Rainy River welcomes new minister

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer
ntrivuncic@fortfrances.com

As some in the district may already know, Ben Mast is the new minister at the Rainy River Evangelical Covenant Church.

Ben, 24, and his wife Ireland, 23, just moved to Rainy River from Chicago this May. He began his minstrel duties on June 1, after quarantine.

Ben, who is from Rainy River, said his father was a part-time pastor at the Rainy River Evangelical Covenant Church. His mother and father had also run a variety of youth camps. Ben adds that whether he liked it or not, it was a large part of his life, but it was not until he was 15 that things changed for him.

“It was only when I was 15 years old that God really gripped my heart and opened my eyes to see I’ve got one life to live, and I want to use it to do something really significant,” Ben said. “I began to see that significance in Christian ministry.”

Ben and his wife both studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Ben graduated with his Master of Arts in biblical and theological studies this spring.

Ben said he went into the Moody Bible Institute without a clear path of what he wanted to pursue and thought about counselling, but with the direction of his professors he realized his passion of becoming a minister where he can connect with others during the happiest and darkest times of their life, through God.

Like many who move away to a big city, Ben said he had no intentions of returning to Rainy River, but when he and Ireland visited in early 2020 as an engaged couple, his plans changed.

“Seeing it through new eyes and seeing it through Ireland’s eyes, I just realized my love for the area and for its people and we were talking and said we could see ourselves moving back,” Ben said.

At the time there were not many opportunities, Ben said. However, just a few months after that 2020 visit, the pastor at the Rainy River Evangelical Covenant Church stepped down, opening a pathway home.

The couple was newly married at that time, and Ben said the decision required a lot of guidance and prayer.

“I was very excited about it but also hesitant just thinking if I’m ready to take on a pastoral role at a church yet,” Ben said. “God brought a lot of confidence and Ireland was someone who was so steady and consistent throughout that whole process, even as I was unsure.”

While Ben was returning to his roots in Rainy River, it was a completely new experience for Ireland. Originally from Indiana, she said she is excited to start this journey in a small town where she has the opportunity to meet and learn more about the community.

Ben Mast has returned to the District, to serve as the new ministers for the Rainy River Evangelical Covenant Church. His wife, Ireland, is originally from Indiana, but is enjoying Canadian culture. – Submitted photo

“There’s something really sweet about this community that my husband had been telling me during the entire time that we were dating, and I got to see it for myself,” Ireland said. “I just felt it would be a place that we could settle down for however long to see what opportunities come and develop.”

She adds that she is also excited to dive more into Canadian culture and has just purchased her first bag of all dressed potato chips.

Ben said it has been a wonderful opportunity to share this experience together and in a way that they would not be guaranteed to in a big city like Chicago.

“When you’re at school for six years, you’re doing a lot of absorbing and a lot of learning,” Ben said. “It is a great opportunity to be able to finally express some of that and do what we’ve trained and studied to do, and actually get to do it here.”

Ben said he came into this opportunity with big aspirations of how to serve the community, but said it has been the other way around.

“I think something we’ve been humbled and learned already is that we’re actually the ones being served in a lot of ways by the community,” Ben said. “People have been so generous with their time and giving of themselves.”

Ben said he and Ireland are very grateful to be here despite some of the challenges that face them.

“It’s challenging for Ireland to leave her family in Indiana, and come up to a different country, especially during COVID where borders are closed,” Ben said. “But we’ve been so welcomed and loved by the community and are just really excited to serve this community here at the church, but then also the town of Rainy River as well.”