It may not be the ultimate earthly sacrifice, but it’s a darn big one that O’Fallon’s new First United Methodist Church’s Reverend Don Long Jr. and his family have made to accommodate taking over as new pastor at the local church.
“We are one family in two locations this year, and it’s tough but we make it work,” Long said.
If you’re wondering why they need two houses it’s not just for pleasure.
Long and his wife Becky have decided to live apart for their eldest son’s education and quality of life for his last year of high school in Alton.
Becky, is a kindergarten teacher, and the couple’s eldest son Deven are still living in Godrey, Ill., where she will remain teaching for the 2016-17 school year.
“One of the challenges is being seperated during the weekdays, but we’re only 45 minutes away, so it’s not too bad,” Long said.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me ‘you are doing the right thing, making such a sacrifice for your son, he said.’”
“We didn’t want to face moving and uprooting him after he had been in the Alton school district for 12 years since kindergarten, so we chose to let him stay on familiar ground,” Long said.
After 40 years of service to First UMC, Rev. Ron Dickinson retired in July. That’s when Long, and his youngest son Zachary, moved to O’Fallon prior to reporting to their new posts — dad at church and son, across the street at the OTHS Smiley Street campus as an incoming freshman.
As a United Methodist pastor, Long said, “we are referred to as itinerent, which we are appointed to churches, and we move at the discretion of our bishop and cabinet.”
He served as a a senior pastor at Godfrey’s First UMC for 12 years, before being reappointed to O’Fallon.
With the demanding schedules of high school marching band, Long said he’s still adjusting to being a solo band dad for his youngest.
“I’m still getting used to being a marching band parent. It’s very time consuming, which I totally understand,” Long said.
Long said, one neat quark that has emerged from the family being in different school districts, and towns altogether is both his sons will be competing against one another during marching band competitions.
“So it’s been interesting to say the least, but we try to have fun with it,” Long said.
Long said he and his family enjoy spending intimate family meals together when they can, as well as he loves hiking in God’s lands like the Grand Canyon, and next hopefully Glacier National Park. He also just returned from Chicago after attending a Cubs baseball game.
“I’m a Cubs fan in Cardinal country, but I’m not a hater, in fact I’ve gone to some St. Louis Cardinal games here already and plan on taking the family soon as well. I just really love the sport. It is America’s favorite past time,” Long said with a laugh.
On the professional side, Long said he anticipates getting to know his congregation better as he gets more settled into his role at the church.
“I have a saying, ‘if you ain’t growin,’ I’m goin’,” Long said.
“Our task is to share the gospel in a way that live are changed by it and if we ever stop doing that we aren’t fulfilling our purpose,” he said.
He said he likes to listen to people so he knows where to push.
“Comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable is something that helps keep me grounded too. We can become distracted and that’s when we loose focus. So I like to push and poke to get people out of that rut that sometimes creeps up on us without warning, and reach for more,” Long said.
A Bible verse Corinthians 1:9 that Long said resonates for him is, “I will become all things to all people that by all means that I may win some for Christ.”
“I do this for the sake of the gospel, and have lived by that for a long time. I like to have fun in faith and I think that’s an important message to serve with the gospel,” Long said.
Meet Rev. Don Long Jr.:
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: It’s not about me. Love God with everything, and love others as God loves.
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: I have great admiration for my father. He’s been an example of so much good in my life, and has offered a witness of the grace, trust, and purpose for God in the way he lives.
Q: If you could meet a famous person, past or present, who would it be and why?
A: Martin Luther King, Jr. So I could ask him, “from where does your help come?” King was a man of our time and history in America who most embodies, in my estimation, what it would have been to experience Jesus. He lived with grace, purpose, and a deep conviction in the pursuit of justice for all humanity. He struggled to bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.
Q:What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: I like to hike, fish, go to baseball games, spend time with my family, and clean.
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: My desktop is usually clear and clean, especially if my schedule if full, and my stress level is up… I clean and organize to relax. I know, it’s crazy, but my wife loves it.
Q:What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: At one point in my life, I wanted to work of Wall Street, and make my first million by the time I was 30. Later I wanted to be a psychiatrist, until I answered the “call” into ministry.
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: My most outstanding characteristic is my optimism for life, and my fascination and curiosity about it, including the people I encounter in life. I greatly enjoy learning new things, and meeting new people.
Q: What irritates you most?
A: I’m most irritated by injustice and selfish behavior—often the root of much of the injustice in the world.
Q:What type of music do you listen to?
A: Jazz, Big Band, Rock (especially eighties “hair-band”), Swing, Techno, Classical, Alternative, and Contemporary Christian. I like most music though.
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: I would be a missionary in Guatemala, or another foreign place.