BROWNSTOWN — When Joel Meyer was a teen growing up in a small town in rural Texas, he thought he wanted to become an airplane pilot.
God, however, had a different plan for the 38-year-old man and that plan put him on a journey that recently brought him to minister to a small rural church just a few miles southeast of the county seat.
Meyer, who was installed as pastor on the afternoon of Dec. 12 at St. Paul Lutheran Church Wegan, said he doesn’t have any regrets about his decision to become a minister instead of a pilot.
If you take a look at Meyer’s family, it’s not surprising he wound up becoming a pastor.
Meyer grew up in the small town of Walburg, Texas, about an hour north of Austin.
“It’s not as big as Brownstown … it was kind of out in the country,” he said. “It had a gas station, a post office and a bank.”
Walburg also had a Lutheran school, and Meyer’s dad, who passed away in 2002 when Meyer was just 16, was principal and a teacher there. His mom also taught there.
“She played the organ in church,” he said. “I grew up there, and I was confirmed in 1998.”
His brother, who is about 10 years older, also is a pastor.
“As a kid watching him grow and develop and go through college and seminary, dad always said I should be a teacher someday,” Meyer said. “I said ‘No I don’t want to be a teacher.’ So in high school I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do, I thought I wanted to become a pilot and fly airplanes.”
“That’s kind of where I was headed. Because my brother and sister had gone to Concordia, I always got their mailings.”
His sister is a Lutheran school teacher and several aunts also were Lutheran teachers. A couple of uncles where pastors.
“I had a lot of influence and then I kept getting these mailings from Concordia in Austin,” Meyer said. “And then I would throw them away.”
Those mailings urged people to enroll in the church work program at the university to become a pastor.
“One day I got one in the mail that said the next day was the deadline to apply,” Meyer said. “I just kind of thought God was gifting me a little message there. I told my mom I thinking I was going to go ahead and fill out the application.”
So he applied online. The next day they called and he scheduled a visit.
Although his decision to apply surprised his mother, Meyer said she was happy about it and encouraged him.
So in the fall of 2002 he enrolled and entered the pre-seminary program at Concordia University in Austin.
“I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and biblical languages,” he said. “That was my focus.”
Meyer then went off to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
“I did my vicarage in 2008 and 2009 in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, at Immanuel Lutheran Church and graduated from the seminary in 2010,” he said.
His first call was to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hopeville, California, about two hours east of San Diego.
“I spent four years out there, and then I received a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Prairie City, Missouri,” he said. “Prairie City is really like Wegan. It was out in the country. Church and a school. I was there for about seven and a half years.”
Meyer said he’s always lived in the country in places like Wegan where there’s plenty of agriculture activity.
“It’s kind of what I’m use to and what I know,” he said.
Meyer said his decision to accept the call to Wegan came about for several reasons.
“First and foremost, I felt like it was a call and a position as a pastor that I could fulfil the duties that Wegan was asking me to do,” he said. “After we visited and had the chance to meet a handful of people and see the area, I really felt like it was a place that would be good to continue raising our family, and of course, it doesn’t hurt that Rebecca is from Sauers.”
His wife is Rebecca Pollert, who was born and raised in Seymour. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Miriam.
“It was definitely a draw to be closer to one family,” Meyer said. “My mom’s in Texas and my brother and a sister are in Texas and then I have another sister in Florida.”
Meyer met his wife, who is a registered nurse, through a Facebook group for single Lutherans. Their long-distance courtship required meetings in St. Louis.
“I had an aunt and uncle who lived in St. Louis and she had a sister that lived in Arnold, which is just south of St. Louis,” he said. “So we would meet for a weekend.”
They married in June of 2018 and Miriam was born the next year.
Meyer conducted his first service at Wegan on Dec. 19.
“It’s been great so far,” he said. “We’ve been welcomed with open arms. I can tell its a caring and loving group of people who are faithful and committed to God’s word and eager to receive the gifts that he gives us.”