Steenberg knew he wanted to be a pastor since his elementary school days. He was preaching by age 12. Growing up on a campus with an elementary school, an academy and an old folks home in South Africa provided the opportunity to preach.
“Since my freshman year in high school, I have always felt called and knew I wanted to be a pastor,” Steenberg says. “The idea was that I would go to grad school to eventually teach theology.” Never once did he aspire to be a personnel or human resources director. That idea never crossed his mind.
He met his future wife, Karlien Voster, at college. “We were forced to work together on a project, and we just never stopped,” Steenberg shares. They have been married for 19 years and have two sons, Elmer, 14, and Dylan, 12. Steenberg began serving as a pastor in 1992 and was ordained in 1998. He received a bachelor’s from Andrews University. From the University of Pretoria in South Africa, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, a master’s degree in biblical studies and a Ph.D. in New Testament studies.
“I just love studying. If someone was to pay me to study, I would gladly become a full-time student until I retire,” Steenberg explains.
Ten months before completing his Ph.D., he began asking God where and how He wanted to use him. “I told God that I was willing to do anything He wanted me to do and that I would work anywhere in the world, including staying in South Africa.”
Other than his wife, Steenberg didn’t tell anyone about his prayers. In short order, one professor after another after another told him that he should go to the United States. So they went. When the Steenberg family arrived in the U.S., many of the interviews Steenberg had arranged didn’t end up happening. “Basically, God prevented me from being interviewed by the right people in most of the other conferences,” he says. “All except one — Central California Conference.” He also was interviewed by a university and later offered a teaching position, but he just did not feel at peace with that option.
As he and Karlien sat in a vacant pastor’s office while the Hollister, Calif., congregation deliberated, each independently felt a deep peace that they were where God wanted them.That was in 2001.
In his 10-year tenure at Hollister, the congregation and church school became an evangelistic outreach. A successful internet ministry was established resulting in as many as 6,000 sermon downloads every month.
In his spare time, Steenberg earned another doctorate in ministry, this time in pastoral psychology and family therapy from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.
Then Steenberg began receiving job offers outside pastoral ministry, including the HR job at Central. He said no, time and again, and even turned down calls from other conferences. “I began feeling like Jonah and, like Jonah, I said to God: ‘God, please leave me alone. I like it here. My family is happy, my wife loves her work, and the kids love their schools. I don’t want to go.’”
To soothe his conscience, Steenberg prayed and made a deal with God: If this really was God’s calling, then Ramiro Cano, CCC president, would call again. If it was not God’s will, then He needed to have the conference appoint someone else.
Cano was impressed to call Steenberg one more time, and this time, Steenberg said yes. “Why God wants me here, I still don’t know,” Steenberg states. “What I do know is that God sometimes exposes us to certain experiences to prepare us for something He has in mind in the future. At other times, He has us do what He has in mind for the end goal. We are not always sure if He is busy preparing us or using us for His end goal or the future. Either way, as long as I have peace that God is leading, I will follow.”
Linda Barron, Assistant to the Director of Human Resources
Linda joined the Central California Conference in 2006, shortly after the birth of her daughter Aleya. “I wasn’t looking for work,” she says, “but the Lord called me and I know He wants me here.”
As Administrative Secretary, Linda provides a vital link between the Central California Conference and its nearly 1,700 permanent and temporary employees. She works with hiring, moving, workers compensation, background checks, orientation, health insurance and more, and is also the benefits coordinator for all conference employees, teachers and pastors.
Linda worked as office manager for a law firm in the Lake Tahoe area before coming to the Central California Conference. Her seven years there have made her appreciative of the conference office’s spiritual atmosphere. “I think it’s awesome that we all gather to pray when someone in our office has a problem,” she says. “You don’t see that at other offices.”
Linda is passionate about her daughters, Tiffany and Aleya, and her husband Gary, a pharmacy technician. She enjoys reading, hiking, biking and boating. Her favorite scripture is Philippians 4:4-7, "May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hears and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus."