It was a very sad day. Moving day in January 1987. We had made the decision to trust God and look for God’s provision as He led us. And circumstances were such that the only job that opened up at the time was a sales job back home in Iowa City. So here we were at the beginning of 1987, leaving all of our friends back in Evanston, driving westward on I-80 toward Iowa, preparing to move in with my parents in Iowa City. Fortunately, God sent two wonderful signs of His promise to us. First, there was a beautiful rainbow that spread over the western horizon as we drove into Iowa. In January, you just don’t see that many rainbows in the Midwest! Secondly, for most of the 5 hour trip from Evanston to Iowa City, Sandy felt this gentle hand on the back of her head, pushing her westward!
Who knows if my early Boller ancestors saw a similar rainbow or felt a supernatural push from God on the back of their heads as they pushed westward from Germany to the USA in 1816, or from Pennsylvania to Wayne County, Ohio in 1823, or from Ohio to Johnson County, Iowa in 1853? All I can tell you today is that during one of the hardest seasons of our lives, Sandy and I knew that God was with us as we relocated back to Iowa. I truly believe our family has been totally transformed and blessed because of that work of God that took us from our comfortable home in Evanston, IL back home to Johnson County, Iowa in January 1987.
3105 Raven Ct. Iowa City.
As it turned out, these Iowa City years (1987-1990) were probably the most difficult years of our lives. Sometimes I call it our ‘desert years’. While God had clearly given us a strong signal that He was with us as we moved to Iowa City, He still had many lessons to teach me about doing ministry and how ministry is all about Jesus and not about us.
The sales job that brought us to Iowa City quickly dissolved within a few months. The job was with a company called Nasco. At first, it looked promising. I was to sell fund-raising programs to schools utilizing nice quality school logo apparel. Yet when I hit the road in January 1987, I wasn’t prepared for all the ‘no’s’ or ‘maybe’s’ as I made cold-call sales pitches to band directors and football coaches around eastern Iowa. By April, I had made barely any income and if it weren’t for the gracious support from my mom and dad, we would have faced bankruptcy by year’s end!
By April, I found another sales-related job (Management Recruiters) that put me in an office setting where I recruited people for management positions in business. While I did make a bit more money the rest of 1987 (I believe our gross income for that year was less than $3,000!) the road continued to be a hard and difficult one for us. Again, if my dad and mom hadn’t kept us afloat, we would have lost our lovely home at 3105 Raven Court.
While Sandy and I were in this wilderness desert, the one joy in our lives was our growing family life. David, Debbie, Jenny, and John were all growing up quickly and making new friends in our Iowa City neighborhood. Sandy worked a variety of part-time jobs to help put some more food on the table and in many ways we know God was giving us a special few years to be close to my mom and dad before they passed away in 1991 and 1994.
We decided to plug into St. Andrew Presbyterian, my parent’s home church, and found lots of wonderful people there. While it was a great place for relationships, the style of ministry and worship was very different from what we were used to in our church home back in Evanston. Wanting to make the best of what we had, I talked with the pastor of St. Andrew’s about my growing, inward call to ministry and he encouraged me to go to seminary. So again, with the financial backing of my supportive parents, I left my job at Management Recruiters and signed up to be a full-time seminary student at Dubuque Seminary, a Presbyterian-based school in Dubuque, Iowa.
So on Monday mornings beginning in January 1988, I’d pack up my car and drive off to Dubuque, staying there through Thursday morning before returning back home to Iowa City. Sandy did a wonderful job in keeping our home in one piece while I was plugging into my studies. With my call to ministry in my heart, I was, on one hand, enjoying the coursework immensely. I listened to John Wimber cassette tapes (founding pastor of the Vineyard Church movement) in the car as I drove to and from Dubuque while I hob-knobbed with straight-laced evangelical Presbyterian scholars and seminary students from Monday to Thursday morning. In the process, God began to encourage me that He was still there and helping me get to the place I wanted to be in full-time ministry. This route wasn’t my first choice, but it was so much better than trying to sell fund-raisers to band directors (Nasco) or trying to match-make business people with human resource managers (Management Recruiters)!
In 1988, with the blessing of our friends back in Evanston, IL, we started Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Iowa City, and while it had its ups and downs, we learned so much as we pastored our first church on our own. Yet despite the forward progress with my seminary studies and the church-plant, a dark cloud was still surrounding us. For one thing, there was a limit to my parent’s ability to finance us in school. As my first semester was coming to a close, it was obvious that I just couldn’t keep pulling so much income from my parents without hurting them, so we began pursuing other options. Reluctantly, I dropped out of seminary so I could find some employment, which God graciously provided through jobs, first with The Hawk Shop in Iowa City; which then led to an office job with the Admissions Office of the University of Iowa. While not positions in the type of church work I dreamed of, I did enjoy being a Hawkeye, working at the center of it all in downtown Iowa City!
800 14th St SE in Cedar Rapids.
By spring 1990, we decided to sell our home in Iowa City and bought a more affordable home at 800 14th Ave SE in Cedar Rapids. We packed up our mini-van and in June, 1990 became the proud owners of a nicely renovated home built in 1908, located directly across the street from McKinley Middle School (where David attended in the fall of 1990).
The kids in our new home in Cedar Rapids.
This move to Cedar Rapids in 1990 was definitely a God-directed decision. By October, my mom had gotten very sick with lung problems and died on December 31, 1990 (one day before her 68th birthday). Her death was very hard on my dad and with the loss of her retirement pension, my dad’s retirement income could never have sustained both his home and ours in Iowa City. By 1994, my Dad had run out of steam as well and he gently passed away in his sleep during the evening hours of Easter Sunday, 1994.
Our days at River of Life.
In September 1991, Pastor Francis Frangipane of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids asked me to come on staff full-time, fulfilling my long dream of finally being involved with full-time pastoral ministry! What a blessing! In the process, our years at River of Life exposed us to many wonderful ministry opportunities that we would have never had in Iowa City. I was not only an associate pastor, serving a growing congregation in a variety of ways, but it was at River of Life where God restored Sandy and me in our deep love of music.
During our time at the church, Sandy & I led a lot of worship and we even had the opportunity to produce a worship tape, One Desire, (see pic above) that was made up of songs we had written! If you’re lucky there still might be a few unsold copies of that ‘classic’ still floating around the family tree! Keep in mind that it’s David Boller who is worshipping on that cassette cover!
The Boller clan in the 1990’s.
Maybe the biggest blessing of all at River of Life was the fact that our children were truly encouraged to explore both their musical abilities and spiritual interests as they grew up in Cedar Rapids. David and Debbie, being the oldest, were particularly blessed by developing their strong musical abilities in worship and even traveled to Israel with ministry teams from River of Life! Jenny and John saw the many opportunities their older brother and sister were experiencing through music and found it easy to follow in their footsteps as they grew up as well!
1995-2000 Promise Keepers.
One of the exciting aspects of my pastoral job at River of Life was that I was able to involve myself with city-wide church activities such as March for Jesus and Promise Keepers. The church released me to coordinate city-wide efforts that brought churches and pastors together for the common purpose of glorifying Jesus. As we gave more attention toward these city-wide efforts, eventually Promise Keepers (a men’s ministry that began in 1994 bringing thousands of men into major stadiums across the USA for worship and encouragement) asked me to come on staff with them as a ministry coordinator for Iowa and the Midwest.
From January 1995 through January 2000, I was blessed to travel throughout the great Midwest, bringing together men and pastors to encourage men’s ministry in local churches. I spoke at countless rallies and training events around the state, taking all I had learned from both my Vineyard and Promise Keepers training to equip and empower hundreds of men into lay ministry in their local churches and communities.
1998-present – Father’s House Vineyard Church & Sustainable Faith.
Though my Promise Keepers job would extend to 2000, by 1997, I was praying seriously about returning to the Vineyard family, getting back into pastoral ministry and possibly planting a new Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids. We had kept close tabs with the Vineyard family throughout our River of Life and Promise Keeper years, so on January 1, 1998, we birthed our second Vineyard church in Iowa! Father’s House Vineyard Church – Cedar Rapids!
As I write this short update in 2018, our Vineyard community is now 20 years old and has gone through an array of transitions throughout that time. We’ve seen so many miraculous ways God has sovereignly led this group of people in Cedar Rapids who are desiring to follow Jesus of Nazareth, wherever He might lead us.
On June 23, 2020, after 30 years of doing pastoral ministry in Cedar Rapids, it’s now time to put a period at the end of the sentence. Read more by clicking on the link below:
So, what are we doing today? In 2013, Sandy & I began exploring more of the inner life in Christ, joining with the training ministry Sustainable Faith. Today, we now travel extensively, teaching and equipping others in the ancient ministry of Christ-centered spiritual direction. You can read more about all God is currently doing in our lives by visiting our website:
So that’s our story…and we’re sticking to it. If you want more details about any of the stuff we shared here, take us out for a great cup of coffee (yes…we are coffee snobs) and we’ll chat.
Now, please click on this link to read my concluding thoughts and hear about my two dreams for 2016…