Rev. Robert (Rob) Nedbalek
Pastor & Mission Developer
Baptized in a Congregational Church (now UCC), confirmed in a LCMS congregation, married in a Methodist church, he got his first taste of ministry as youth pastor, Sunday school teacher and bus driver at a Baptist church (ABC). Joining an ELCA congregation, he ultimately went to Wartburg Theological Seminary, seeking an M/Div and ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Ordained March 17, 2002, he served as pastor of rural, multi point parishes in Montana, North and South Dakota before returning home to Montana with his family.
Convicted of Vehicular Homicide in 1980, gave Rob a different appreciation for prison ministry.
While at the seminary, he and a classmate, Carl Fulk, became acquainted with Ed Nesselhuf and Prison Congregations of America, who encouraged both to consider making themselves available for call to Prison Ministry in the PCA. But Rob chose to return to Montana, where family ties tugged at him, and entered parish ministry, which took him away from home, again. Now time has taken a full circle, as Rob has been called to serve as the pastor of Freedom in Christ Prison Congregation at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana.
Rob and his wife Lori have six children: Todd, Tara, Trebor, Danyelle, David and Johnathan, twelve grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Johnathan remains at home, entering the seventh grade next year.
Vocationally, Rob has a background in retail and wholesale business, automotive and motorcycle mechanics, and a myriad of other “jobs.” To quote a friend, “You name it, Rob’s done it.”
Rob and Lori are very excited to begin this next chapter in their lives, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus with those who are incarcerated in body within the Montana State Prison, through Freedom in Christ Prison Congregation.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Bea was born in Helena, Montana, and spent her youth as an Air Force Brat growing up around the United States and half way around the world. When her father retired, the family returned to Montana where she graduated from Helena High School. She returned to college after her youngest son started Kindergarten graduating with an Associate degree in Accounting from the Helena College of Technology and then went on to complete two Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Services and Business Administration from the University of Great Falls.
Her oldest son chose a path of self-destruction for almost 20 years through drug use. After being arrested several times, placed on probation a couple of times and finally landing in a lock-down treatment facility for 18 months, he began to seriously think about his life’s choices and how those choices were affecting him and his relationship with his family. During this time he met some wonderful people at the Missoula Detention Center who visited him weekly bringing faith, hope and grace of the Lord to him. When he was moved to the treatment facility, he was again befriended by some wonderful Christian men who mentored him during his almost two-year stay. These people, through the leadership and work of the Holy Spirit, helped turn Bea’s son around. When she was approached by Freedom in Christ to be the ministry Administrator, it seemed like a perfect fit and she didn’t hesitate to accept.
She is married to Howard and they have four boys, 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They reside in Anaconda, Montana, where they spend much time in community and church involvement. He favorite past times are photography, travel, quilting and spending time with her grandchildren.
Melanie Martin-Dent is Interim pastor at Lonsdale United Methodist Church in Sidney, Montana. A graduate of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, she has served churches in Auburn, WA; Hoquiam, WA; Pierce, ID; Malta, MT; Missoula, MT; and Anaconda, MT, in addition to serving as Coordinator of the Timber Community Outreach Project for Lutheran Social Services, working in the chemical dependency field in Idaho, and as group home staff and parent support group facilitator for AWARE in Missoula. Her husband, Ron is also an ELCA pastor and they have two adult children, several pets and three horses. Melanie has volunteered leading worship and Bible Study at Montana State Prison and enjoys horses and playing flute and piccolo.
Pastor Steve Schmidt moved from Connecticut in late August 2012 to become the new Lead Pastor of Hope Lutheran Church. For the past fifteen years he has served as lead pastor for St. Luke Lutheran Church in Gales Ferry, CT. Pastor Steve began his pastoral ministry serving a mission congregation in Vermont and then spent fifteen years in campus ministry, serving on the campuses of Williams College, Denison University and Connecticut College. Pastor Steve is married to Joyce Guggenberger Schmidt, who is originally from Minnesota. They have two adult daughters, Sarah and Rebekah, who both work in higher education. As a parish pastor he has been involved in visiting persons incarcerated for over ten years. Steve enjoys hiking, playing squash, working out at the gym regularly, reading, gardening, and cooking. He is looking forward to taking up new interests in fly fishing and snowshoeing and enjoying all that Montana has to offer.
Robert Leaverton is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, in May 2006, ordained in July of 2006 and was called to the Montana Synod, to serve the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Absarokee, Montana. During his years in seminary he was involved in prison ministry in Maryland. He served the women of Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup, as a volunteer by leading worship services and Bible studies. He has been active in this prison ministry in Montana as soon as the Synod established this ministry and our task force worked to call a full time pastor to the Montana State Prison for Men in Deer Lodge. Being 240 miles away from Deer Lodge limits his availability to volunteer there. This is a ministry he supports and works to establish and help grow here in the Montana Synod.
Hugh is a certified public accountant having practiced in the profession for 47 years. His years of public accounting have been spent between time with a national firm, two local firms and the trade association for CPAs (the AICPA). He has served a variety of clients from publically held entities to small nonprofit organizations. Active in community affairs Hugh has been a previous board member of Grand Street Theatre, The Old Governor’s Mansion Restoration Board and The Rotary Club of Helena. He has served as Chairman of The Cathedral of Helena’s Parish Finance Council and The Diocese of Helena’s Finance Council. Hugh was a co-founder of Farm In The Dell, Helena. His attraction to Freedom In Christ springs from a desire for exposure to a subject with which he has had minimal exposure. Currently serving out his two-year appointment as Treasurer, Hugh welcomes the fellowship and dedication he has experienced with other members of the Council.
Chris Flohr currently serves as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Missoula, Montana, since 2002. He has lived in the state for 20 years serving as pastor for 10 years in eastern Montana (Glasgow area) before being called to serve in Missoula. Chris, and wife Nadeen, enjoy walks with their Corgi mix dog, Finley, and sitting down with a good book. He ministry focus is serving what Jesus calls the “least and forgotten among us.”
Dennis began his career with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office in April of 1978 as a Jailer. During the last 20+ years, of his 34+ years with the Sheriff’s Office, he was the Commander of the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, the largest in the State of Montana.
During his career in Law Enforcement, from being a civilian Jail Officer, to a Patrol Deputy, to a Commander of the Drug Unit and Commander of the Detention Facility, Dennis sat on various Department of Corrections committees, as well as a member of the POST Council, (Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) for over 20 years and a past Board Member and President of the Montana Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association.
While Commander of the Detention Facility, Dennis was able to establish a full time Chaplain position at the Jail, a full time Mental Health position as well as a full time GED program at the Yellowstone County Facility. He has supported and promoted various “self-help” programs at the Detention Facility.
December of 2012, Dennis retired from the Sheriff’s Office as a Captain and currently does Consulting and Expert Witness contract work. He is a Church Council member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Billings.
David Young is a third generation Montana who grew up in Billings, Montana, attended Eastern Montana College for two years, transferred to Colorado State University for four years and enrolled in graduate school at The Ohio State University. After graduate school, David was employed as a research pathologist with the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD from 1970-77. In 1977, David joined the faculty at Montana State University-Bozeman, initially as a Department Head and later in various administrative positions overseeing biomedical and health-related grants and programs. In 2005, David was appointed Community Resource Specialist with MSU Extension Service and Research Professor with the College of Nursing. The mission of the Community Resources Program is to provide information, education, resources, technical assistance and services to help create healthy, safe, thriving Montana communities.
In his non-job life, David is actively involved in jail and prison ministry as a volunteer chaplain in the local county jail, for local law enforcement and with a state-wide faith-based non-profit reentry program, TEAM Mentoring, at Montana State Prison. David is a member of a number of state and national organizations, including the Montana Correctional Association (MCA), the Montana Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association (MSPOA), the Association for Community Health Improvement (ACHI), the American Correctional Association (ACA), the American Jail Association (AJA), the American Correctional Chaplains Association (ACCA), the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC), the Rural Chaplains Association (RCA), and the Health Ministries Association (HMA).
Rev. Connie Campbell-Pearson joins us from Gethsemane Manhattan Episcopal Church also in Bozeman. She volunteers at the Gallatin Council Detention Center and at the Relgious Activities Center at Montana State Prison. She helps Rev. Roxanne Klingensmith facilitate the Survivors group supporting men and women with drug, alcohol and money addictions. She is the Executive Director of the Community Medication Center. She is also the organist for St. James Episcopal Church.
Rev. Roxie Klingensmith joins us from St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman. For many years she has been involved in community organizations particularly having to do with social justice issues. She founded the Family Promise of the Gallatin Valley, is an active member of the Gallatin Valley Interfaith Association and the Bozeman Business and Professional Women’s organization. She is also a member of the Friends of Treatment Court and a co-facilitator of Fresh Start. She is also the founder/facilitator of Survivors, a group that embraces formerly incarcerated and/or recovering drug and alcohol addicts who are committed to living a healthy and productive life and becoming responsible community members. She was appointed by Gov. Bullock to serve on the State of Montana Commission on Sentencing.
Rev. George Karres, Liaison
Director for Evangelical Mission
Montana Synod, ELCA
3125 5th Ave. So.
Great Falls, MT 59405-3337
Mary Mortenson, Executive Director
Prison Congregations of America, Inc.
PO Box 1335
Sioux Falls, SD 57101-1335