Hi, my name is Don Rypstra.
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I am the youngest of 4 children. My parents were immigrants from Holland. In 1965 we immigrated to Campbell California. I grew up going to church. I always knew about the Lord, thanks to my parent’s influence.
At a summer camp at Hume Lake after 6th grade, I invited Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior. However, in junior high school, I started getting into trouble and by eighth grade I had begun experimenting with drugs. In high school, I continued a lifestyle of going to church, but also desiring to live like all my unsaved friends.
After high school I enlisted in the US Coast Guard. The drugs, alcohol, and partying lifestyle continued while in the Coast Guard. Once when I was home on leave, preparing for heading out to my new duty station in Duluth Minnesota, I stopped in a barber shop for a haircut. The guy who cut my hair started sharing with me how he had given his heart to the Lord but still struggled with drug use. He shared with me how sorcery was a sin. I knew that, after all my dad read the bible to us every evening after dinner when I was growing up. What he shared with me next though, I had never heard. He told me that the Greek word, sorcery, was the word for drugs.
The next day I was driving by myself from San Jose to Duluth, a place I had never been to before. As usual, when home on leave, I had looked up old friends. One of them had given me a bag of marijuana buds for the trip.
For the next few days, while driving alone, I kept thinking about what that barber had told me. A battle started in my heart. After my initial drug experimentation in junior high, I would struggle with the guilt of what I was doing, but by this time, I no longer felt guilty about my drug use. That all changed on that trip to Duluth. I remember looking for and hoping I would see a hitchhiker on the way that I could give a ride to and talk with. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts that now were constant. The Lord had other plans and I never saw a single hitchhiker on that trip. At one point I sensed the Lord telling me to make a decision either for Him or against Him, and this was my last opportunity to decide. By the time I reached the Minnesota state line I pulled into the first rest area and threw what was left of my bag of dope and my 6-pack of beer into a trash can. I went back to my car, prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me. I rededicated my life to the Lord that day.
I wish I could say, my past drug use was behind me by that time, but I did stumble off and on, however the Lord was starting to change me. Eventually the desire for drugs and partying was replaced with the desire for the Word of God and fellowship. I got involved with a high school/college bible study and through that was invited to the leader’s church they attended.
Shortly after attending church I met a girl there who would eventually become my wife. We were married in 1982 and after my enlistment was finished we returned to San Jose with our two oldest children.
One day I saw a sign for South Valley Chapel, a church that had met in Santa Theresa High School in the late 70’s. My sister had invited me to check it out with her when I was still in high school. She had graduated from Biola College and she knew the guys who started the church from her time at Biola, Jon and Dave Courson. I came home that evening and told my wife there was a church I remembered visiting in high school and wanted to check it out. The first Sunday we visited it back in 1984, we knew this was our church home. Tim Brown was the pastor now of South Valley Chapel. By this time they were meeting at the Southside Community Center in San Jose and shortly later we affiliated with Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and became South Valley Calvary Chapel.
In the meantime we had two more children and I got hired working for a corporation in San Jose. In 1990, we decided we wanted to move back to Minnesota and I transferred with my company to Rochester Minnesota. We looked for a church like Calvary Chapel, but found none, and finally settled into a church here and became active in that church. Although the Lord worked all things out eventually, looking back, I would never recommend moving somewhere before making sure there is a good church in that community to become actively involved with.
In 1993, our life took another turn. I was offered a job transfer back to San Jose. After some prayer, we decided to go back to California. We once more began attending South Valley Calvary Chapel, but shortly after arriving back in San Jose, Pastor Tim felt the Lord’s leading to merge South Valley Calvary Chapel with Calvary Chapel San Jose, which was pastored by Don McClure.
By 1996 we felt we were supposed to go back to Minnesota. An unrelated situation occurred that cemented that decision for us to leave San Jose. The Lord again opened an opportunity for me back at my company in Rochester.
Arriving back in Rochester, we once more attended the same church we had been involved with before. We started longing for Calvary Chapel style of Ministry. After a couple years, we discovered Calvary Chapel Saint Paul and contacted Pastor Chik. In March of 1999 Calvary Chapel Saint Paul began an outreach in Rochester. Another couple from Rochester was attending services at Calvary Chapel Saint Paul and so they became the host couple for the outreach until they moved to San Antonio, Texas.
After the Rivera’s left for Texas, the outreach moved to our home and we became the host couple. The assisting pastor of Calvary Chapel Saint Paul, Dominic, was leading the outreach at that time. During that time I joined Calvary Chapel Saint Paul’s Intern program. One day, on a lunch time walk, I was praying and sensed the Lord calling me into the ministry. I came home that evening and shared with my wife that I felt the Lord telling me I would eventually be either an assisting pastor or a pastor, but I didn’t want to do either one. I only shared that with my wife and no one else. After completing the Interns program I joined the follow-on program, the “Joshua” group.
After some time had passed, Pastor Chik asked me if I would pastor the outreach in Rochester. After some prayer, I came back and shared with Chik that the Lord had already placed the call on my life about 6 months prior and so I accepted. In 2003 I became ordained and we affiliated as Calvary Chapel Rochester. Since that time the Lord provided a church building that we were able to purchase.
My wife, Theresa and I have 4 children and 13 grandchildren.
Looking back the past few years, I have seen how the Lord has been preparing me for this calling. The Lord put me in a home where the Bible was read daily. I’ve taught Sunday School for many years and led a few Bible Studies. When my mother found out I had been called to be a pastor, she shared with me how as a little boy I used to tell her when I grew up I was going to be a minister.
This has been the most challenging time of my life, and also the most rewarding. There is nothing better than being in the place of obedience to what the Lord has been preparing you for and calling you to.