Pastor Ted Boatsman

Pastor Ted Boatsman with his wife, Joyce, and children Tracy and Stuart during their early years of ministry in Alaska.

Pastor Ted Boatsman has tried to retire once before. This time, he plans to make it stick.

Boatsman, 70, has served as the pastor at Lebanon's First Assembly of God for almost nine years. It was supposed to be an interim assignment, but the congregation proved to be a good fit for a minister who had spent the first three decades of his ministerial career in Alaska.

He has seen a lot of change since he entered the ministry more than 40 years ago, but the connection between a church and its members remains the same.

"We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves," Boatsman said.

He grew up in Colorado and attended Wentworth Military Academy for two years before transferring to Colorado State University for his junior year of college. Then, one year from graduation, he decided to join the United States Navy. 

He spent four years in the Navy (1970-74) and did two tours in Vietnam, serving as a radar operator on two destroyers. It was during the period of time between those tours that his life changed.

He was visiting home when his mother insisted he attend church with her. 

"My mom was incredible. She said 'You need to go to church with me,'" Boatsman said. 

It was during a service a week later that Boatsman became a believer.

"I went forward and confessed Christ and became a Christian in 1972," he said.

After he concluded his military service, he attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Following his graduation, he felt called to serve in Alaska. 

He went to a mission in Kotlik, located on Alaska's west coast.

"I had no income, no nothing," Boatsman said.

Despite the hardships, he was happy and he invited a young woman he had met to come up and visit him. She flew into the community, which was hundreds of miles from the nearest road, and stayed with some local missionaries.

"I lived in a freezer van out back," Boatmen remembered. "It was converted into a room with a wood stove in it."

She wasn't scared off by the living conditions and he realized that there might not be many other candidates brave enough to take on such a challenge. He proposed and she accepted, going home for a month before returning. 

Ted and Joyce got married in the village of Emmonak in 1977 and subsequently had two children, daughter Tracy and son Stuart.

They hiked and camped all over Alaska in the years to come as Boatsman served at a number of mission stations throughout the state. Life became a bit more normal as he served a congregation in Nenana, located south of Fairbanks, for 10 years.

They then spent another 10 years at the Fairbanks First Assembly. During this time he was appointed to serve as the district superintendent, helping to provide support and direction for the congregations in the state. 

After 32 years in Alaska, the Boatsmans were seeking a change. They moved to Oregon and settled briefly in Keizer while he served as a consultant, helping connect churches and pastors.

In 2010, he was asked to serve as the interim pastor at First Assembly in Lebanon and see the congregation through a difficult time.

"The church asked us to stay, so they voted on us. I wasn't planning on ever pastoring full-time again," Boatsman said. "So, a total of eight years and 10 months later, I'm retiring again."

He plans to spend his time finishing a book he has been writing for the past several years "Half a Bubble Off North." The book will share his experience over 32 years in Alaska.

"We lived in places mos people wouldn't live in," he said.

He owns a Harley Davidson and wants to see more of the country. He has already made rides to Washington, D.C., the Florida Keys and Sturgis, South Dakota. This summer, he is planning a cross-country ride to Boston.

He and Joyce are also excited about having their son Stuart and his family living in Lebanon. Stuart Boatsman recently concluded his military career in which he served with the 82nd Airborne.

First Assembly will have an interim pastor while a search begins for a new senior pastor.

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