BELPRE - Pastor Ignatius Wentzel, 52, pastor of From the Heart Church Ministries, 1266 Putnam-Howe Drive, Belpre, did not follow the traditional path to becoming a pastor in the United States.
Born in South Africa in 1961, Wentzel completed primary and high school before going to work at a steel mill. Six months later, Wentzel was called to fulfill his mandatory 10 years of military service.
"I was allowed to go to fulfill my military service and received excused paid leave," Wentzel said.
Photos by Joe Albright
Pastor Ignatius Wentzel and his wife Charmaine pose, in his office, with his credentials from From the Heart Church Ministries.
Little did Wentzel know the changes in his life that would take place during those 10 years.
While on South Africa's Border Patrol, Wentzel and two other solders were crushed when a Buffel, a military transport, they were in was attacked.
The two men sitting on either side of him died, but Wentzel survived.
"I suffered a broken pelvis, a ruptured spleen and damage to my back," Wentzel said. "I am very lucky to be alive after experiencing the call which ultimately led me to God.
"I am so grateful He was watching over me for those 10 years of my life and I owe Him my thanks and praise, going into the ministry seemed the best way to thank and repay Him for His protection," said Wentzel, "I began to hear the call to serve God, but did not act upon it immediately."
Wentzel returned to work at the mill, beginning his eight years as a military reserve.
"I was called one time each year, for anywhere between one to three months at a time," Wentzel said.
Wentzel also met his wife, Charmaine during this time.
Wentzel eventually left the mill to join a company manufacturing graduation gowns. While employed at the gown company, Wentzel met the late Nelson Mandela during Mandela's inauguration as chancellor of the University of the North.
"He was unlike any politician I had ever heard of, rather than a hand shake and a short exchange, he sat down and talked to the entire table, taking time to share stories from his life," Wentzel said. "He was a religious and kind-hearted man and it was an honor to meet him."
After meeting with Mandela, Wentzel opened a graduation gown business, eventually meeting a church friend who sparked his interest in answering his original call to serve.
"I traveled with my wife to America for the first time in 2000, we visited Colorado Springs. It was the first time I had ever seen snow," he said.
After his brief stay in the states, Wentzel returned home and studied to become a pastor and in 2008 joined the leadership of the ministry in South Africa under the leadership of Pastor M.J. Marais, where he pastored for almost 2 years. The church than relocated to Krugersdorp, Johannesburg, which is when the couple decided to move to the U.S.
"We arrived here in 2008 and attended the opening of the Constitution for the U.S. chapter of FHTCM," said Wentzel.
The couple would move between South Africa and the U.S. for the next four years, attending the ministry's general meeting with other church leaders in 2010 then returning home before permanently transitioning to America in August 2012.
After waiting 14 months on Nov. 17, Wentzel became the third pastor of the church in Belpre.
Wentzel and the church preach unity among the human race and that everyone needs one and other.
"You never know who you will meet, so be nice to everyone," said Wentzel.
Wentzel credits Pastor John A. Cherry who helped start him on the path to pastor hood with the church in America.
"He (Cherry) gave me the best piece of advice during my decision-making; he told me 'If this is what is in your heart and is what you want to do then it was meant to be," says Wentzel.
Wentzel invites everyone to attend services at the church, sharing that he invited the entire hotel he and his wife resided at when first moving to Belpre, to experience God for themselves.