Despite its challenges, the year 2020 has provided a grand display of God’s provision, at least where Kiah and Courtney Jackson are concerned.
The couple recently moved to Norfolk to accept positions at First Christian Church, which is nothing short of a dream for the Jacksons.
“Our dream is always to work in ministry together,” Courtney said. “We didn’t want to go somewhere where (Kiah) was involved and I would have to go do my own thing.”
The Jacksons’ Christian faith has played a large role in their relationship from the beginning. It is ultimately what brought them together in the first place.
They met in 2010 at Nebraska Christian College in Papillion. Kiah, a native of Clinton, Iowa, had transferred to the school to be closer to family after attending Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota.
“I didn’t know that I wanted to go to a Christian college at all until I was 21,” Kiah said. “That’s when I really kind of started to realize life wasn’t about me, and (I was) getting rid of my high school, selfish habits I had. I wanted to go impact the world for Christ.”
Courtney, who grew up in Pender, spent a year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a year before realizing she wanted to become involved in youth ministry.
“I love kids,” she said. “I connect with kids really well. I love their innocence, and I want to be a positive influence in their lives.”
The two were close friends for a long time, often leaning on one another for relationship advice and overlooking the potential they had as a couple, before they decided to date.
“Everyone else saw potential in us,” Kiah said. “Eventually, I think it goes back to us maturing as adults and getting older in our college years. We sat down and asked, ‘What are we doing?’ ”
They decided to start dating on opening day of baseball season 2012; the St. Louis Cardinals — their favorite team — won. By June 30, they were engaged, and in May 2013, they were married. The couple now have two children, Kinnick, 6, and Kaylee, 4.
Kiah was working as the assistant director of admissions at Nebraska Christian College but had aspirations of working full time on a church staff somewhere. A coworker at the college suggested he speak with Tim DeFor, lead minister at First Christian Church in Norfolk, where a position had opened for a Next Steps minister.
Within a day’s time, Kiah had a lengthy conversation with DeFor about the church, the Norfolk community and the ministry.
“It was not an interview. It was just getting to know one another,” Kiah said. “I told Courtney afterward that was probably one of the most authentic and natural conversations I’ve had about ministry in years.”
Kiah and DeFor spoke several more times in conversations that solidified his belief that the Norfolk church would be a good fit for the family.
Courtney said when DeFor asked about her interests and mentioned the opening in children’s ministry, it was like a sign.
“(Kiah) prayed right before the conversation with Tim,” she said. “Basically, he said, ‘God, if this is for me, if you want us to do this, there has to be an opportunity for both of us.’ ”
Kiah planned to stay on at the college long enough to see the newly recruited students through the enrollment process, but two weeks after he accepted the job at First Christian Church, the couple learned Nebraska Christian College would be closing.
“It was a huge display of God’s providence for us,” Courtney said.
Kiah’s new role as the Next Steps minister will allow him to use his strengths as an extrovert to connect with people and help them navigate through to the next step in their faith. Courtney will be working with the preschool side of ministry at the church.
The Jacksons said they were drawn to the church, as well as the community, and believe it will be a great environment in which to raise their two children.