God called me to pastor in Pablo, Montana, although I had not planned for it at first. In August 2014, my wife and I interviewed at a different church—First Church in northwest Montana—about an hour and a half from Pablo. We were made aware that the pastor in Pablo had retired a few months earlier, and the church had been anxiously searching for a new pastor. The district superintendent encouraged us to consider Pablo if something didn’t work out in the interview at First Church. We agreed, and before we interviewed at First Church, we took some time and drove to Pablo to get a feel for the area—just in case.
As we drove toward Pablo, feelings of despair seemed to creep in. We saw a road sign that directed us to turn onto an old highway that ran from north to south through the town. As we drove, we dodged potholes in the road and saw homes boarded up.
At one point, we saw a young girl walking along the side of the road, heading south. She was pushing her bicycle because both of its tires were flat. I couldn’t help but say, “How depressing and hopeless is this place! Look at her, she cannot even ride her bike.”
As soon as I said those words, the Lord spoke to me: “Matthew, if you aren’t willing to come and share hope, who will?”
After briefly looking around, we went back to First Church and completed our interview there. God made it clear that we weren’t supposed to go to First Church. So we interviewed in Pablo and accepted God’s prompting to serve in this area.
In January of 2015, we moved to Pablo. Later that summer, I decided to ride my bicycle to the post office, just a mile north of the church. Upon leaving the post office, I discovered that both of my bike tires were flat, just like that of the girl I had come across previously. As I walked my bicycle home, I complained and mumbled to myself, “How depressing is this…” Then God spoke again, “Remember why you are here!”
In preparation for our annual meeting (or Vision Sunday as we call it) during my first year at the church, I asked what the church had done to prepare for a new pastor in the year before I arrived. A board member spoke up and said, “Well, there were a few times that we gathered specifically to pray that God would call our next pastor.” I asked when those prayer gatherings were. They replied that they remembered one such prayer gathering and call for focused prayer August 14th. This was the same day that I encountered the girl on the bicycle—the first time I felt God calling me to Pablo. God is still refreshing and renewing our family’s call here. We could not be any happier for saying “yes” to God’s call to a beautiful spot with beautiful people to bring hope to northwest Montana.
Churches, keep praying. Pastors, keep listening. And keep riding bicycles, or walking them, if that’s how God wants to speak to us!
Matthew Connally is senior pastor of Pablo Church of the Nazarene in Pablo, Montana, USA.
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.