Pastor Jennifer Hageman
Meet Pastor Jen
Ever get a song stuck in your head? Since seeing the movie “Cars,” I’ve had “Life is a highway, I’m goin’ drive it all night long…” in my head. Just those words and a catchy tune-good for foot and steering wheel tapping. Fitting, too. If I were to characterize my life, it would be as one long road trip. Whether for vocation, vacation, or mission I love a road trip.
It started with my dad’s vocation. He worked for what I lovingly call “M-O-B-I-L-E” Oil. Essentially, it was corporate itineracy. Dad’s work took us from the Rockies to the Appalachians and from the state of Mississippi to the state famous for Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.
Family vacations were also a source of many road trips, North Carolina to California, both the Disney parks, camping on beaches and by mountain streams; and even visits to Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.
Following college in South Dakota, I headed back to my home town of Denver, Colorado. I spent nine months caring for my grandmother, as she recovered from a hip fracture. During this time, I attended the Denver Paralegal Institute. After completion of the program, I began the job hunt. It was not long until I was confronted with the phrase “3 to 5 years experience required.” Grandma had recovered so once again I hit the road—going where the jobs were. Over the next three years, I lived in two small towns—one on the plains of Nebraska and the other on the western slope of Colorado. Having finally accumulated the requisite experience, I moved back to Denver and a year later to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I worked and lived for sixteen years.
Vocationally settled, I still loved a good road trip. Death Valley. Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon. Rafting the Snake River. Hiking in the Little Horn Mountains. Swimming in the Gulf.
Life is a highway and I have enjoyed the drive. I have seen many places-some plain, some spectacular–but what I have enjoyed all the more are the people I have encountered along the way. I am a people person to the core. I’ll strike up a conversation with a friend or a stranger at the drop of a hat. Whether it be at the grocery store or sitting at the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise, no one is safe.
I have been this way since I was a child. It was not unusual for my parents to find me at a neighbor’s house chatting away. Some things never change. I still spend quite a bit of time getting to know my neighbors over coffee or while our dogs play. I love to hear people’s stories.
At this point, I’m going to back up a bit. I’ve spoken of my vocation and vacation road trips, but have yet to mention mission. In my early travels, my awareness of God was fleeting at best. That changed when my travels took me to Craig, Colorado. There I felt the presence of God so acutely that I joined the United Methodist Church. I’d need a lot more paper and time to express how 21 months can transform a life.
When vocation finally took me to Las Vegas, I was eager to learn and to grow in my faith. I joined Green Valley UMC and there my call to the ordained ministry unfolded. It began with a mission trip to Guaymas, Mexico. I had never been out of the country and had never seen such poverty. Later, I chaperoned a SSP trip to Happy Camp, California. Yes, I was a Happy Camper for a week and I bought the T-shirt to prove it. Subsequent mission/ministry opportunities took me to Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Eastern Montana. While in seminary, I interned at a nursing home and participated in leading a weekly worship service at a men’s minimum security prison.
As I indicated, I am a people person-have been and always will be. Most of my life, the people I encountered were like me-white, middle class. Some were younger, some older, but still like me. Then I became aware of God. Life’s highway opened up before me. I realized how many stories remained to be heard–stories that over time have shattered biases, increased understanding and ignited my passion for mercy and justice.
Life’s highway now brings me to Yuma and the people of Gila Mountain UMC. You too have stories to tell and we have stories we have yet to write together. I look forward to being your pastor and to the journey we are about to share.
Grace and peace,