GRANGEVILLE A fixture of nearly 20 years at the Grangeville Christian Church will soon step down from the pulpit. Pastor Harold and Linda Gott will retire from their pastorate; however, they aren’t going anywhere.
“This is home. This is where we want to be,” Harold said.
Retirement will allow them to be more available for his aging parents, who live in California, and also afford the couple the opportunity to visit their three children who are scattered across the U.S.
Harold was born in Longview, Wash. Prior to turning 7 in 1961, his family moved to Northern California and started their own logging business.
Linda was born in the Kirkland, Wash., area, into a sawmilling family and, in 1963, also moved to Northern California.
The couple met in high school, but it may not exactly have been love at first sight.
“I was very shy,” Linda said.
However, Harold soon learned the way to Linda was through her mother.
“I found out she liked deer heart – I don’t remember how – and, back before you could buy brown eggs, I showed up with deer heart and farm-fresh eggs,” he smiled. “Her mother loved me.”
Following high school graduation, he left for Boise Bible College (BBC) – but not to become a pastor.
“I had no leanings that way,” he said. He worked in a grocery store and wanted to continue his education to move up the management chain in the grocery industry.
Linda finished high school and the couple became engaged Christmas of her senior year. They married July 23, 1972. She also attended BBC.
Retirement reception set for June 24
GRANGEVILLE – The community is invited to a retirement reception for Pastor Harold and Linda Gott Sunday, June 24, 3 to 5 p.m., in the fellowship hall of the Grangeville Christian Church, 402 West South 1st Street,
A Safeway job soon led the couple to Bend, Ore., where Harold worked for a decade.
It was around this time a mentor in a home church they attended let Harold know he was praying for him and thought he should become a pastor.
“There was no deep voice of God or opening of the heavens that led me to believe I needed to be a pastor,” Harold said, explaining he and Linda prayed and gradually began to feel their friend and mentor had been praying in the right direction.
“It was a slow change of heart,” he said.
Harold was ordained in 1984, and the family began their ministry at Sisters Church of Christ that same year. The church of 40 had been on the brink of closing its doors, but the Gotts, along with their children, Jennifer, 8, and Robert, 6, embraced the pastorate and remained there more than 14 years.
Along the way, Harold served a term on the local school board, and both Jennifer and Robert graduated high school in Sisters.
The couple was just beginning to feel a pull elsewhere when their third child, Ellen, was 4, when Linda became ill. Tests revealed she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Standard treatment failed which eventually led to a full bone marrow transplant in Portland.
“It was very complex – she was given a 30 percent chance for one-year survival,” Harold said.
But survive she did. When the couple heard about Grangeville Christian Church’s pastoral search, they not only prayed, but also consulted Linda’s oncologist, who agreed that if God opened the door, they should go.
“We would be 430 miles away from the hospital – it didn’t make logical sense, but it did make God sense,” Harold said. “We can let cancer make our decisions or we can live until we die, or get to living until we’re dead.”
The Gotts chose life. Through it all, Linda said they remained thankful and were “greatly blessed by the Lord.”
The Gotts moved to Grangeville in 1999 and Ellen began attending Grangeville Elementary Middle School.
Harold served on the Mountain View School District (formerly Joint School District 241) school board for eight years, all but one as chairman. He volunteered with what was a hospice program in its infancy and also helped start Syringa Hospital’s chaplaincy program. Pastor Gott has performed hundred of funerals, weddings and baptisms in the past 19-1/2 years and has served on several local, state and international boards.
In addition to all his other duties, he has not preached the same sermon twice.
“I had to earn a place at the table here. You cannot compel trust; it must be earned,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this community.”
A recurrence of cancer for Linda and a couple of heart and gall bladder scares of his own, coupled with his parents’ health issues and the fact his only brother recently died and that he is turning 65 in August, have led the Gotts to believe it is the right time to retire.
A new pastor and his family are expected to take the pulpit in August.
The Gotts will have some more time to spend with their grown children: Jennifer, 42, works for a subsidiary of Harper Collins Publishing in Nashville as a senior editor; Robert, 40, and his wife own a catering business and Middle Eastern restaurant in Oakland, Calif.; and Ellen, 26, a GHS graduate, is finishing her training as a physician’s assistant in Illinois and will soon take a post in Missouri.
“We are extremely blessed,” Linda said.
“Of course, there have been challenges throughout these 19-plus years,” Harold emphasized. “We’ve shared life and we live in a broken world, so, yes, it gets messy.”
“But I’ve been so very honored to share life and all the moments with the people of Grangeville and the surrounding communities,” Harold stated, ending with one of his favorite Bible verses from I Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good – his love endures forever.”