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T. Falls church welcomes new pastor


January 16, 2020

“Sprechen Sie deutsch?” asked Rev. Jakob Berger shortly after introductions were made and the German style of Jakob with a “K” was recognized. It was clear right away that Berger carries not only God near to his heart, but his heritage too.

Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Thompson Falls welcomed Berger (who is reported to speak Greek and Hebrew in addition to German and English) to the parish the beginning of December, filling a long pastoral void of two years. Berger said the time must have been discouraging for the congregation, but perhaps it was so he could follow their calling at the right time; after completing four-year seminary post baccalaureate and earning Master of Divinity.

“We were pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone is here,” Berger shared about the area. He is joined by his wife Kaelene, four-year-old son, Daniel, daughter, Ida, who turns three years old the day this story hits stands, January 16, and their dog Annie a one-year old beagle mix who was an anniversary gift.

Prior to Shephard of the Valley, Berger spent over four years in Wyoming where he performed as “one pastor for two churches” in Douglas and Glenrock. Prior to Wyoming, Berger spent 13 months in Imperial, Nebraska.

“Nebraska was good to me,” said Berger. “My supervisor ended up standing up in my wedding,” which took place two years after meeting Kaelene. “It was Tuesday, September 25, 2012,” Berger blissfully rattled off, proving the date has been impressed into his memory. Kaelene was visiting her brother during his seminary (learning to become a pastor). Berger was a fellow classmate of his. “That was the day. She was in the second window from the left,” he said in a voice filled with admiration.

“I was too scared to ask her out,” admitted Berger, who just knew she was the one. He decided to “Facebook swap” her and friended her brother first, “so that I did not look like a creep,” he said with jubilant laughter. So began a two-year, long distance relationship while Kaelene resided in her home state of Washington. They were united in marriage August 9, 2014.

“In September, Shepherd of the Valley called me on the telephone and said they unanimously voted to bring me in.” Berger said, “Many visit before accepting. I did not. My supervisor always told me to trust the congregation’s call.”

According to Berger, the smaller-size town is a first for him, but similar to what Kaelene grew up in. Fort Wayne, Indiana, is where Berger grew up; big city. “That’s where the TV was invented,” responded Berger when asked what Fort Wayne is known for. His parents and brother reside there and continue to run the family automotive business. Rather than join the family business, Berger followed what he called “a lot of random events.”

In high school he served as JROTC Chaplain his senior year. “I did not seek it out. The Army instructor said, ‘Here you go Jakob, here’s your job.’” In college a business degree was what Berger pursued…until he was halfway through. Then he switched to a general degree with Religious Studies. “It wasn’t an easy process,” he admitted, “I love my job now, but I certainly did not just fall into it.”

Berger is excited to be in Thompson Falls. “The mountains are gorgeous.” Berger said with irony, “I rearranged my office to not look at the mountains so I can get something done. Productivity.”

He wants everyone to know the love of Jesus and salvation that comes only through him.” Therefore, he invites everyone to attend church services at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 1192 Mt. Silcox Drive, Thompson Falls every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Sunday School and Bible Class follow at 11. Berger encourages, “If anyone wants to learn about Lutheranism, I’ll buy you a coffee.” He openly invites anyone to a local venue to share one another’s knowledge, passion and inquisitiveness.

Woodworking and playing his saxophone are two hobbies that Berger enjoys. Coming back to his heritage, he was a member of a family band, an “umpa band” he declared. His dad, uncle, grandpa and himself played at Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the Midwest. He has performed in Dayton, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana and the Windy City, Chicago. Of course, all performances were complete with lederhosen. Now that’s dedication to his German ancestry.


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