Background

Pastor Dan Haugen at Redeemer Bellingham

The Biography of Daniel Haugen

I guess we’ll start with the basics. I was born in Minot, North Dakota on May 26, 1962 to a very devout and faithful Lutheran family. I have one brother and one sister, both of whom were out of the house by the time I was born (my parents claim I was a pleasant surprise). I had a very good relationship with my parents and my siblings and am very blessed to have grown up in the environment that I did.

My time in the church started very young. I was always involved in one way or another and our lives were centered around our church family. I guess I was somewhat sheltered from the world but I was able to experience a lot of issues the church was dealing with.

In our church, it was always assumed that I would become a Pastor and I even applied to go to school at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League raised funds to send me, my parents made all the arrangements and my Pastor did what he could to counsel me. When it came to crunch time, however,  the Lord put into my heart that I still had more to learn before I made such a move.

I ended up going to Minot State University in my home town and graduated with degrees in Business Management and Marketing. I then took a job in retail store management with Osco Drug. I enjoyed my job very much but always felt as if something were missing. I was offered a very nice promotion to be one of the youngest Market Managers in the company but turned it down because I knew this was not my future.

After six years with Osco I went to Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL). I must admit that I kind of did this as a stop gap and a source of income but it is clear now that the Lord had greater plans for me. I found I truly enjoyed the ministry of AAL and the freedom of my schedule afforded me the opportunity to explore other avenues of ministry.

I started with AAL in Rugby, North Dakota and moved on to Idaho Falls, Idaho. Though the life of a district representative is a very busy one, the need in me to do ministry grew stronger and stronger everyday. I was able to use my past theater experience to start the Alleluia Children’s Theater (ACT). What started as simply a way to introduce myself to the people of my churches and provide a ministry to their children became another full-time job. We went from doing one small play the first year involving 3 churches to doing  two full-length Christian musicals as well as outreach and dinner theater events throughout the year involving as many as 16 churches in the cast and almost 100 kids actively involved.

In our city, where the population was made up of about 70% Latter-Day Saints, the Christian community was eager to support something their kids could get involved in and learn true Christian values from. In association with Cross Country Ministries, a mission start ministry, we established the Godly Characters Young Actors Camp held every year in Island Park, Idaho just 20 miles South of Yellowstone National Park. This ministry also grew and grew and toward the end we had kids from all over the country eager to be involved in Christian ministry in a camp atmosphere.

All this became a bit overwhelming and, though I had a great support staff, I had to make a decision between doing children’s ministry full-time or doing AAL (now Thrivent Financial) full-time. I loved the ministry more, but there was no income as we didn’t charge kids to become involved and I financed much of it myself. As I was about to make the decision, Cross Country Ministries offered me the position of Executive Director of their organization and I accepted. I was with AAL/Thrivent for 11 years.

As the E.D. of Cross Country my charge was to take the ministry to the next level. We immediately became a mission society and saw our support grow every year. We changed the ministry by not limiting ourselves to mission starts. Our new calling was to educate area churches to get involved in their own mission fields outside the four walls of their church. Our area also increased from Southern Idaho to the whole Northwest District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

In my two years with Cross Country we were able to reach many more people and do incredible ministry that was starting to get national attention. Our ministry model called Ask, Care, Tell (ACT) combined with F.I. T. T. For Life developed with me by Pastor Jerry Reinke, the past director of Cross Country, had drawn interest from several churches and organizations and I was blessed to speak at national conventions and other conferences about what we were developing. In the end, however, the Board of Directors for Cross Country decided they were not ready to move on such a scale and when the Northwest Districts support ran out they decided to end the ministry, my greatest disappointment.

That frustration quickly turned to joy, however, when Zion Lutheran Church of Ashton, Idaho asked me to be the Pastor of their struggling church. In the past couple of years I had become a licensed Deacon and I had a long history with this church because of my days as their financial representative with Thrivent. I also knew their love for the Lord. They had recently gone through a split that saw half their congregation leave but I knew that we had all we needed to save this church through the incredible grace and mercy of our Lord. Though their funds were almost non-existent, I took on the challenge knowing it was my calling to do so.

I was the deacon/pastor at Zion for three and half wonderful years and we together we witnessed the church become financially responsible and sustaining. We saw our first surplus in three years and our congregation grew. Most importantly, the people have started the healing process and are more focused now on their relationship with Jesus Christ. There was a hunger here for the Gospel and they grew spiritually in ways that are truly remarkable. They are learning to put their faith and trust in God and it has been the richest of blessings to be a part of that.