When considering which social issues matter most deeply to him, Tim said: “All of them.” He added, “ I don’t work for justice. I just do justice.” He prefers to hang out behind the scenes, helping out however he can. His passion: “Helping people to understand that God loves us more than we can imagine. He is not a punishing God.
He just loves us.” That love is at the heart of Tim’s living and ministry.
Tim was born and raised in Cloquet and grew up in a Pentecostal church. By the time he was five or six, he knew he would be a missionary. By the time he was seven, he also knew he wanted to be a nurse. When he was ten, he gave his heart to Jesus, but struggled to believe that Jesus could actually love him. Because of sexual abuse, he was convinced he was a sinner and not worthy of God’s love. He finally accepted his minister’s insistence that Jesus loves us all no matter what. That has been the touchstone of Tim’s life ever since.
After graduating from nursing school, Tim went to Liberia, where he worked in a leper colony. After two years, he was forced to return to the United States because of illness, and found himself wrestling with God, wondering what God wanted him to do. It took a long time for Tim to realize that doing what he wanted to do was what God wanted from him. Using the powers and gifts he had been given was serving God.
Tim married and had two daughters. He worked as a nurse. But the life he had constructed fell apart. He lost his job, got divorced, and sank into a period of questioning and despair. He moved to St. Louis where he worked as a truck driver and was homeless for 2 ½ years—living in his truck, and later in an abandoned house.
He reluctantly came back to Duluth to see his dying brother, but intended to return to St. Louis and end his life. However, before he left, he stopped by Peace Church. Janell exclaimed how happy she was that he was back, and asked if he could paint her house. “She made me feel welcome and wanted,” Tim recalled. “Janell saved my life.” Tim moved back to Duluth. And over and over, he continues to experience daily miracles that convince him that God cares for him, forgives him, and loves him.
Many people have had a profound influence on Tim’s life. His mother was a passionate Pentecostal. His father helped Tim grow up believing that there was nothing he couldn’t do as a girl. He told Tim, “There are only two things a guy can do that a girl can’t, and they aren’t worth talking about.” He also had a cousin who could literally see Jesus—and convinced Tim that God was everywhere. “That was a good start,” he commented.
At Peace Church, it seems as if Tim himself is everywhere: on the Church Council; on the Property, Stewardship, and Acting for Justice teams; head usher; accompanying Pastor Kathy to the jail for weekly worship.
From the time he was born until he was sixteen, Tim, who was named Naomi at birth, was called “Butch” by his father. “I tried being straight. I knew I wanted kids. . . But I am 80% male.” He refers to himself as pangender, knowing that while he identifies most strongly as male, he is also female. He has borne two children, lost a child, lived as a woman. He celebrates the ability to flow between cultural gender identities and believes that this makes him better at listening and at understanding others.
When reflecting on the connection between his faith and action, Tim replied: “I am a healer.” He was a nurse for 37 years and continues to explore healing on many levels. But ultimately, Tim believes that “faith is what you are. I don’t do anything outside my faith.”
One of Tim’s favorite Bible verses is “Pray without ceasing.” “I’m always talking to God,” Tim says. And God has always provided—whether it is in the form of a set of chisels, a twenty dollar bill drifting across his shoe—or the constant reassurance that we are all loved by God. He has learned that ultimately his ministry—his way of doing justice—is to be who and what he is, created and loved by God. His passion is to help everyone know that blessing.
Interviewed by Pamela Mittlefehldt
- About Peace
- Youth & Children