Brendon Wilson, the new pastor at New Covenant Community Church in Somers Point, grew up in southern Africa with a Scottish farmer dad and Dutch schoolteacher mom.
He experienced civil war as a young child in Zimbabwe and as a teenager in Mozambique, where he learned to shoot an AK-47 for self defense.
He was just entering high school in South Africa when apartheid ended. His school, one of the first to be integrated, was firebombed by far-right fanatics opposed to integration, said Wilson, 34.
Seeing President Nelson Mandela lead the country away from civil war showed him one person can make a difference.
“Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades, yet he chose ... to walk in forgiveness,” Wilson said. “If he had left prison jaded, bitter and angry, people would have followed that.”
In high school, Wilson found his religious calling through a church youth group, he said, and developed his interest in social services and community building, which remain important parts of his work as pastor, he said.
After graduation, he lived and worked in black communities, teaching life skills and AIDS prevention with Youth For Christ. From 1998 to 1999, he toured the U.S., talking to high school students about race and reconciliation.
In 2000, he was invited to work in a church in Huntington, N.Y., where he met his wife, Danielle, the pastor’s daughter. Wilson later led that church, and a church in Phoenix. Now, the couple live in Ocean City with son Daniel, 5, and daughter Katelyn, 2.
Last Sunday, Sea Isle City marked the 20th anniversary of the death of police officer Michael “Mickey” Cullinane, who died at age 30 trying to rescue an unconscious worker from a construction pit, where he was overcome by lethal gases. Officers, family and friends held a service in his honor at 26th Street and Landis Avenue.
New Gilda’s Club trustee
Attorney Joe Jacobs, CEO of Pacific Outdoor Advertising, has joined the Board of Trustees of Gilda’s Club South Jersey.
Jacobs was vice chairman of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in the 1990s and was selected to serve on Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team’s Economic Development and Growth Subcommittee. He lives in Linwood with his two children and is a member of the local Board of Education.
Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post: