The Rev. Ken Ediger, pastor of North Oak Community Church, was leading a discussion at a pastor’s conference last summer when another pastor stood up and said he had recently retired and he hated it.
Ediger said the man’s comment startled everyone in the room and caused Ediger himself to do some serious thinking.
Both Ediger and his wife, Rachel, were approaching 65, and he had been talking to the lay leaders at his church about his desire to transition into retirement for the past couple of years.
But now the couple decided that instead of retiring, they would focus on “repurposing” their lives. That led to a decision to leave North Oak, the church they have served for 31 years, to pursue a new adventure in the Arabian Peninsula.
The church, 3000 Oak St., will be saying goodbye to the Edigers on Saturday. Those who know the couple are invited to a special program at the church beginning at 2 p.m., with a reception to follow from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Ken Ediger said, “We are continuing our work; we’re just changing locations.”
That new work will involve ”consulting and coaching expatriates” at the new home they will be moving into in September. The couple’s last day at North Oak is July 31.
“Our goal is to make this about welcoming guests into a home atmosphere for rest, refreshment, renewal and returning to their work,” Ken Ediger said, adding the couple will also be hosting seminars and conferences.
The home will serve an average of 16 people per day with lodging and meals. It was established in May 2002 by Rachel’s sister and her husband, who had previously lived in Saudi Arabia for 17 years. The house features 12 guest rooms, a dining room, library, pool and outdoor places for guests to rest and relax.
Ken Ediger said after they became aware last summer of the opportunity to take over the host duties at the home, he and his wife prayed about the move and visited the home before making the decision to go for it this past February.
In a letter to church members in March, the Edigers wrote, “We marvel at God’s clear call to this, overcoming our hesitations and even excuses.”
In a recent interview, he said the couple felt definitive guidance from God in accepting this new challenge.
“The fact that we could look back and see how our lives had been prepared for this. The hand of God had prepared us for many years. We have given God many opportunities to close doors, and he hasn’t. Plus, the congregation (at North Oak) has been very affirming.”
The couple has two daughters, Sara and Joshua Froese of Wichita and Nicole and Jonathan Iman, who live in Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. The couple has five grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 12.
The Edigers’ new home is just an hour from the Imans, which, Rachel Ediger said, was another big incentive for the couple. The daughter in Wichita and her family will be traveling to spend Christmas in the United Arab Emirates this year, so the whole family will get to spend Christmas together, Rachel Ediger added.
She said she is looking forward to traveling throughout the region and learning about new cultures.
Ken Ediger said he is looking forward to “the challenge of entering into a new team with new people and the change in routine.”
Ken Ediger is only the second pastor North Oak has had. When he arrived at the church in 1988, the church membership was about 80 people, and he was the sole pastor. The church supported one global missionary.
Today, North Oak averages between 300 and 400 in attendance on any given Sunday. The church has added an associate pastor, youth minister, and children’s ministry director and supports 15 global workers.
The church has undergone physical expansion as well. A new sanctuary and classroom wing were the latest of those additions in 2006.
But, Rachel Ediger said, “Accomplishments in ministry are different than buildings and numbers.” She said to her the most satisfying part of the couple’s ministry at North Oak has been “doing life with families. Walking with Jesus for a long period of time is very satisfying.”
Ken Ediger echoed that sentiment, noting that over the past three decades he has married couples, dedicated their children to the Lord, watched their children grow, visited family members in the hospital, and later performed funeral services.
“The development of extended relationships with people and their families that extends across the generations, that’s the most satisfying thing,” he said of his time at North Oak.
He added if he has one legacy he hopes it is the fact that every Sunday’s sermon has come from the Bible. “I believe that people believe when they come to North Oak that the main curriculum will always be the Bible.”
Still he said he hopes the church does not get stuck in the “Pastor Ken culture.”
“I hope that North Oak will continue to be Bible centered and able to reach people in ways that connect with new generations and new culture.
“I have never been the CEO who ran the church. The congregation runs the church. I am a minister among ministers. We’ve equipped the people to do the ministry.”