The former youth minister of the Mercer Island Covenant Church has been tapped to pastor a church in the Methow Valley.
Jeff Palmberg, whose father Bud pastored MICC for 26 years, has relocated to Twisp, Wash., with his wife, Tami. He is the new pastor of the Community Covenant Church of the Methow Valley.
Palmberg has served for 25 years in various Covenant churches in associate pastor positions focusing on youth ministry. He became a youth pastor on Mercer Island in 2006. The position has been made part-time, and the church has a new youth intern instead of a full-time youth pastor.
A Mercer Island High School graduate, Palmberg grew up here from a very young age. His children attended Island schools and his parents now reside in Covenant Shores. His son, Joey, is now majoring in art at North Park University in Chicago, and his daughter, Ellie, a recent MIHS graduate, is preparing for a six-month Youth With A Mission Discipleship Training School.
When Palmberg learned that his position at the Covenant Church was ending, he began looking for other ministry opportunities. With the encouragement of peers and the MICC interim pastor, he started considering a lead pastor role. The church in Twisp invited him and his wife for a casual visit to see how they might like the area.
Twisp’s total population is under 1,000. The closest Costco and Walmart are more than an hour away. There are no chain restaurants or stores, or even stoplights in town.
“It is a different mindset; we had to wrap our minds around, what does that mean? Would we go crazy?” Palmberg said. “During that visit, we realized, it’s the people. We just fell in love with the people … and we felt a peace about this idea of living in a smaller community.”
The Methow Valley is a major destination campers, hikers and bikers, and it is also popular for cross country skiing and winter sports.
“There’s a sense of a major flow of people — you’re not just stuck in this place,” he said.
The size of the congregation is around 140. By comparison, about 300 people attend the Mercer Island Covenant Church.
“People who move to the Methow Valley are moving realizing that they are going to make some sacrifices in order to live here. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a totally different kind of lifestyle — it’s less manic ... and people aren’t as driven to pack their life with all this pursuit of success. On the Eastside in general, people are so tied to careers, move up the ladder, accumulate stuff. We want a different quality of life. It’s a slower pace of life, which is really nice,” he said.
Palmberg’s current sermon series is based on the biblical commandments to love God and love your neighbor.
“Jesus said the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and the second most is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love God, love others. [The church’s] purpose statement is ‘hearts reaching up and hands reaching out,’” said Palmberg, who was a young boy when he put his faith in Jesus Christ. While he grew up around church and was part of a youth group, he said that it was the later trials of life that truly tested his faith and became a testimony of God’s presence and grace. Those trials included difficult financial times, trouble selling houses, losing all of his savings, and health problems. At one time, his wife developed double pneumonia, and he had a thyroid condition.
“Times where I had to experience, do I really believe that God is faithful, cares about me … I had to experience what it means to trust God with finances, health. It’s been amazing to see how God not only helped me to hang in there during times of anxiety and stress, but also to get me through those,” he said. “Every experience good and bad can be used to strengthen us, strengthen our faith. There is a passage in 1 Corinthians, the comfort that we receive from God we can then share with other people in the same way. God is good, He is bigger than our stuff — we can trust Him.”
As for missing Mercer Island — friends, the Island’s sense of community, the easy access to Seattle. And family. Palmberg used to meet his dad for breakfast every Wednesday at the Pancake Corral.
“There is a verse, Philippians 4:6-7, that says don’t be anxious about anything, but pray about everything and give your anxieties to God, and He will give you His peace. That is something that has been a total truth that I have experienced. It has been a total encouragement for me, my wife and kids,” Palmberg said.