Community Portrait: Meadow Vista pastor retires after 21 years of service

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Pastor Doug Zike likes to think of himself as a planner. But it’s interesting how a bilingual Lutheran pastor with a Ph.D. in Spanish ended up spending 21 years as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Meadow Vista. The 65-year-old Zike started at Faith Lutheran in 1991 and in two weeks will deliver his last sermon and retire as pastor there.

Zike never envisioned himself a pastor and it was never in his plan, though he is a fifth-generation minister. He grew up in Michigan and in the ninth grade decided to take Spanish for his foreign language. Little did he know how important this small decision would play into his life’s plan.

“By the time I graduated high school I was fluent in Spanish,” Zike said. After high school, he joined the Air Force in 1966, serving during the Vietnam era until 1970. After the service, Zike went to college to study Spanish in the United States and Spain. The plan was to get his master’s degree and teach college-level Spanish.

Zike had not attended church for a number of years, but in 1973 started attending a Lutheran church while living in Colorado and an event that changed his life took place.

“The Holy Spirit spoke and I became a real Christian,” Zike said. “The Holy Spirit very clearly stepped in, saying, ‘This is the direction you’ll take,’ and then all the pieces fell in place, it was instant, I heard the voice of God.”

From there Zike went to seminary, did bilingual social work and served in several Lutheran churches for 10 years as a Spanish-speaking pastor. He also taught Spanish in college for a few years. In 1984, Zike and his wife, Patsy, relocated from the Midwest to El Centro, and he began a ministry as pastor for a bilingual congregation. El Centro is east of San Diego at the bottom of the Imperial Valley, with a large Mexican population.

“I did an English and Spanish service every Sunday, a bilingual service once a month and a bi-lingual newsletter,” Zike said.

After three years in El Centro the Zikes moved north to the Sacramento area, admitting that the blush of the desert had worn off a little.

While Zike was in Sacramento and working temp jobs, a position opened up for an interim pastor at a small Lutheran church in Meadow Vista. The church was in the last stages of calling a new pastor. After months of searching for a new pastor, the call committee had not been able to find a suitable one. Zike took the interim position and led his first service in March 1991.

Instructed by the area Lutheran bishop that the call committee would know the right candidate when he or she came along, after a few weeks it was clear who they felt should have the job. Again, it was not really in his plan, but Zike was asked and accepted the job as pastor of Faith Lutheran and in April 1991 began his ministry there. At the time, Zike didn’t think he would finish his career in Meadow Vista, but it was a good fit.

“I didn’t really think about it and 21 years just went by – it never occurred to me to leave,” Zike said. “This is our community, these people are our family and our close friends, this is who we are and what we do.”

Zike considers bringing a full-time youth pastor position to Faith Lutheran one of the significant accomplishments during his tenure.

Over the years at Faith Lutheran, Zike didn’t let his Spanish skills get rusty, and he put his Ph.D. in Spanish to good use working with Los Medicos Voladores, the Flying Doctors, serving as official translator on more than 20 trips to Mexico for the medical group. The missions included geriatrics, dental, optical and pre-natal clinics in various parts of Mexico.

Zike plans on staying in the area after his retirement, doing some substitute preaching, and has applications submitted to area junior colleges to teach Spanish. He lives in Meadow Vista with his wife, Patsy.