Pastor McMillin reflects on 46+ years of Lutheran pastoral service

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Pastor Harold McMillin and his wife, Linda, have been partners in marriage and in the Lutheran ministry. Pastor Harold was honored at a retirement celebration on Nov. 3 at St. John's in Luana. From left are Pastor Harold and Linda McMillin. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

"If faith is a burden, you believe in a wrong God. God came to lift burden off, not put one on."                                                    

Pastor Harold McMillin Jr., commonly referred to as Pastor Harold, shared these words of wisdom seated at the couple's inviting family dinner table where food and fellowship have been shared for many years. 

From their spacious home overlooking the bluffs of the Mississippi River valley, Pastor Harold and wife Linda shared the story of the duo's life-long ministry. 


Pastor McMillin began, "When I was growing up I wanted to be a farmer. I loved farming, and educated myself in the trade during my formative years, joining 4-H and FFA. When I graduated from high school I did not have the resources to be a farmer." 

He attended Gale Institute to learn tab accounting. He was later employed by Lutheran Mutual in Waverly as a computer operator on the night shift. He commented, "I knew I didn't want to answer red lights and work on the computer for a living. I had an interest in working with youth. I got a job at Bremwood Lutheran Campus in Waverly and worked with troubled youth. I found I really enjoyed the work and decided to give college a try."

Doubting his potential, he said, "I never thought I was smart enough for college. I was going to study history, but found the psychology and philosophy classes very interesting. I am grateful for all the people in my life at that time who inspired me to continue my education."  

Pastor McMillin graduated from Wartburg College in Waverly and continued his education for four more years at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque.

Pastoral career

"My internship was at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Greendale, Wis. During my last year of school I was a student pastor at Elkport and Littleport Lutheran Churches. It was there that I put on my first Last Supper drama.  I have continued that tradition throughout my pastoral career," he proudly shared. 

Pastor McMillin and Linda have been partners in marriage and in the Lutheran ministry for 28 years. He expressed gratitude for the guidance he and Linda have received. "Linda and I have learned in our ministry that we are a combination of all the people who have impacted our lives," he said.

The McMillins' spiritual leadership journey has taken them across the United States and abroad.  The following is a list of churches he has served in Iowa: 

St. John's Lutheran Church (Crane Creek), Tripoli; First Lutheran Church, Dows; Vernon Lutheran Church, Williams; Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Fontanelle; Elgin Lutheran Church, Elgin; Highland Lutheran Church, Elkader; St. John's American Lutheran Church, Guttenberg; St. Paul Lutheran Church, Guttenberg; and St. John Lutheran Church in Luana and Farmersburg. 

Pastor McMillin served 12 years as the Guttenberg Fire Department chaplain and was a member of the Clayton County Foundation for the Future (CCFF).

Inspiration and appreciation

  Pastor Harold commented, "I have always found the people I visit in hospitals, many who are terminal or in serious conditions, to be the individuals with the most strength. It makes me question, 'what have I to complain about?'"  

He shared this story: "I had a wonderful experience visiting a woman who had multiple sclerosis. The disease had taken away the use of her hands. She was still able to paint by placing the paintbrush between her teeth. She loved to paint clowns. She was always bubbly and inspiring. She was a joy to visit." 

He continued, "I visited another gentleman, who due to a series of seven strokes, could only communicate through his eyes. He and I got to communicate so well with one another we would bet on the World Series." 

The dedicated pastor expressed appreciation for all of God's stewards. "There are so many positive people who are always giving and educating people through God," he noted. 

Pastor McMillin has worked with many youth who have transformed their lives through ministry. 

"We attended a youth works group in Toronto. On the return trip one of the youth, who was inspired during the trip, wanted to hold a community Thanksgiving dinner. He planted the seed that became the tradition that is still held today," he said with pride.  

"Hay lift"

The pair attended the National Church Assembly in Florida. "Linda attended the assembly as the church delegate. I decided to tag along. During one of the gatherings we heard about the drought in Texas. I suggested to the group a 'hay lift.' There were three Bishops from Texas and Iowa and we decided to take on the project. I mentioned it to my parishioners in Luana during the church service. They quickly went into action, and in no time had two semi loads ready to go to Texas," he said

"It took a tremendous amount of effort and generosity but we were able to secure and deliver enough hay to feed a thousand cattle for six months. The people responded with hearts of joy during a time when the church was really struggling. People from all over the country offered their services to help," he said with gratitude. 

Retirement plans

"One of the things I have been blessed with is the ability to have vision," he said. He patted Linda and said, "She has helped out a lot with that." She laughed and said, "Just 28 years."

Pastor McMillin's plans for retirement include spending time with family, traveling, camping, fishing and hunting. "I will go wherever the spirit takes me. The Lord has been good to me. He has sent many good individuals to help me and steer me in the right direction. It's hard to believe all the experiences we have had. There were many long, long hours with no regrets," he concluded with a hearty laugh and big smile.

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