Pastor Deepak Holkar revitalizes Tonica church and now serves Hennepin church, too
TONICA — The man serving God has traveled far, but his journey of faith has revitalized the congregation of the Tonica United Methodist Church, and now he hopes to do the same for the people of the Hennepin United Methodist Church.
Pastor Deepak Holkar was born in Jaysingpur, India, and both his father and grandfather worked with missionaries and cared for leprosy patients. His mother was a nurse, and after completing college, he followed her into the medical field with plans to become a doctor.
After completing his training, he relocated to Illinois in 2010 to be with his family who had moved here more than a decade before. While preparing for his exams and volunteering at Advocate BroMenn Medical Centre in Normal, he came to the realization this was not his true calling in life.
“I realized I did not have the spark inside me, the passion, for medicine. My mother has it, she’s retired, but she still has that interest, but I remember almost nothing of medicine now,” Holkar said.
Instead, he realized his true passion was leading him toward serving others and helping their faith in God grow.
His mother wouldn’t have been surprised with this change, however. When Holkar was 3 years old, his mother had a vision of him as a pastor praying for people. He used to deny this vision, but he’s now comfortable with his destiny and is fully committed to religious service.
He’s now a certified candidate with the United Methodist Church and is a second-year seminary student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston. He was appointed as Tonica’s pastor in 2018, and the community has embraced him.
Karen Steele, one of Tonica United Methodist Church’s many dedicated volunteers, said their new pastor has revitalized the small church and that apathy has been replaced by energy.
“His faith is contagious, you can feel it whenever you’re around him. His passion gets everyone going,” she said of Holkar.
“I have been received with open hearts and arms; there is so much love here,” he said of his new home.
Holkar said his faith is fed by the dedication and commitment he sees the volunteers give to their church.
“They put in so much time and effort, they do so much, and they are unpaid. Someone would only do this if they have a great love in their heart and that encourages me to help them however I can,” he said. “Every visitor to our church, whenever they have come, they have felt at peace. They may not be able to say what they’re feeling, but they know there is something. That is the presence of God guiding them,” he said.
Holkar is also now sharing his faith and passion with the people of Hennepin. In July, he began serving as pastor to the Hennepin United Methodist Church. Each Sunday, he holds an early morning service in Hennepin before traveling back to Tonica for a late morning service.
To welcome the people of Hennepin into the fold, there will be a combined service at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11. That morning, the congregations of both churches will meet in the Tonica Park for a joint service followed by a potluck meal.
Holkar said his challenge now is to stay focused and to not get distracted. He said the Tonica congregation has journeyed closer to God, but added there’s still a distance to go.
But rather than being discouraged by the road ahead, Holkar advises his congregants to look back to see how far they’ve traveled and accomplished, and to be proud of their journey.
He was asked what his hopes were for the people of both Tonica and Hennepin. He said that by the time he leaves this area, he’d like to see them full of faith and “on fire for God.”
“God is the same everywhere,” Holkar said.