Since 2017, Rev. Duane Gebhard and Jennifer Therkilsen-Gebhard have acted as volunteers for Nomads on a Mission, Active in Divine Service.
NOMADS grew as a volunteer organization under the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. Later on, it was incorporated under the General Board of Global Ministries.
The organization's goal is to fulfill needs through Christ's love. This includes rebuilding lives, homes, and facilities with God's love in their hands.
Although the organization is affiliated with the UMC, Jennifer stated that volunteers do not have to be Methodist.
Duane stated that regardless of their differences in backgrounds, they work together for the good of the world.
According to a report by Park Rapid Enterprise, as volunteers, the couple traveled and lived in their own RV for three weeks. They also provided their own meals, worked 24 hours per week, and held daily devotions with their team.
Jennifer acknowledged that working as a NOMADS volunteer is hard. However, they always end up having a good time.
Since 2017, Duane said that they have been on 12 projects, including some that were cut short due to the pandemic. Among the 12 projects, they served as team leaders in six of them.
Career of Service
Before being a volunteer at NOMADS, Duane dedicated three years of his life to being a missionary in the Congo. Afterwards, he went to Garrett Theological Seminary and served as a minister of education and youth in Rochester.
During his term, he was involved in various mission trips, including a youth service project where he was able to meet Jennifer.
Jennifer stated that the project with Duane was what introduced her to people living in poverty. Aside from that, she already had several years of experience under her belt. She worked in a vocational rehab facility, started a hospital endowment fund, served as a lay leader at Riverside United Methodist Church, and chaired the endowment committee for NOMADS.
In the early years of their relationship, Jennifer invited Duane to the work activity center she directed. At that time, he was blown away by Jennifer's ability to work with people and help them in their difficulties.
Years passed and the couple's relationship remained strong. By that time, Duane stated that they had participated in 20 or more service trips.
Volunteering with NOMADS
Amongst the projects they have been involved in, one that stands out in the couple's memory is Bay Shore Camp in Sebawaing, Mich.
Jennifer stated that the project was brought to life because of the camp director's dream of doing outdoor education with school children. However, they needed a raised trail to avoid being flooded during a high tide.
Duane's team cut down dead ash trees and built a "corduroy trail" out of the logs and mulch. They also built log benches for the camp.
Looking back at the experience, Duane stated that none of them would have agreed if they knew what they had to do from the beginning. However, he expressed that it was an amazing feat after they got it done.
In their latest project, the couple helped expand a nursery at a church in Coon Rapids to address the congregation's demand for infant care.
They have also volunteered on projects in Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa, Georgia, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
As of now, the couple does not plan to stop dedicating their lives in service to NOMADS's cause.
"The reason we're on this mission is to do the work of Christ and to be the church. It's so fulfilling to me," Duane stated.