Al Redenius makes a life change

Allan Redenius has experienced three careers in his 67 years — starting out as an X-ray technician, operating his own accounting business and now engaged in what he believes is his final calling — as a pastor.

“I loved being a CPA and doing tax returns,” he said of his nearly 40 years in the financial business in Fort Dodge, concentrating on handling individuals’ and companies’ taxes. “You get to hear people’s stories, you get to be pretty close. Every year, however, I had to do their tax return again. Now what I do lasts forever.

“I love evangelizing and telling people about Christ. I encourage my membership to do that. In the business world, we call it marketing. In church, we call it evangelism. What’s your product? Your product in business might be selling widgets. In church, you’re selling Jesus. You package it a little different, but you go out and sell it.”

Redenius is pastor of First Covenant Church, on the southwest edge of Fort Dodge next door to Iowa Central Community College and Friendship Haven. It is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination of 900 churches nationwide. The church had about 40 members when he was appointed pastor, and in the past five years it has grown to 175. His wife, Armona, is director of its 30-member choir and he just hired a pastor to administer to youth and young families. In the past two years Sunday school attendance has grown from two to 30 children.

“My financial background is valuable with the church,” he said. “I understand money … and the lack thereof. I recently preached on tithing and had some worldly examples from my experience as an accountant.

“I always called my accounting practice my ‘marketplace ministry.’ Often I was able to witness with people and pray with people. One gentleman in financial trouble told me, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I do, I told him. I will pray for you. He started crying in my office. No one had ever prayed for him before. He still calls me his pastor, but has not come to my church.”

Redenius grew up in Titonka, a small town of 450 residents in Kossuth County, where his mother and father, Marleta and Alfred Redenius, first worked as tenant farmers before his dad experienced back problems that spurred them to move into town, where he became a crop hail adjuster.

After graduating in 1967 from Titonka Consolidated High School, Redenius enrolled at the University of Iowa in a two-year X-ray technician program. There, he met Armona Frank, who grew up in Pioneer, and was in the same program. They graduated and moved to Fort Dodge where she worked at the Kersten Clinic and he at Lutheran Hospital (now Trinity Regional Medical Center). They were married in 1970.

Redenius took classes at Iowa Central to get an associate’s deree with the idea of going into hospital administration. He credits getting the accounting bug from Iowa Central instructor Bob Dunsmoor and he returned to Iowa City to enroll in the business college. Redenius graduated from Iowa in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance and returned to Fort Dodge to start his new career.

Redenius joined the accounting firm of Gene Gutknecht and in 1975 left to start up his own accounting practice.

Back in his younger days in Titonka, at age 10 or 11, his grandfather told him he should be a pastor. “I never forgot that,” Redenius said. “It echoed in my heart from then on.”

As time went along, he said, “I was making a comfortable living and enjoyed my work. But the calling in my heart began to materialize.”

Redenius attended a Methodist school for lay ministry in Indianola and after graduating in 2002 started as weekends in pulpit supply — “I was the substitute preacher when the regular preacher was gone.” He preached at Methodist churches in Humboldt, Rutland, Gilmore City, Lehigh, Otho and Fort Dodge.

He had grown up as a Lutheran but joined the Methodist Church when he and Armona were married. First Covenant Church was part of his pulpit experience when its pastor at the time, Chuck Johnson, was away. Johnson was a regular participant in RAGBRAI on the Sunday before and Sunday of the bike race.

“The first time I preached at First Covenant Church, I told my wife that, you know, there is something very special about this church. John Wesley (founder of Methodism) had a great way of putting things — ‘When he found the Lord, I felt my heart strangely warmed.’ That’s the way I felt.”

At the time, Redenius was 55 and seriously considered going to a seminary. “But we wanted to stay in Fort Dodge, this was our home. We decided to stay here and see what God had in store for us. As I drove by First Covenant Church, I said, God, I don’t know how this could ever happen but I sure would like to pastor this church.”

When Johnson left the church as pastor, someone else was chosen to succeed him “but it didn’t stop me from praying that prayer,” Redenius said. That pastor left and Redenius was chosen as interim pastor in 2009 while a search was conducted — continuing with his accounting practice, but he soon found he was getting physically run down doing both jobs.

Finally, on Tax Deadline Day, April 15, 2012, he was named full-time pastor at the age of 60.

He preaches a sermon each Sunday that is put up on the church’s website in audio form and draws on his past career in composing them. “I’m often using my CPA experiences in my sermons. Slogans I go by in my life. I’m more pragmatic, you have to live your life in a sin-filled world. Sometimes it isn’t so easy.”

On Sundays on the website — http://www.firstcovfortdodge.org/ — which he started in 2009, Redenius also posts “Reflections from the Heart of Pastor Allan Redenius.”

“When I first got there, there was nothing in the church web mailbox and from my college days, nothing speaks louder than an empty mailbox,” he said. “Reflections are sometimes spiritual things, sometimes things that happened in my life.”

Redenius and his wife have two children — Todd, who works at Iowa Central as a full-time instructor and men’s and women’s tennis coach, programs that he started last year; and Lisa, a pharmacist at Daniel Pharmacy who is married to Ryan Flaherty. Ryan has started his first year as principal at Fort Dodge Middle School. They have two children, Micah, 10, and Noah, 5.

Armona worked for Allan for 30-plus years as the practice’s secretary and partner. Now she is leading the church choir and working with the Sonshine Singers — an ecumenical choir she started 18 years ago that now numbers 125 members. They do events throughout the city, but the volunteer group’s major event is at First United Methodist Church in three nights of singing performances in March.

“People ask me when I’m going to retire,” Redenius said. “I keep looking through the Bible to see where Jesus says you can retire. I haven’t found it yet. I’ll keep doing this until the Lord finds a different field, and that field may be a cemetery.”