Heartbreaking Discovery in Helix

Posted in: Director's Blog
Tags: , , ,
Date: January 5, 2009

With a sense of urgency, our Village Missionary broke through the door.  What he found inside was heartbreaking.  Village Missionary Greg “Mac” McCallum told his congregation what he discovered in an e-mail.

I have to share some bad news with you.  This morning Mr. Petersen didn’t show up for our weight training class.

Mr. Petersen taught PE to students in grades 4 through 12 and social studies in their local school.  Mac went on . . .

After knocking on his door with no response, I dismissed the kids and went home.  Two hours later the school called me and said he still had not shown up.  I’m very sad to tell you when I broke through his door I found he had shot himself. 

This tragedy stunned the small town of Helix, Oregon.  It shocked the high school students and staff, and deeply saddened the entire community.  I wrote about this event in a previous blog without identifying the town, If the Church Had Closed, but now the information is public. 

John Petersen had been raised in Salem and graduated from Western Oregon State College, now Western Oregon University and Willamette University’s College of Law.  He was 38 years old . . . planning to coach next year’s newly started football team.

Mr. Petersen’s death was a huge loss.

These kinds of terrible things can happen any day, any place.  What happened next is what I want to tell you about . . .

But first, let me give you a bit of background about Village Missions’ involvement in Helix, Oregon. 

A couple years ago, I stopped at the Helix Community Church as I was traveling through the area.  They were a great group of believers, but struggling to keep the church open.  Earlier this year they asked for our help.  In March, we sent Village Missionaries Mac and his wife Julie there.

The church was down to 6 people . . . Village Missions was their last hope before closing their door.  But because of caring Christians, they have a full-time pastor!


On one of the hardest days Helix ever faced, a Village Missionary was there. 

  • Mac was the first person the school called when Mr. Petersen didn’t show up.  
  • After the district crisis team went home, Mac was still there, and folks came to him because he’s part of their little town. 
  • Most of the young people at the school had never dealt with death, especially someone they knew.  They came to Mac with their questions about heaven. 
  • Mac spoke at John Petersen’s memorial service in the school gym . . . some 200 people came and heard a Gospel message.

Mac would be the first to tell you that he’s not some kind of superhero.  He’s just a guy who was willing to invest in people who call Helix their home.  He felt God called his family there.  Now he’s a part of the community and part of God’s work there.


What would Helix have done if there had been no Gospel-preaching church there?  Who would the school kids and many others have gone to with their questions about God and eternity?  Where would they have found comfort and hope?

I want to say thank you to all who make it possible for Village Missions to help people like the folks in Helix.  There aren’t words enough . . . because eternity hangs in the balance.  You’ve helped people come to faith in Jesus Christ.  You’ve made such a difference!

It’s thrilling that Village Missions is being asked for help in other places like Helix – places where God needs a voice.  I’m asking you to join with me so we can say yes to them, too.

We have 84 mission fields today that are unable to pay their pastor’s full support.  Village Missions pays the balance.  We must do all we can to fully fund these and be prepared to say yes to folks that may need to close down their church without our help.

Would you pray about becoming a partner with us in keeping country churches alive? Thank you!

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