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New pastor brings passion for terrain, truth

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RONAN — There’s a new face in town, and his name is Nace. “I was named after my grandfather, who called me ‘Rusty.’ He probably didn’t feel comfortable calling me by his own name,” Nace Howell explained.

Meaning “fire” in Gaelic, Nace doesn’t bring the brimstone to the pulpit as the new pastor of Terrace Lake Community Church. But he does teach with gentle earnest, intelligence and a quick wit.

Nace grew up in a town of about 20 people in the Appalachian Mountains, and learned to operate heavy equipment as a logger.

Now, he said, “I cut trees on the side, for a hobby, pretty much.” Can he drop a Ponderosa pine on a quarter?

“Easily,” he said, adding that the drier Western Montana climate suits him. “You could break a sweat just by blinking in Pennsylvania.”

In more recent years, Nace used his heavy equipment skills working in hydrology, restoring stream banks in watershed projects and removing dams.

“He’s a real dude,” said Levi Read, who serves as the church’s youth director and as a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy. Read called Nace at 11:30 p.m. Sunday with “a situation at the jail” that needed a pastor, he said, and Nace immediately responded. “He’s easy to talk to, he’s understanding and honest. You don’t have to put on pretenses and he takes everyone at face value. He and his wife are the best of people.”

While working full time, Nace also earned a bachelor of science degree in Bible and a master of divinity degree. For two years Nace served as pastor of a church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. But the mountains were calling, and he began look for a Christian Missionary and Alliance church in several states, including Montana. “This position opened up and I attacked it with everything that I could,” he said.

After driving 2,300 miles, Nace and his wife Bethany, a registered nurse working at the Ronan clinic of St. Luke Community Health, were warmly welcomed.

“Everybody has been so nice to us,” Nace said. “We literally rarely need to go grocery shopping. Most of the time our freezers are full. It’s a huge blessing.”

Under Nace’s direction, the church is planning community events such as the wild game banquet the congregation recently held.

Nace’s goal for the coming year, he said, is “pointing people toward serving Ronan and the surrounding areas, in the name of Jesus.”

As pastor and a “truth-seeker and defender of Christianity,” Nace said his most important task is “equipping people for doing God’s work” through mentoring, sermons, Bible studies and small group fellowship.

He’s currently teaching a series on apologetics, convincing skeptics why they should believe in God. “The whole issue is people know they should believe, they just don’t know why. Faith is not blind, we have evidence of our faith. That’s the series: “Reasons to Believe,” Nace explained. “They will learn, not only about Jesus, but about why Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life: John 14:6.”

Nace is in the church office Tuesday through Friday from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on visitations and other calls that could draw him away. Sunday school classes for adults and children begin at 9:30 a.m. followed by 11 a.m. services at 35663 Terrace Lake Road in Ronan.

“Everyone in the area is welcome,” Nace said.

For more information, call 406- 676-5395, visit the website www. or email Nace at

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