When I broke my leg last summer and was at a really low point, I was visited at my home by Waynedale United Methodist Church Pastor Mike Harris. He seemed to know just what to say to me and his friendly visit and words of encouragement helped me make it through a very difficult time.
I am one of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people whose lives have been touched by Pastor Harris during the 16 years he has led Waynedale United Methodist Church. Pastor Mike, as many know him, will be retiring from the ministry at the end of June.
His last service at Waynedale was on June 15. The church had only one service that day, followed by a Retirement Celebration for Pastor Mike.
Pastor Mike considers himself fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve both the Waynedale United Methodist Church and Waynedale community. Waynedale, he said, is "a very happy place with a good group people wanting to serve the Lord."
Being pastor of a medium-sized church involves much more than delivering a sermon on Sunday morning. It includes caring for and meeting the needs of those in the congregation, as well as those in the community.
During his time at Waynedale, Pastor Mike has experienced the joy of performing numerous baptisms and weddings and has consoled and grieved with families and friends during the many funerals he has conducted. He spent many hours visiting and praying with those who were hospitalized.
Under Pastor Mike's leadership, the local Church's outreach has included a food bank and free community dinners. Pastor Mike looks back fondly at the Church Summer Festivals as one of his favorite and fun church events. He took a special interest in the young people of the church and spent many hours working with the Church youth group.
Another special interest of Pastor Mike has been the Church Praise Band. The Praise Band grew from Pastor Mike and a few members taking guitar lessons and then forming into a band. Some of the original group still plays with the band, but Pastor Mike has given up the guitar for now. He hopes to take up guitar again after his retirement, although he said he doubts if he will ever be a rock star.
Pastor Mike is a native of Marietta, Ohio, along the Ohio River. He moved to Fort Wayne in his junior year in high school. He graduated from North Side, where he met his wife, Barb, and Indiana University Bloomington where he studied microbiology.
Instead of becoming a scientist after graduation, Pastor Mike entered seminary at Garrett Evangelical in Evanston, Illinois. He said he was driving on I-69 one day when "an awareness as real as could be came over me that I was going to Seminary." Before coming to Waynedale, Pastor Mike served at a Church in Roanoke and another United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.
Barb and Mike Harris have two adult children, a granddaughter and a dog, named Molly. Daughter, Carrie Mikaloff, is the children's librarian at the Waynedale library, and son, Ben, does volunteer work for the Waynedale UMC Food Bank.
Pastor Mike said he has no particular plans for retirement other than working in the new raised garden beds he just built and, of course, playing the guitar. He and Barb will continue to reside in the Waynedale area. The new pastor, Ted Jansen, who comes from Auburn First United Methodist Church, will begin his duties at Waynedale on July 13.