Don Eveland is a member of one of Backus’ founding families, so it might be no surprise that he resides now in Backus, though that was not always his intention.
Eveland is a Backus native and number 12 of 14 siblings. He was an athletic Backus student and an all conference basketball player during his 1953 senior year.
“I thought it was a big deal, but it never did me any good,” he said.
Eveland was so determined to leave Backus that he graduated on a Friday and was gone from home before the next Monday.
“I wasn’t leading a very good life. It took me a while to grow spiritually. My family prayed for me,” Eveland said.
He wore many different hats, including working for a phone company, an insurance company, his brother’s Scamp Trailer company, his own trailer company called Casita, and another insurance company. Eveland moved around almost constantly after his graduation and usually made a respectable amount of money until around 1981, when he found the Lord.
Eveland had been raised by a born-again Christian mother and among born-again Christian siblings, but he had never really felt enthusiastic about his religion. That all changed when he read Romans 12, which urges people to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice,” and Eveland did just that. He said that moment changed the course of his life.
“Before that I hadn’t even considered it (religion). Someone must have been praying for me. I was working at a company and making $2,000 a week. Shortly after I did that (found the Lord) they changed their operation and did away with my job and I moved back here,” Eveland said.
Eveland was reintroduced to his childhood neighbor, Mary, through Sunday church service. They were married in 1992.
Together, the couple worked by driving through all of the lower 48 states delivering Scamp trailers, sightseeing and praying to God for guidance.
When home, Eveland attended a church and taught Sunday school, though he never felt at home.
“There was something there that was bothering me. I noticed a lot of those people who claimed to be born-again Christians, children of God, accepted of Christ — they were unhappy,” Eveland said.
In 2008, Eveland met others who were looking for another place to worship. They arranged to use the former Backus School building. The new congregation still needed a pastor.
Eveland went on a Scamp delivery trip. It was night and his wife was sleeping in the back of his van. He was praying, saying the church needed a pastor.
He heard a voice telling him, “We have a pastor ... You!”
Eveland ignored this voice for a time, but he couldn’t ignore it forever. He became pastor of the Pine Mountain Gospel Church on May 3, 2009.
Eveland’s sermons on the indestructible forgiveness of Christ upset some of his congregation. The congregation has since warmed to his style.
Eveland felt it was time to retire at the end of 2013, and his time as pastor ended Jan. 15, 2014. His grandnephew, Blair Ecker, who was also inspired by Romans 12, succeeded him.
“He (God) took my job away from me. Brought me to Minnesota. Took me to teach Sunday school, and brought me here to teach,” Eveland said. “Now, I’m going to write a book. I think it’s going to affect the lives of thousands of people. I think that’s God’s work.”
Travis Grimler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook.