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Seminary, globe-trotting await high school grad Riley Ferguson

Riley Ferguson test-runs his backpack on the deck of his friend Rob Hackworthy’s house. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen)

He’s a preacher’s son, and the church has always been dear to him. But he was sure the military was his calling.

Until, Riley Ferguson says, God put him on a full-circle path last June.

“It was about 10 o’clock at night. I stood up and blacked out,” the 6-foot, 7-inch Hudson High School senior explains.

It turned out to be from low blood volume – his heart sometimes doesn’t have enough of it to pump throughout his body. Strange for a basketball and track standout, but there it was.

“I had gotten into a military program. They do a medical (exam), so they wouldn’t have cleared me,” Ferguson says. “I saw it as God sending me a message. It helped push me to the path I really want to be on.”

He adds: “I want to be a pastor. I know it’s my calling. I’m not doing it for money. I’m in it to help.”

He’s also in it to see as much of the world as he can.

Ferguson will enter Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., next fall, majoring in pre-seminary. He can’t wait for the program that will take him to community service in Europe, Africa or Asia along the way. The Peace Corps is another possibility.

“That’s been a big aspect for me,” the honor student, Eagle Scout and Rotary Gold Pin winner says. “I’m looking to continue community service throughout college and throughout my life.”

Not that he hasn’t done a lot already. Through the church and other groups, Ferguson’s helped build a schoolhouse in earthquake-ravaged Haiti; he’s immersed himself in Mexico City’s Third World culture; he’s worked with poor kids in Chicago; he’s been elected sheriff at Badger Boys State.

He’s also been to Canada, Finland, Rome and Greece, and he’s hiked through or seen 42 states.

After Augustana, he’ll get a master’s degree “to be called as a pastor” -- like his dad, Brian Ferguson, who led Hudson’s Mt. Zion Lutheran Church for 10 years before leaving for Cincinnati in early May with Riley’s mom Rachel. She had already gotten a banking job there.

Riley’s ministry will build on his travels to the poorer corners of the globe: “The biggest thing I can take away is that we are so blessed here. I think everybody should have that experience, just to see and appreciate how much more we have.”

And with that, Ferguson’s Star-Observer interview is over. So he straps on his travel-worn backpack for a photo on the deck of his friend Rob Hackworthy’s house, where he’s been staying since his parents moved so he can graduate with his classmates.

It’s a warm, brilliantly sunny, late-May afternoon. Behind him, in front of him and everywhere around him, the glorious, green planet Earth awaits.

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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