In the spring of this year, a new ministry was born at Northstar Church: The Grand Connect. The idea was to provide a space for believers over the age of 50 to meet together and encourage, pray for, and challenge one another, as well as reach out to those who do not know Jesus. Under the leadership of Ronnie Bluey and Ellen Cianelli, the Grand Connect has proven to be a vibrant ministry that has drawn the attention of not only long time members of Northstar, but also newer attenders as well.
One of those recent additions is Nolan Schmidt and his wife, Jan. Nolan was born in Corn, Oklahoma and moved around a lot as a small child. His parents eventually settled in Denver when Nolan was five years old. This is where he spent his elementary and high school years, meeting Jan when they were in junior high school.
Nolan has had a strong foundation in Christ throughout his entire life. His family’s church background is Mennonite Brethren, however his parents moved to a Baptist church when he was in the 7th grade. “I came to Jesus at age five and He’s guided me since,” says Nolan about his relationship with the Lord.
Jan and Nolan were married following his sophomore year at Seattle Pacific University, where he earned a Math B.S. and immediately joined the United States Marine Corps on an aviation “guarantee.” “I planned to stay in the Marine Corps for four years, but God had other plans.” He ended up serving for 29 years. Nolan served as an aviator, flying EA-6A/B Electronic Warfare aircraft, which included a squadron Commanding Officer tour. This led to becoming the chief avionics engineer for the EA-6B, Program Manager for Naval/Marine Corps aviation Electronic Warfare equipment, and eventually Program Manager for the joint service V-22 aircraft program.
“After retiring,” says Nolan, “I went to work for BAE Systems as a Program Manager, Program Director in Pennsylvania, and then Vice President in the Binghamton, New York area.” In 2013, Nolan and Jan retired a second time.
Nolan and Jan have been married now for 47 years. They have two children: Heidi, a single mother of two and teacher in the San Diego area, and Micah, who is married to Katherine and has six children. “My parents are spiritual war-fighters at age 89, live in Winston-Salem, and are active at Calvary Baptist Church.” He shares that Jan was raised in a non-Christian home with parents who did not attend church. Jan came to know Christ through Vacation Bible School and both of her parents accepted Jesus late in life.
“God led my Mennonite father to allow my interest in aircraft to grow,” Nolan says in sharing how he has seen God move in his life. “My parents left the Mennonite Church, which allowed me to clearly consider the military during the Viet Nam war (my draft number was 276, so the military was fully “volunteer” for me). God clearly called me–through a number of circumstances–into the military. He gifted me to allow success in various assignments and carried me safely through some crazy circumstances.”
While living in the Binghamton area, the Schmidts became friends with Zheng Li and his wife Jing, both of whom are members at Northstar Church. They met ten years ago when Nolan and Jan helped out with a Conversational English group. From there, they invited Li and Jing to their home for a young couples Bible study. A few months later, they both accepted Christ. The families have remained in contact ever since. “Recently,” Nolan shares, “Li asked us to join them in Blacksburg. Jan and I pray daily for our company, Li Industries, for our friends and family who don’t know Jesus, and for ministries around the world that we’re involved in through various means and influencers.”
One thing that Nolan would like people to know about him is, “I’m not always successful, but my one desire is to be doing what Jesus desires of me.”