If you cannot view “Never In A Mission Years: The Story of a Rural Pastor” above, you can read the HTML version of the article below.
The high school teacher motioned to Steve, asking him to stand at the front of the class and give his presentation, but Steve sunk even lower in his seat. The teacher asked again, with a firmer tone. Steve just looked down and shook his head. He would take the F in the class if that’s what it took to avoid this presentation. He was not about to humiliate himself.
Steve, highly introverted, stuttered as a child. Even though the stuttering had passed, crowds terrified him so much that he would hyperventilate when forced to speak.
But God freed Steve from his fears. Years later, Steve Fournier became a Village Missionary, speaking each week at his local church and becoming the “town pastor” to a community of over 3000 people.
Immaturity and the Air Force
Home life was never stable for the Fournier kids. By the time Steve was 12, his mother had left. Raised by their father, Steve and his brother functioned largely on their own and developed a problem with authority.
Steve enlisted in the Air Force after high school. It wasn’t that he had plans of grandeur; he simply hadn’t thought of anything else worth doing.
In his job as an electronic technician, Steve worked with radars on the Air Force’s largest cargo plane – the C5 Galaxy.
Though he’d gone to Sunday School as a child, Steve was not a believer. He spent much of his free time at parties. He married Darleen his first year in the military and the two lived in Dover, Delaware, for 3 years before Steve finished his time with the USAF and the two moved to Connecticut.
A Mother’s Influence
Shortly after beginning a new career in maintenance mechanics, Steve’s mother moved to Connecticut as well. She had been saved recently and insisted that Steve and Darleen come to church.
Steve had no interest in spiritual things, but went to make his mother happy. He and Darleen gave their lives to the Lord on the same day and were soon baptized together as well.
Overjoyed, Steve’s mother told him, “You’re going to be a pastor.”
Steve thought back to his past and laughed – not in a million years.
Still, motivated to gain a deeper understanding of his faith, Steve began taking apologetics classes and even joined a local evangelistic outreach.
He was also mentored by his rural pastor, Village Missionary Jim Cook, who thought Steve’s outreach was the perfect segue to preaching. Steve eventually became Jim’s Associate Pastor, and finally took over as head pastor after becoming a Village Missionary.
He and Darleen moved to Milford, NY, where they have served for 24 years.
Fighting for Religious Freedom
After just three years in Milford, Steve and Darleen faced a challenge much bigger than they could have ever imagined. Darleen volunteered with the local Good News club, a once-a-week children’s program including Bible stories, games, snacks and music. The children attending rode the bus and got off at one of the regular stops, the Fournier kids’ home – which happened to also be the church parking lot.
After a year, the interim school superintendent said the school bus could not be used to transport kids to a religious event. So the club submitted a request to meet at the school, since several other community groups were allowed. This, too, was denied. Steve and Darleen reached out to the Rutherford Institute to seek legal advice.
The Rutherford Institute sent the school a cease and desist order, stating that their discrimination was unconstitutional. The school refused and the case battled in several courts for five years, until the supreme court ruled (Good News Clubs vs. Milford Central School) in 2001 that schools which open their facilities to the public cannot discriminate against religious organizations.
The case was not only a win for the Milford Good News Club. Good News clubs grew exponentially over the following years due to the newfound freedom to meet in schools, and many children have come to Christ as a result.
“Praise God that he used this country pastor and his wife to do something like that. I give Him all the glory,” said Steve.
Coincidentally, Steve and the next superintendent became great friends, and the court case never became a divisive issue in the church’s ministry or in building relationships in the community.
A Rural Pastor Looks Back
After 25 years of ministry as a rural pastor, Steve still looks back to his time in the Air Force as a critical time in his life.
For one thing, that’s when he married Darleen, who he describes as “the perfect wife.”
“Darleen was one of the major means God used to bring me into ministry. She has always been extremely supportive, and God has used her to push me into areas I probably would not have gone on my own.”
In the Air Force, Steve began to break out of his immaturity, and there he first met true followers of Christ.
“I thought they were crazy, but they were very sincere in their faith and bold to share their faith. That impressed me.”
Finally, Steve’s experience in the Air Force has opened many doors in his ministry. He has served as Commander of the American Legion and currently serves as Chaplain for the County Sheriff’s office. As a rural pastor, he’s also officiated many veterans’ funerals, giving him the opportunity to share the gospel with hundreds.
Serving in the Air Force takes dedication and camaraderie. Our Village Missionaries require similar characteristics. Not only must they be dedicated to their mission; they need a team of individuals around the United States and Canada who support their efforts on the front lines of rural America. Not only Steve, but 34 other active veteran missionaries serving rural churches require support from individuals like you. Would you join the fight for rural America?