Talking to Riverview Church Senior Pastor Tristan Borland, it becomes clear fairly early on that he got to where he is today by not following a rigid plan. For him, that may have been the best way to heed God's calling in his life.
An Ohio boy born and raised in Carrollton, that's where he spent most of his days playing sports in the rural community with his two brothers. His dad ran a flooring business and his mom was a teacher. Borland entered Ohio Christian University after high school for a bachelor's degree in religion.
He didn't have set plans at that time and mainly looked for opportunities to serve. He didn't necessarily have a plan to become a pastor.
"Some pastors talk about a particular moment where they sense the call," Borland said. "That wasn't the case for me. I think my journey has more been where I walked through an open door where I sensed a good path to take."
After graduation, he worked a year before such an opportunity showed itself in the form of a job in Brazil. Before he went, he attended training in the Twin Cities, which opened more doors. There, he attended a barbecue and met Pastor Mark Erickson.
"I lived in Brazil for six months and taught English at a school down there," Borland said. "I helped a friend who was a missionary with a church down there and spent July through January of 2002 and into 2003 in Brazil."
Three months into his time in Brazil he received an email from Erickson, the pastor of a small town church in Minnesota.
"He asked me what I was doing when I got back from Brazil," Borland said. "I said I was going to start my master's degree. He asked what I was doing for the summer."
Of course, Erickson was the pastor at Riverview Church in Pine River at that time, and by accepting his offer, Borland got introduced to the Pine River community and his future congregation. He said working there may have been part of what opened his mind to the possibility of becoming a pastor. Somehow, that wasn't the only opportunity given to Borland while he was in Brazil.
"My last obligation in Brazil was to help with a college team from a small college in Iowa," Borland said. "There were eight or nine students on that trip. We were helping them do projects and to host them. That was kind of my last obligation. On that trip there was a girl. I asked her where she was from and she said Minnesota. We began to stay in contact and I ended up moving to Minnesota."
That girl from Verndale was Jill, and they kept in touch when Borland spent his summers working in Pine River and the school years attending Asbury Theological Seminary for a master's degree in theology.
By 2006, a lot had changed. He became the associate pastor at Riverview as of 2003, married Jill in 2004, and then finally finished his degree.
Of course, that's not the end of God's plans for him. He didn't immediately become the pastor for Riverview, but instead served a troubled church in Michigan and helped minister to children in a juvenile detention center.
"We were there about three and a half years and then Pastor Mark had moved to Montana and the leadership at Riverview called and asked if I would come back," Borland said.
"I love our church, and I think Riverview's been a healthy church and really involved in the community."
— Tristan Borland
In February, it will be 10 years since Borland became senior pastor at Riverview Church. In that time he's made a life with his wife and his congregation and become a familiar member of the community.
"I love our church, and I think Riverview's been a healthy church and really involved in the community," Borland said. "I felt loved here and I love a lot of people here. There's just a lot of people I've built relationships with."
Of course, as a pastor, Borland has been a support to many in his congregation going through tragedy. In 2016, those same community members supported him following an unimaginable tragedy.
The Borlands had four daughters and were expecting their fifth when on March 11 that year, 3-year-old Maria, sick with the flu, asked her father to carry her to bed to go to sleep and died on the way, leaving a hole in their hearts and the community.
"Most people in the community know us because of that tragedy," Borland said. "For me, that shifted my life in a way that hardly anything else in my life has. At the same time, we were so well loved by this community, by our church and in some ways it's grown our affection for the community and the church to go through terrible things and to be loved and have so many people that care about us. That continues to change us, but we're blessed to be where we are."
Borland knows that tragic experience has affected him, and he sometimes worries that people think he can be bleak and depressing, but he always wants people to realize there's a lot of good going on as well.
Today the family has expanded yet again, with four daughters and one son. Being the only boy in the family, Borland said his youngest child is at risk of being spoiled by all the attention from his older sisters.
"He's incredibly smiley and very spoiled," Borland said. "With all older sisters he gets all the attention any boy could ever need."
Looking forward, Borland's go with the flow and look for God's path kind of lifestyle is perhaps well suited to today's social climate. With the chaos of 2020 nearly drawing to an end, Borland is looking to the future, but not getting too caught up in rigid plans, as usual.
"It's so hard to know what the future holds and what things the church needs to be doing," Borland said. "A lot of our big events have been canceled, and I've really shifted my focus toward being faithful and all the things we can do to serve the people of our church and our community. In these difficult times it's hard to have a vision, because of the everchanging circumstances, but we can still focus on people who are in need and people who need encouragement and people going through difficult times. I think my focus has been on people and not structures or systems."
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.