BATAVIA, N.Y.—Pastor Donald and Claudia Shirk enjoyed parasailing on their vacation to a Caribbean resort, a gift from the congregation of Grace Baptist Church, where they have served as pastor and wife for 25 years.

The anniversary celebration took place in August 2012, and the church family has been enjoying photos of the Shirks’ “vacation of a lifetime” ever since.

For the celebration, the church hosted Jim Vogel, representative of the Empire State Fellowship, and Tom Melzoni, vice president of Generis, as their guest speakers. Cindy Heale, ministry assistant at Grace Baptist, says, “We had a time of refreshments and then a time of testimonies and videos that looked back over Pastor Shirk’s time with us. The Bible verse that we put in our bulletin that day reflected so accurately what the people here feel for Pastor and Claudia: ‘For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God’ (1 Thessalonians 3:9).”

The Shirks received an emotional and “very long standing ovation” for having “shared their faith and their ministry with us,” says Cindy. “They both are so dearly loved.”

Pastor Don and Claudia Shirk enjoy their Caribbean vacation, a gift from Grace Baptist. The church’s blog reports, “One of them screamed LIKE a girl doing this.”

It isn’t only the congregation who loves the Shirks. Associate Pastor Mark Hurlbut says he appreciates Pastor Shirk’s humility and sincerity, his trust in God. and his “very good” leadership skills—also, his “patience with me. He truly is my pastor and friend.” He admires Pastor Shirk’s preaching skills too, saying, “Hey, the guy can preach!”

Some of the highlights of the Shirks’ 25 years at Grace Baptist, according to Pastor Hurlbut, are people saved, discipled, and edified. He says, “I couldn’t begin to tell you how many people have come to faith through him and this ministry over these past 25 years. My guess is hundreds! We’ve grown in numbers, but we have also grown in our faith. That is something he has modeled and taught.”

Associate Pastor Jeffrey Bartz says, “People have found real answers and hope through the preaching of God’s Word at Grace and are regularly inviting others. God is regularly saving people and genuinely growing them through a variety of avenues under Pastor Shirk’s leadership. The Lord has used him to create a culture that embodies a spirit of grace and truth.

“Under Pastor Shirk’s leadership, God has made His presence known in our midst. There is real, spiritual vitality in people’s lives. And it’s modeled for us in Pastor Shirk.

“Pastor Shirk is the real deal. He is genuinely godly. He loves the Lord, is submissive to His Word, loves his wife and family, and he is unquestionably and unswervingly committed to Grace Baptist Church.

“After 25 years, neither he nor his ministry is static or stuck. Pastor Shirk’s God-given vision for change has enabled him to lead Grace through many transitions in attendance, facilities, budgets, staffing, music, mind-sets, and more. He leads intentionally and methodically. There are no surprises. By the time we are on the cusp of change as a church, everyone has recognized the need and embraced it because of Pastor Shirk’s leadership.”

Grace Baptist gratefully gives “honor to whom honor is due.”