Nathan Wicks knew God needed to be at the center of his life, but struggled to determine just how that would look in his career. Wicks, a first year Master of Divinity student, says, “Throughout my life my sense of faith has taken on many difference forms. I have struggled with my sense of faith, and yet, I think even during those times I’ve come out of that knowing that God was there during the midst of those struggles. I can identify with Jacob wrestling with the angel; faith as a wrestling match and a struggle with God. God imparts a blessing in the midst of that struggle.”
Nathan, a son of two pastors, says, “The seeds of my faith life were planted very early on and very deep. The church has always been associated with a place of home for me.” After he attended Luther College and worked summers at church camp, he thought he would go to seminary right after college. However, through agricultural classes he took at Luther and while discerning his own deep questions about being called to where he felt God was already working, Nathan chose to pursue a career other than seminary right of college. “A quote I had in my mind at the time was by Fredrick Buechner, ‘the place God calls you is the place where your own deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ So I think I graduated from college seeking out what the world’s deep hunger really meant and a way to serve that with a confidence that God would be there and it would be a way of living out my discipleship.”
Most of Nathan’s questions and interests were pretty broad at the time, but were centered on environmental justice so he eventually found himself working on a farm. He went to southern California to be close to Sarah, who is now his wife, and started farming. “This sense of needing to serve the world’s deep hunger took shape while working on the farm. I felt great satisfaction doing that and considered that as a call at the time and a way of fulfilling my discipleship,” shared Nathan.
Nathan and Sarah worked on the farm together for a year in California and then moved to Decorah, Iowa to start their own marketing garden. They grew five acres of vegetables for farmers markets in Decorah and Cedar Rapids, as well as, ran a Customer Supported Agriculture Farm. “We really tried to make a go of it. We worked a lot, worked really hard, and found out it was very difficult. We discovered the truism that farming is never easy. We tried to work with what we had to make things work as much as possible by looking into other ways of farming. I looked into grazing dairy farming and Sarah started working another job at Luther College to try to make ends meet.” In the midst of that they were able to start a family and had the birth of their son, Karl, in 2013. While continuing to struggle and trying to maintain farming as a calling, and to integrate fully into his faith life – Nathan admitted it wasn’t working.
Nathan initially started considering farming as a calling and living out his sense of faith through farming. As he struggled trying to make that work he said, “Farming took my life over and I started to seek ways of success, self-sufficiency, and meaning for my life in the ways the world defined and not the ways God was defining it. Faith moved farther to the periphery of my life, whereas, in the beginning it was definitely central. I realized I need to pursue life with faith at the center if I was going to maintain any hope of bearing in fruit in the world.”
“I’m excited for the future of the church and I know that in 10 to 15 years the church will look completely different from what it looks like right now. While that is kind of scary thing in a lot of ways, it is also a really exciting thing to be a part of because I think that the gospel and the need for the gospel to be heard and lived in the world is not going to go away. I think that training leaders to hear what the gospel is in their place and time and to listen to what the gospel has meant to people in the past and to understand what that means for the future. It will be an exciting thing to be a part of and I’m looking forward to being formed into what God is doing in the world through the church.”