of 16. Like many women suffering from this trauma, she lost her way in self-hatred and looking for acceptance in casual sex, a dark path that culminated in an abortion the following year. She knows full well the impact of such a decision, and the after-effects of grief that have continued to plague her decades later. At the height of the Generation X phenomenon of sky-rocketing teen-age pregnancy, she graduated high school as a 17 year old bride, standing in her graduation robes holding her tiny new son. She married a man who was 19, and as ill-prepared for marriage as she was. The marriage, vulnerable from the start, was plagued with her husband's alcoholism, erratic income, abuse, and her own unresolved pain. At age 19, she gave birth to another son. What followed were many steps forward and many stumbles--especially in romantic relationships-- as she raised both her 'boys', now adult men. She was widowed at age 24 (her husband died of a brain anyeurism), while channeling her energies into a degree in psychology (Bachelor of Science). She graduated with an award for academic achievement, and other honors as a budding artist. Those years were where she learned to grow up quickly, develop a keen sense of frugality and the practical importance of homemaking, as well as develop the strength to stand by her sons through all sorts of trials. Her oldest son has graduated with a degree in history, and her youngest son is a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He is married, with twin daughters.
Although she was confirmed in the Lutheran church, Cory's faith was always deeply personal, and she has always struggled with the trappings of organized religion. She received Christ as her Saviour at the age of 9, Cory still talks to God out loud and informally when she is alone, as her constant companion, something she started as a lonely little girl chattering to Him on her swingset. She still marvels that His inexplainable grace not only rescued her from some very dangerous situations, but also seemed to protect her from becoming addicted when she abused drugs in her early years.
While she did work in a variety of psychology fields, including a domestic violence shelter and numerous charities, Cory has also been a nationally-shown artist for nearly twenty years. Her work ranges from the silly and sweet to socially hard-hitting works that pack quite a punch. She often uses her memories or current emotional states as foundational in the work. She is currently working on a series of paintings depicting women from the Bible.
Much of Cory's art deals with women, and for many years she thought of herself as feminist. Looking back, she has realized that she really misunderstood the movement. She mistakenly assumed that feminism was about supporting all women, including honoring the traditional woman and her role, a role which is not only Biblical, but has been a cross-cultural fundamental since the dawn of time. She thought women were already powerful and had made a profound civilizing impact throughout the centuries with their abilities to partner with their men and raise their children. She had no idea that so much of what she believed was diametrically opposed to current third-wave feminism.
For the past decade, Cory has been studying domestic history, and is an avid collector of anything that hearkens back to a less feminist past, from cheery June Cleaver aprons to cookbooks from the 1800s. She has 'returned home' and now follows the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 admonitions to work first as her husband's helpmate. In an economy that demands two incomes and in a culture where God's building blocks of 'gender' and 'family' are as changable as the newest designer fashion, staying home in a traditional marriage to tend to loved ones and make a serene home is indeed the stance of the radical. It is the place of someone constantly relying on His grace, and it is one that Cory has undertaken since 2013.
Cory's message is controversial to some women, and enormously reassuring to others. It is often intentionally misunderstood. Cory believes the sacred work of the submissive helpmate is the highest calling a Christian woman can undertake. It literally follows in the servant footsteps of Christ, and is the foundation of the family, a place of unbelievable, quiet power. It is a journey that comes from the heart and cannot be forced. Forcing women to stay home leads to abuse and discontent. But when the heart is willing, God blesses this decision, and the world has another tiny light in the darkness.