Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Dick Stenbakken returns to Worland for special performance

 

March 12, 2016

Courtesy

Dick Stenbakken portrays the centurion who was in charge of the Crucifixion and guarding Jesus's tomb. He will be performing the centurion during his Faces around the Cross presentation March 31 - April 2 at the Worland High School in the little theater.

WORLAND – Dick Stenbakken, Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Worland from 1965-1969 will be returning to Worland to perform "Faces around the Cross", March 31- April 2. Faces around the Cross is a first-person narrative given from the perspective of people who were around for the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Some of the characters are John, the Centurion and Judas. "I don't use a script or memorize lines, I allow the character to tell their story through me," Faces around the Cross presenter Stenbakken said

"I am doing John, old John and the way the events of Easter changed his life. I am also going to do Judas, who experienced some of the same things that John did, but was too full of himself to allow God to work in his life. I also tell the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection from the point of view of the centurion," Stenbakken said. "I take a little editorial liberty with the centurion. Soldiers were posted at the tomb and from my military experience, if I was in charge of the Crucifixion and this man was the Son of God, when they wanted to post a guard, part of me would say, 'I have to see how this turns out.' So I have him volunteer, so he witnesses the Resurrection as well as the death."

The idea for Faces around the Cross began when Stenbakken was in the Army, when he was told that he was in charge of the Christmas program. "When I was active duty in the military as a chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the command chaplain called me in and told me, 'you're in charge of the Christmas program this year.' I thought to myself, 'OK, fine, we will sing some Christmas carols, read the Christmas story and do some Christmas poetry, piece of cake.' I'm walking out of his office with my hand on the door and he added, 'I don't want a bunch of Christmas carols and poetry, we do that every year, I want something different. I want something spiritual, entertaining and has to do with the Nativity.'

Stenbakken started researching and going through every anthology that he could find. "I ran across a first person sermon by a Presbyterian named Fredrick Speakman. It was a first-person narrative sermon, presented from the point of view of the innkeeper in Bethlehem, telling Luke about the night of the Nativity. I thought, 'That's it. It has to do with the Nativity, it's entertaining and it's spiritual.' My first thought was that I would get up there and do a dramatic reading. In the military we have a thing called mission creep: little by little it gets bigger. Then I thought I would borrow my wife's striped red and white caftan, put a sheet around my shoulders with a headdress and one of those fake beards. I will give the reading dressed up. Then I got to thinking, 'why don't I outline this on a scroll and give the story as if I was the innkeeper myself, telling my story,'" Stenbakken said.

The presentation went so well that Stenbakken was asked to repeat his performance the next day and then again and again. "Suddenly it hit me like a bolt of lightning; this is a very unique way to share scripture. From that beginning, I started developing all kinds of first person characters," Stenbakken said.

Stenbakken has been in ministry most of his life, having been a chaplain in the military for 23 years and a pastor in Worland for four years. While serving God has been his life's work he never intended for his life to turn out that way. "In high school, I was not intending to be a pastor at all, I was intending to go into medicine. Because I felt that I could help people and I could do good while doing well. My aspiration was not to go into ministry at all, I was much more interested in what to me at that time was much more self-serving. As I got into my senior year, I felt very, very impressed that I was being called to pastor and I resisted that. That pull into ministry was not something that I set out to do at all. Then when I got into college I took a double major, pre-med and ministry. I still wasn't willing to let go and then it just hit me, 'you can't be divided.' So I made the decision for ministry and never looked back," Stenbakken explained.

Stenbakken began his pastoral career in Worland and while in Worland he helped build the Seventh-day Adventist Church that is being used now in Worland. Stenbakken explains how the church was built, "It was all self-funded and we had a small congregation, but everybody pitched in. We did hire a general contractor, a guy out of Buffalo. We basically, including myself, dug the footings and foundation and laid the block and mixed the mortar and did the painting and put down the carpet.

"We did most of the work on our own. Simply because we needed to keep the cost down and everybody was involved. We did hire qualified electricians and plumbers and things like that. When it came to pouring the concrete and the floor we did that by wheel barrow on our own, mixed it up in the back and everybody got in there and did it. It was a labor of love."

He added, "It was so amazing, we had several sites that we had located as possible sites and in any group that you get, you have different opinions. I put a big map of Worland up on the wall and indicated the sites and numbered them 1, 2, 3 and 4, gave everybody a 3X5 card and said OK we have discussed the pros and cons, I don't want your name on the card, I just want a number – 1, 2, 3 or 4. The outcome will be where we build. When the cards came in every single card picked the site where the church is. There was not one dissenting vote. This is a God thing, you get more than two or three people together and they all agree on something that is a major issue that was nothing short of miraculous."

Stenbakken now does his Faces around the Cross and other first-person narratives all around the world and has many DVDs published. He returns to Worland for this performance because Worland holds a special place in his heart.

 
 

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