Rev. Yasenka Retires from Pastoral Duties but not from Serving Others

May 16, 2014

 
by Bob Gibbs

After 32 years of serving the congregation of worshippers at Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church in Salem, Pastor David Yasenka is retiring.  Although he will no longer be the pastor at TCLC, Reverend Yasenka will actively continue his service to the poor and the homeless of southern New Hampshire.

When Rev. Yasenka first visited Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church in 1982, he did not think that he would accept the position of church pastor.  The church building at that time was located on North Broadway, at what is now Breckenridge Plaza.  The church had not had a pastor in over a year and the building itself was in very poor condition.  However, after meeting church members and seeing the commitment that they had to serve others in their community, he decided to take on the position.

Church member Linda Mele recalled being on the Call Committee that asked David Yasenka to be the sixth pastor of Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church back in 1982.  He was anxious to start his ministry and came up from Connecticut even before his house was finished.  He stayed with people from the congregation.  He would frequent local diners and definitely had a gift to talk to strangers over breakfast and coffee, and before you know it, they were coming to church.  They also had their adult study in the diner.  This practice of meeting at local coffee shops is still going on today.

TCLC started in the early 1960s and had a small church building on the corner of Route 28 and Dyer Avenue.  In the mid ‘80s, Rev. Yasenka, along with the building committee, had the insight to know it was a good time to sell the church property and construct a new building on Zion Hill Road to better meet the needs of the growing congregation.  It was not long after that they were expanding the building to add more meeting space and classrooms.

The church has always been education orientated.  They have had their own preschool, and have housed a Head Start program and now have Salem Family Resources-Success by 6 using their space.  Pastor Yasenka has always encouraged the congregation to be involved in the community.  Parishioners started the Bread of Life Food Pantry and have been active in the Crop Walk.  Family Promise has benefitted from the church’s assistance, and daily noontime AA meetings have been held in the building.

Cindy Jury, executive director of Salem Family Resources, said the pastor has been wonderful to the organization by providing space for homeless families to find shelter, food, education and training.  Rev. Yasenka has recognized that the poor and homeless need not just shelter and food, but counseling, training, childcare, and education.  He sees to it that the people he works with are helped in becoming whole self-supporting people and families.  For those who may never be able to be on their own entirely, he helps to provide them with as much help and support as possible.

Mele says that Pastor Yasenka has made TCLC a beacon of light for Salem.  Reverend Yasenka has received awards such as the Ganley Award and the Champion of Children award for his efforts in the community.

Parishioner Linda Mele recalls clearly a sermon of Pastor Yasenka’s.  She stated, “It was my daughter’s confirmation.  He had the confirmands try on their parents’ jackets, shoes, and hats.  They didn’t fit.  It was a lesson that their faith had to be their own … not just handed down from their parents.  He encouraged us all to live out our faith by helping others.”

Along with his duties as pastor, Rev. Yasenka also serves on the board of directors of the Salem Haven Nursing Home.

In addition, he has testified before the NH House of Representatives, speaking to the needs of the poor and homeless.  Rev. Yasenka is known for being able to bring together members of the business community, elected officials, and homeless groups.  He sees many in the political arena pulling together in Salem.

He is driven to help those most in need of a place to live.  He speaks passionately of the poor and homeless and the need to bring assistance to these families.  Despite one reporter’s insistence to get him to recall memories of his time in Salem, the pastor kept coming back to the needs of the people he wants to help.

Although he will no longer be a pastor, he by no means will be resting.  He will be spending most of his time working with the Isaiah 58 ministries, a non-profit group helping to provide affordable housing.  He will also be spending time with his wife, Karen, and his children, Kristen, Kourtney, and Aaron, as well as grandchildren Helena and Isla.

The reverend feels that in the time he has served Salem, the town “hasn’t changed a lot; there is a still a closeness of the community in trying to help the needy”

As church member, Betty Gay put it simply, “He is going to be missed’.