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Zach Schaeffer is no stranger to Vandalia. He was a resident here since the age of 5, was a member of the 1000-point club at Vandalia Community High School, and now, is the full time pastor at First Church of God, just off of Route 185 north, on Thrill Hill Road.
Zach had a normal childhood, and as a youth, he dreamed, as many young boys do, of becoming a policeman. However as a junior in high school, he says that he felt God’s calling to enter the ministry, and after graduating high school, attended Trinity International University in Deerfield.
However Zach’s mother knew he was going to be called to ministry.
He relates a story she told him when he was a child and they were attending the former church location at the southwest part of Vandalia. He says that every Sunday, he would be asked by Brother Pickens to fill up his cup with water in preparation for his sermon. After setting the water on the pulpit, Zach said his mother told him he could be seen pretending to preach to a make believe congregation.
He began pastoring as a part-time youth minister at 18, and then spent eight years in the Bloomington area before spending six years running a youth camp in the Mt. Zion area.
“I was asked by the, state bishop to take over the campground, primarily attended by youth, and used by civic organizations,” Zach said. “My wife and I moved there. It was hard work and a difficult time, and I served around 5,000 youth and people each year. Then COVID hit. The camp was dependent on the business revenue and the camp was not making any money during this time.”
Coincidentally, Zach was serving as a part-time youth minister at the area church, and when the board of directors of the camp decided to sell, he spoke with his church, who decided to purchase the property.
During the closure on the property, the Vandalia church found itself without a pastor, and Zach was again contacted by the bishop and was asked if he would consider being the interim pastor at the church, knowing that Zach was originally from the area.
The couple relocated to the area in April, with Zach serving as interim pastor.
In August, Zach says he began looking at what was in my horizon and the church began looking for its next pastor. Both sides began to pray on their respective issues, and both sides felt that this was where God wanted Zach to be.
“I thought that since I had never been around family, this might be the perfect time to slow life down and minister in a place that I was familiar with,” he explained.
When he left college he jokingly promised his wife, Megan, that they would not move here.
“During college, we would visit and she thought that there was nothing to do here,” Zach said. “Now, it is more and more enticing to raise a family in a community like this. We’re excited!” he exclaimed.
He and his wife have a daughter, Mackenzie, 9, and a son, Sam, 7, and are in the process of adopting twin girls. Zach has already began to get reintegrated into the community, having coached here.
“As an interim pastor, my goal was just to get the church to the next point. In talking with the elders, we both understand this is a perfect opportunity for a restart – listening to God and what he desires us to do here. As God reveals a need, we will fill it,” Zach says.
Of course a children’s ministry is one of those needs, as well as ministering to families, showing them how to live out their faith in today’s world.
“We want to be open for the community, love people and present to them the realization of God’s love,” he said. “I felt like when I was growing up, I didn’t feel like I was a great example of what God desired. I have always had the guilt that I didn’t do more, done better. I feel like God is giving me a second chance to be who I am to this community who helped raise me.”