by Adam Gruenewald
It was about 10 years ago when retiring Emanuel Lutheran Pastor Don Andrix trusted himself and his faith on a motorcycle drive home.
Having always had dreamed of owning and riding a motorcycle and having received his license at the age of 60, Andrix was put to the test with a recently purchased used 2003 Honda Spirit motorcycle.
Deciding to avoid the highway and certainly fearful of riding the larger 1100cc cycle after having rode smaller 100cc cycles in a training course, his Google-aided route took him on stretches of gravel roads from Lakeville to Hamburg.
“So I’m going on there and I get to a spot and get lost,” said Andrix, selecting a back way on Highway 50 through Jordan, which he discovered too was also gravel. “I was going 20 miles per hour the entire way because I was scared to death of riding it. I just learned to develop it and I love it. I love to ride.”
Much like that ride, his faith has supported him his entire life and will continue to guide Andrix, 70, even though he has stepped down as pastor at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hamburg and pastor as well as pastor experiences at Zion Lutheran Church in Hardwick and his first experience at Trinity Lutheran Church in Janesville.
“It’s gotten stronger,” said Andrix of his faith in 44 years in ministry. “You see various examples of how God has worked.”
Originally from Chicago, Andrix, an only child, learned his calling from his blue collar parents Edwin and Lois and from several influential pastors and teachers as well.
“They did a fine job of training me to care about God, to love God and see God in so many little things in life,” he said of his parents.
In addition to lessons from his parents, Andrix explored his faith at Our Savior parochial school in Chicago and furthered his faith at a 6-year program at Concordia College high school and junior college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“I felt whenever I was thinking about being a minister things were going right for me,” said Andrix, who also considered architecture. “I feel like this was God’s way of directing me. The more I got into it, the more I felt this was God’s call.”
Andrix further confirmed his desire to be a minister in seminary at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis in clinical pastoral education at St. Louis State Hospital in the winter of 1971, encountering someone who challenged his faith.
“I really felt very much Jesus Christ is all,” he said. “I had to realize that. It was during that time when I felt that was what I wanted to do.”
After seminary, Andrix first started in Trinity in Janesville in July 1973, before serving as a minister in Hardwick since February 1984 and joining the Emanuel Lutheran community in October 1989.
It was at Emanuel Lutheran Church and School in Hamburg where Andrix truly put down roots in Hamburg and also in the Mayer Lutheran community with his family including wife Cheryl, also the church organist, and kids Todd, a teacher at Owatonna High School, and Joel, who works at Emerson Process Management.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Andrix. “We both love doing this work in serving the Lord and helping people grow closer and praising God.”
He also credited the staff and teachers at the school for their support.
“They do a fine job in helping people to grow in a close relationship and understanding of who Jesus is,” said Andrix.
As a pastor, Andrix has gotten involved in connecting with the faith community, celebrating accomplishments and helping parishioners during difficult times, where his faith has always guided him.
“To me it’s one of the things I’m going to miss the most,” he said, adding he has recently served as a chaplain at the Carver County Sheriff’s Department. “It just is nice to know that you’ve played a part in helping them draw closer to God and bring them courage when there has been sadness.”
Developing that faith community has been important to Andrix whether through working through decreases in the congregation from 777 to 584, being involved with the start and growth of the annual Ribfest event, maintaining relatively level enrollment at the small Lutheran school or even working with the design, the addition of the Sonshine House daycare in 2002 and also driving the completed construction of the narthex in 2001 that was encouraged by a letter he wrote at the time.
“These are the important features and people really felt that was a big persuasive thing to change them,” he said. “I felt very good about having accomplished that.”
Then there are the smaller, more personal, moments, like with a young girl who always wants a hug or another visitor with down syndrome who wants to feel Andrix’s cross.
“Just let him, it’s not like he’s trying to break off something,” said Andrix. “Then he gives me a hug and says thank you for being patient with me.”
Andrix thanked the congregation and said it will be good for them to have “new blood,” adding he is looking ahead to spending time with his family including four grandchildren, raising roses and orchids, fishing, golfing, focusing on his health and enjoying life.
Then there are his frequent motorcycle rides now on a 2008 Goldwin, an activity he will continually partake in taking short and long journeys in the area while always wearing a bright orange vest and a helmet.
His closest call on a motorcycle was in June 2012 when Andrix was heading home at night from a school board meeting.
“Off in the distance I saw a deer jump and I don’t know what happened but suddenly I’m 20 feet away and I saw the deer in the road again,” said Andrix. “The deer hit the front of my motorcycle and the whole side of the bearings is full of deer hair. That’s how close I came, but I stayed upright and I felt the hand of God. That had to be the hand of God, but otherwise it could have been a real disaster.”
On Sunday, Aug. 6, Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hamburg will celebrate with a service of installation for their newly called Pastor, Rev. Mark D. Triplett from Hayward, Wisconsin.
The worship service will be conducted at 4 p.m., with the rite of installation included.
Rev. David Triplett will deliver the message and President Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy of the Minnesota South District will be conducting the rite of installation.
Following the service, members will be joining in fellowship with a potluck chicken meal in the church fellowship hall.
In conjunction with this fellowship, members are having a pantry shower to show their appreciation and welcome Pastor Triplett, his wife Amy and their children including daughter Keziah, 3, and son Josiah, 1 1/2.
Various groups are giving gifts and individuals can join in as well.
Pantry shower gift ideas include food, spices, paper products and kitchen products.
Certainly gift cards or cash donations are always good choices as the Tripletts are settling into their new home.
For more information, visit www.elchamburg.org.
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.