Leaving town wasn’t even on the radar for Terrace youth/associate pastor Todd Wilkens and his family, until doors kept opening and they believed God confirmed they should move to Prince George.
Wilkens, who has been involved with hundreds of youth in the Terrace area over the last 15 years, is known for his witty and enthusiastic leadership of the summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) at the Terrace Evangelical-free (E-free) Church beside Park Ave. Medical.
He also coordinated intramurals at Skeena Middle School since 2011 and organized community drop-in hockey nights at the sportsplex on Saturdays for the last eight years.
Wilkens said his family loves Terrace, and deciding to leave wasn’t easy.
“I’m excited for a new challenge, but it’s also really hard to leave all the great relationships and connections that we’ve made over the last 15 years,” he said.
“[I’ve been] very happy here, everything with our church is so good, and our community and our neighbourhood … the relationships are the hardest part.”
But Wilkens is also excited about what lies ahead.
Moving to Prince George, he’s taking on a position as associate pastor at College Heights Baptist Church, a church with 320 members pastored by his friend Curtis Reimer.
“I’m excited for the new role,” Wilkens said, adding that he’s stepping into a new realm, not involved with youth, but helping lead the church’s compassion ministry.
“That’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to … [the ministry] is a way for the church to serve and help people in need, whether that’s in the hospital or in our community. It’s still kind of being formed, but just trying to reach out to people in need,” he said.
Wilkens says he was happy in Terrace, not looking to move, but last August his friend mentioned the church needed an associate pastor and the opportunity just stuck in his head.
When Wilkens talked to friends and mentors for advice, they all confirmed it sounded good.
“With decisions like this I tend to talk to lots of people … everybody that I talked to said the same thing. They said, ‘I don’t want to see you go, but it sounds pretty good.’ I didn’t get anybody that told me not to do it.”
Since Wilkens is originally from Prince George, it would also allow him to be closer to his parents.
And the timing of the move was good for the kids, he said, with two of them just reaching school age (Hudson, 5, and Farrah, 2).
“It’s going to become increasingly difficult for us to uproot,” said Wilkens, adding that it was hard enough to transition their son Trace, 8, out of Centennial Christian School where he has thrived.
Todd’s wife Charla acknowledged it’s a bit tough for her to leave.
She moved to Terrace 13 years ago, in 2004, and has worked various places, including running school programs at Thornhill Elementary School and Thornhill Primary in the past. She has also been heavily involved in church and youth group for many years, and is now a full-time mom.
“I’m looking at it as a new season in my life,” she said. “And I guess, change is good, too, but I will definitely miss the small town feel of Terrace,” she said. “It’s just such a nice community.”
Terrace E-free pastor Bob Pond said the family would definitely be missed, in the church and for him personally.
“It’s a big hole,” said Pond, “We’ve built up a relationship to the point where you’re not just co-workers but you’re friends … For me, the friendship is what I’m going to miss most,” Pond said, joking about how he used to visit Wilkens’ office whenever he needed a good laugh to energize him.
On a different front, Wilkens also leaves big shoes to fill at Skeena Middle School, where youth really enjoyed his humour and fun organization of intramurals, said Cory Killoran, the school’s vice-principal.
“The kids will miss him,” Killoran said, adding that Wilkens was at the school three-to-four times a week, opening the gym, organizing games and competing with staff teams school intramurals.
“He’s such a positive influence on everybody around him,” Killoran said.