10 Things you didn't know about the Rev. John Waak

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 11, 2014 at 2:11 a.m.

The Rev. John Waak at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church preaches from the front of the church.

The Rev. John Waak at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church preaches from the front of the church.

The Rev. John Waak, 60, first joined Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Victoria in 1996 as an associate pastor.

Two years later, the Manitowoc, Wis., native was elevated to senior pastor and has served in the position for the last 16 years.

But Waak almost didn't make it to seminary when his adventurous and wandering teenagery perched him in the Pacific Northwest after high school graduation. There, he learned to live wildly, among artists, learning carpentry - a beloved trade.

Soon after, while building church pews, Waak heard his call into ministry.

Here's 10 things you didn't know about Our Saviour's Lutheran Church's enigmatic pastor.

  1. Waak said he grew up in a "perfect family." It was strong in faith, accomplished, with just enough dysfunction to keep it fun. Waak said he was raised to do what is right and fear no man. He said it took years for him to figure out what that meant.
  2. When Waak was 16, he drove a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette. A year later, he traded cars with his brother and drove an Austin-Healey 3000 roadster until he graduated high school.
  3. Waak said he didn't spend too much time in class during high school. He was inspired outside of the classroom. Despite not spending much time at school, he was able to graduate on time.
  4. After high school, unprepared for the traditional college path, Waak moved to a tiny, isolated wilderness community in the Cascade Mountains, where he lived two years without cars, television, radio or roads connecting to civilization. The group he lived with was comprised of about 40 artists, scholars, felons and tradesmen. They had to generate their own electricity and work during the daytime.
  5. While living in the mountains with the wilderness community, Waak assisted an old craftsman building a log cabin. No power tools were used - only a double-edged axe, two-man saw, a scribe and sunlight. Each log was was perfectly fitted to the one beneath, and when no light passed between the logs, they moved on to the next log.
  6. Living in the mountains inspired Waak to become a fine furniture maker. He completed carpentry school and apprenticed in furniture making. His first job was building church pews. While building church pews, he said God showed up during his noon-hour prayer time and called him into the ministry. He describes it as a literal voice from heaven.
  7. Even though he didn't have a strong high school experience, Waak learned to be a good student in college. He learned to appreciate foreign languages and served as a Greek tutor during four years of seminary.
  8. Waak is a vintage sports car racing enthusiast and tries to attend at least one racing event annually.
  9. He enjoys tinkering with an old truck that he's trying to rebuild as well as his prize Moto Guzzi motorcycle.
  10. If Waak wasn't in ministry, he would own a small boat yard on the Great Lakes, building and maintaining wooden sail boats.

Bonus fact: Waak said his greatest adventure in life has been his marriage to his wife, Beth Waak. He said she showed him that "you don't have to be a reckless idiot to enjoy life."



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