If there is one unifying theme, one common element that winds its way through our lives, weaving together all the pieces of who we are, then for Kyle Felke, Senior Pastor at Bethel Valparaiso Church, that theme is love: love of people and love of God.
Born in Rochester, Indiana, Felke lived in same house until he left for college at the age of eighteen. He attended Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, before eventually moving out to California, where he and his wife lived, until he felt God calling him back home to northwest Indiana in 2010.
“We heard there was a church here, one that we just felt that we should come and build a community with, so my wife and I packed up and moved, on the faith that this was where we were supposed to be.”
Felke originally planned to work part-time at Best Buy until he could go full-time in the ministry, but shortly after arriving in Valparaiso, he was offered a job at Chase Bank.
“I ended up working there for a few months until the church asked me to work with their school ministry. The following year, in September 2011, I was asked to be associate pastor. It was really incredible. It was clearly recognizable that God had indeed called us here to this place,” said Felke.
“I always felt as if I was called to full-time ministry. Even when I was growing up.”
Raised Catholic, Felke heard the calling from a young age, and at first felt he would join the priesthood, until he was presented with the gospel in a context that he hadn’t encountered as part of the Catholic faith. It was then that he felt his calling pull him in a different direction.
“Something just... came alive inside of me, and I felt called to be pastor in an evangelical, non-denominational church.”
Felke enjoys seeing the change in people’s lives and talking with people who are not part of the church
“I love seeing people come alive to the awareness of God, falling in love with God and seeing that love change the way they interact with their jobs… their families,” he said. “I love getting that chance to speak with people who maybe aren’t part of our church, learning about them, and encouraging them in their lives. That’s always fun. It gives me an opportunity to interact with people out in the community.”
Felke and his wife Alisa have two boys: Lucas, 7, and Jaden, 5, and have another son due early November. Alisa works as a midwife at Prima Bella Women’s Health, PC in Valparaiso. Though busy with his ministry, Felke makes sure to spend time with his family, taking them to the beach and riding bikes everywhere.
“They’re really into riding bikes right now,” says Felke, who says that he and his family also enjoy going out for dinner at local eateries like Stacks and Meditrina Market Cafe.
Felke calls Valpo a “Spirit of Excellence,” for its rich culture and opportunities.
“The intentionality of what the people here do, and how they interact with each other, how they care for each other… To see a city that has so much concern for its residents, and that just works so well. Valpo not only sees that the needs of its citizens are met, it seems to anticipate their needs, gives them things that they didn’t even know they needed, and shows them what else their lives could be.”
Felke says that it’s this overall Spirit of Excellence that encourages the local residents to do better, to become better.
“I play tennis, and I always play better against a great athlete, someone who raises me up. This city is like that. People here care about those who have less, and have little hope, and that shows them the way to a better life.”
Though he enjoys all that Valparaiso and Northwest Indiana have to offer, he also likes to step outside those boundaries.
“Man, I love to travel,” said Felke. “I went to the Dominican Republic when I was in college. I’ve been to Norway. My wife and I traveled when we lived in California. That’s what I crave: meeting people around the world, hearing what Jesus means to them. It completely shifts my paradigm, and opens up some really exciting aspects of who God is.”
Felke is proud of the ways his church has been able to help the community, including outreach programs, buying groceries for needy families and providing clothes for those in need during the holidays. Felke hinted at another project that’s in store, and should be announced later this month.
“We can’t really share a lot about that yet, but it’s working with families on a back-to-school project.”
Felke’s philosophy about life is simple: “True life is experienced through knowing God.”
“I love people, and I love Jesus. My love for Him affects the way that I interact with His people. I see them in the way He sees them, and that’s through eyes of love. If I had just one thing, one theme to express, it’s that.”
For more information about Bethel Church, visit their website: http://bethelvalparaiso.com/