“It was early 2008 when my phone rang. ‘Hi, Nick, it’s Mike Montgomery. I’m a pastor at Salem and I know your family. If you’re interested, I’d like to mentor and disciple you.’’

“That call changed my life.”

This story comes from Nick Hall, formerly of Fargo and now of Minneapolis, where he heads Pulse, the Christian outreach organization he founded.

The Salem referred to is Salem Evangelical Free Church of Fargo and Moorhead.

Nick’s story, which he sent to “Neighbors,” goes on:

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“I was 26 years old, newly married, leading a new ministry (Pulse), and I was completely overwhelmed. Other than my business administration degree from (North Dakota State University), internship with the Luis Palau Association and experience as a point guard at Oak Grove under the famed coach (Steve) Carnal, I had no training to lead an organization, manage different personality types, fundraise, handle criticism, fame and more.

“My attempts to find help to that point had been a failure. I had gained access to numerous high-profile evangelists and ministry leaders and boldly asked many to invest in my life. Without fail, they all responded with willingness (it would be un-Christian to not), but after it was crickets. My questions were rarely given responses. My vulnerability was met with looks of confusion.

“My takeaway as a young leader? If you are going to make it, you need to figure it out on your own. No one will do it for you. It was a recipe for disaster, and I was on a fast track to burnout... or worse.

“Mike changed all that. He taught me that people need people, that it was OK and normal for me to struggle, even to battle depression. He gave me a safe place to ask questions, process, and grow into who God had made me to be.

“Up until that point, the church world had taught me how to program with excellence. But programming can never replace relationship. Mike taught me that without one-on-one relationship, biblical discipleship is impossible.

“For 10 years, Mike and I met together. We started by going through a book, but mostly, we just talked, prayed, laughed and cried. Mike didn’t just listen. He heard me. If I’d call when he was busy, he got back to me. He made me feel like a priority, because investing in my life had become a priority for him. My success became his.

“Mike counseled me through loving my wife through miscarriage, corrected me when I reacted out of pride, and encouraged me to slow down when my drive was hurting me and those I loved. In his words, we would ‘check the dashboard’ of life to make sure things were in place. How was my relationship with Jesus? My relationship with my wife? My kids? Work relationships?

“Mike helped me make sense of the chaos of life and point me back to what mattered.

“In 2018, God took Mike Montgomery home to heaven, and it’s impossible to express the void it’s left. But beyond all the wisdom Mike offered, what I miss most is his presence. ‘What you are going through is normal, Nick,’ he said. ‘We will make it!’

“All of us need a Mike,” Nick concludes, “and more of us need to look for ways to be one.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.