Young couple called to serve at Our Savior Lutheran in Brookings

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BROOKINGS — A young couple hears their name read. Their life instantly changes. It was that way for Isaiah and Micheala Zabell, soon to be residents here in Brookings.

On May 24 the Zabells sat in the auditorium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin, for the vicar call service. They both heard the president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod read Isaiah’s name, followed by the phrase, “Our Savior Lutheran Church, Brookings, SD.” In a matter of seconds, the Zabells realized their life would soon change. They would be residents of Brookings for Isaiah’s vicar year.

The Rev. Ken Brokmeier, the church’s pastor since August of 2000, still vividly recalls his vicar assignment service, “My stomach was an emotional roller coaster. I was assigned to a large church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. My nerves were soon alleviated. It was a fantastic year. I was stretched and grew in so many ways as my vicarship definitely helped to shape and mold me to be pastor I am today.”

Brokmeier explained the title of “vicar:” “In our church body, a man studying for the ministry spends his first two years on campus at our seminary near Milwaukee. His third year is spent as an off-campus student, serving under a pastor at a congregation that is chosen for him. His title is that of ‘vicar.’” This church term often simply refers to a member of the clergy. Brokmeier shared, “In explaining who a vicar is, I often note that the word “vicar” means substitute. We speak of Christ’s vicarious atonement. He is the substitute that makes at-one with God. The vicars who serve at our church are here to learn by being my substitute during their year here. They learn to preach, teach, visit, make hospital calls and gain other valuable experiences doing just about everything I do as a pastor. Isaiah Zabell will be our 21st consecutive vicar. Our congregation realizes each of them has a different skill set. It is a blessing watching each Vicar grow and develop.”

Isaiah will be involved in various children’s ministries that the congregation hosts including a weekly chapel service on Fridays at 8:30 a.m. for the school children and their Little Lambs program. This year will mark the 20th year of Little Lambs, a program geared toward children from birth to age 5. Parents, grandparents, and other caretakers are invited to bring their children for this 45-minute program which involves group play, teaching a Bible story, reading a book and working on a motor skill activity. It meets on most Friday mornings during the school year right after the 8:30 chapel service.

This year, however, the congregation will be doubly blessed because Isaiah’s wife, Michaela, will serve as the second teacher at the school. Right after the May 2, call service, the Zabells found themselves meeting Brokmeier, along with Pastor Doug Free, the district official for Our Savior Lutheran Church. After introductions, Free surprised Michaela with the news that she had been called to be the second teacher at Our Savior Lutheran School — which had just finished its first year of existence.

The couple recently made a visit to Brookings to see where they will live and so Michaela could visit her classroom and pick up needed books. They will be returning the second week of August to begin their year of serving at our congregation.

Sue Brokmeier, pastor’s wife, was the sole teacher and administrator for the 2022-23 school year. A fourth-generation teacher herself, Sue left a teaching position in the early childhood department at South Dakota State University to start the school. She comments, “Many members came together over the course of two years of planning and work so that we could open our school last fall for Kindergarten through grade 3. We are honored to partner with families for their child’s growth — academically, physically, socially, and especially spiritually. Our curriculum is designed to meet state standards.”

Both Brokmeiers pointed out, “We opened last fall with seven students. We grew during the year and now we already have 12 registered for this fall. To make room for this increased enrollment, we are adding grade 4 and using a second classroom. This means we needed to add a second teacher. We are thrilled to have Michaela join our staff knowing the skill set she will bring to our school especially in the area of music.”

Michaela, a graduate of Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, in 2022, is licensed to teach in Minnesota and will have her provisional license. She had just finished teaching grade 4 at St. John’s Lutheran School in Milwaukee. She and another fourth grade teacher taught 33 students in two classrooms as they did some departmentalizing. She also taught school music to all grades at St. John’s. Michaela is excited about this new opportunity to have a small class size and to experience a multi-grade setting.

Our Savior Lutheran School is still receiving applications for the 2023-24 school year for students in K to grade 4. Contact the church 605-692-6989 for more information or to receive a tour. Families can apply for financial assistance to offset the tuition costs.

The Zabells will both be installed in a special 9 a.m. service on Aug. 20 followed by a brunch. The public is invited to attend. Twelve months is a relatively short time to live in Brookings. But in that short time not only will the Zabells leave a lasting impression on many lives in our community, many lives from our community will leave a lasting impression on them.