Arc of Dreams: Pastor Wheeler's opportunity to lead

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Design work is progressing on the 'Arc of Dreams' project: the completed sculpture will span the Big Sioux River between 6th and 8th Streets in downtown Sioux Falls.

While it recognizes those who came to Sioux Falls to make their dream come true, it's also meant to inspire future generations to live big and dream big....right here.

Tonight the story of one couple who never thought Sioux Falls would be part of their life story.

On a weekly basis, nearly 2,000 people converge at Central Church in Sioux Falls to hear Pastor Jeff Wheeler. "The real of life steals our hope. The real of life encourages us to quit. The real tells us we will never get there."

For the last 7 years, Wheeler has served here as lead pastor.
He's become well known in the Sioux Falls community.
But Wheeler never though he'd be here. "We didn't know anything about South Dakota but except Mount Rushmore where we had vacationed a number of times with our family."

"From living in Illinois we had a context for winters and weather." Jeff and his wife Shirlene had moved a couple of California and Illinois....for Jeff's career.

"For many of those years I was an Associate Pastor. That means I wasn't the lead pastor. i didn't preach all the time. I had other responsibilities in the church." Wheeler's goal was to be a lead preach help people understand their faith and their place in the world. He tells me it didn't come from a place of ego but from a calling he felt inside. "I imagine it's like anyone in any profession when they realize that what they are doing is what they were called to do. When their gifts, their passion, their vision all come together."

But it wasn't happening.
Seven years ago, he and Shirlene were living in their native southern California with Jeff looking for opportunities to lead a congregation but those opportunities were seemingly not there.
Wheeler was ready to throw in the towel. "I thought that is never going to happen in my life."

One afternoon Wheeler was sitting in a church, thumbing through his Bible and came upon a verse that turned everything around. "God said to Joshua this day I am going to begin to put you into a position of significant leadership and God just breathed into my spirit. It's not over."

A few months later, Wheeler's phone rang. It was Central Church wanting him to be lead pastor. "I am not sure why I am emotional this morning."

A few weeks ago, on Palm Sunday....Wheeler shared this story with his congregation and couldn't contain his sense of gratitude for this opportunity in a city that had never been on his radar....but a city that has made all the difference. "There is no way to explain the joy, the fulfillment, the sense of God created me for this and he put me in this place as such a time as this to have this kind of impact."

"You feel a sense of purpose because you know God's called you here for a season to make an impact on other people."

"This church for me has been above and beyond far more than anything I could have asked or imagined or thought."

Pastor Wheeler tells me he believes the growth Sioux Falls is seeing right now is a good thing -- but the challenge is making sure that growth leads to a positive community.