On April 25, 2008, the FCA Convention in Minneapolis gave special honor to the long and noteworthy ministry of Richard Balken and his wife, Joanne. The following tribute was read and distributed at that time:
Richard Balken was born in Duluth, Minnesota to Rev. and Mrs. Obed and Alice Balken. He grew up in Minneapolis and came to saving faith in Christ at the age of nine while attending a convention at the Duluth Gospel Tabernacle with his family. Raised in a pastor’s home, Richard felt the call to full-time ministry not long after beginning college.
Richard and his wife, Joanne, both attended North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. On June 1, 1957, just five days after graduating from NCBC, they were married. Immediately thereafter, Richard and Joanne began working with Richard’s father in ministry at Philadelphia Church (now Hope Christian Church) in the North East neighborhood of Minneapolis.
In 1958, Richard and Joanne, along with Richard’s brother and wife, formed a singing group and began traveling across the U.S. ministering to local churches. This endeavor continued until 1960, when Richard and Joanne began pastoring a pioneer congregation in Winnebago, Minnesota. It was in the fall of 1961, however, when Richard and Joanne received the call to what would become, in many ways, their lives’ work.
In 1961, the Gospel Tabernacle in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (now Lighthouse Christian Church), had a congregation of approximately 40 people and had been in decline for some time. As its new pastor, Richard recognized the congregation had lost much of its vision. He began the hard work of helping restore and renew the people’s passion for God and for lost souls. While not easy, God blessed these efforts.
By 1965 the small church building began to fill up, creating the need for a new facility. The next year a building fund was established, and a parcel of land was purchased. In 1969, the congregation voted unanimously to construct a building that would seat 250. Pastor Balken served as the general contractor for the project, the congregation donated their time and abilities, and, by 1970, what was known in the local community as the “labor of love project” had been completed.
Continuous growth at Fond du Lac Gospel Tabernacle led to major building projects in 1973, 1987, 1988, and again in 1998, as well as the expansion of ministry outreach. In 1978, the congregation moved to establish and host a K-12 Christian school, the first in the Fond du Lac area. The church established a Christian daycare center in 1988. During this time, Richard and Joanne were also kept busy on the home front, raising a family of five children: Brenton, Eydie, Byron, Heidi, and Christopher.
With the growth of the congregation, Richard and Joanne had the joy of seeing many young people and families respond to God’s call into full-time pastoral and mission work. They also were able to minister themselves on several foreign fields, including China, India, Indonesia, Colombia and El Salvador. All the while, the mission to present the gospel to the Fond du Lac region never faltered.
In 2005, Richard resigned from Lighthouse Christian Fellowship after 44 years of fruitful and rewarding ministry. He and Joanne are kept busy by five children and their spouses, as well as 20 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. They continue to reside in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
Rev. Richard Balken has faithfully served God, the Body of Christ, and the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies for more than 50 years. Today, he continues this faithful service as a vital member of the Church’s endeavor to spread the good news of God’s Kingdom. The Fellowship of Christian Assemblies is privileged to recognize Rev. Richard Balken as a 2008 FCA Heritage Honoree. May God’s grace, peace, and richest blessings continue to rest upon Richard and Joanne.