Don Voeks is a man leading a double life. There's nothing undercover or suspicious about what he's doing, however.
From Wednesday through Saturday Voeks lives in Gresham with his wife, Fusako.
On Wednesday nights, Voeks, the counselor, leads a batterers' intervention group in Multnomah County. He tries to help members of the group stop the cycle of domestic violence and spousal abuse.
He's also on the staff as counselor at Gresham Urgent Care, a facility where patients receive medical care at a lower cost than a hospital emergency room.
But at 4:30 on Sunday mornings, just before the summer sun starts to show its face, Voeks, the pastor, climbs into his car and heads for La Grande, where he serves three days at Zion Lutheran Church.
He arrives in time to lead the 9 a.m. traditional worship service and stays around for the church's 7 p.m. contemporary worship service on Mondays. At noon Wednesdays he heads back to Gresham.
Voeks resigned as associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Gresham in January when he started making the weekly trips to La Grande.
Zion's Kittleson resigns
He was hired to conduct the services at Zion when the church's pastor, Lance Kittleson, was called up by the U.S. Army Reserve to go to the Middle East.
Kittleson, minister in La Grande for two years, has been in the military for 26 years. The Army chaplain and lieutenant colonel reported to Iowa, and later was deployed to Germany and Kuwait.
In May, Kittleson moved with his unit from Camp Virginia, Kuwait, to Iraq. (See Kittleson's report on the move to Iraq in the column at right.)
Kittleson resigned from Zion Lutheran Church last month after he learned he would be in Iraq until at least December.
"He felt a year was a long time to be away from the church and it was necessary to resign," said Voeks, who on June 15 stepped up his responsibilities at Zion by becoming the church's interim pastor.
Voeks said the congregation will greatly miss Kittleson.
"People have told me that they had never heard anyone preach about grace better than Lance," he said.
Voeks explained that grace is God's gift of love that is freely given to people, regardless of who they are or what they've done.
Voeks said the comment made about Kittleson is "a phenomenal compliment for the man."
Kittleson's wife, Gail, has left La Grande for Iowa, where family members live.
Having her husband in Iraq has been stressful for her, Voeks said. "It will be a good thing for her to be near her family."
Meanwhile, Voeks is taking on a greater leadership role at Zion.
One of his main goals as interim, he said, will be to help the congregation prepare for its permanent minister by developing a church mission statement.
Voeks will help the members understand the kind of pastor they need by asking themselves several questions.
"Who are we? Where are we? What are we called to do? Where are we going?" Voeks said are some of the questions that need to be answered.
Voeks, a 1977 graduate of Concordia Seminary in Exile in St. Louis, said typically an interim minister stays with a church for 15 to 18 months.
He has been an interim pastor at churches in Clackamas and Welches.
"My anticipation is that we will have a new pastor by sometime next spring or early summer."
Voeks said his wife will stay in Gresham while he is in La Grande.
He said he met Fusako when he was a missionary in Japan from 1968-73. The couple have two sons in college.