Not everyone is able to find their calling when they are just a teenager, but Daniel Nicewonger was one of those few when he decided to go into ministry after a life-changing experience in Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.
“I felt God’s call on my life to go into ministry,” Nicewonger said.
At such a young age in his mid-teens, he met a young boy named Burt during his week-long stay on the island.
“When I met him, his father was in jail and his mother had just passed away and basically, he was just living by himself,” Nicewonger said. “I connected with him in a special kind of way. He and I spent the entire week together and I had the privilege of walking with him and being with him as he prayed to accept Christ as his savior and connected with the church and was baptized.
“Basically, I poured my life into him for an entire week.”
At the end of that week, Nicewonger was sitting on a park bench and watched as a group of 30 boys Burt’s age ran in front of him.
The moment broke Nicewonger as he thought about all those boys. That was the moment which changed his path.
A native of New York, he fulfilled his call by attended Messiah College after he graduated high school where he studied Christian Education and even met his future wife, Nancy, before they were married in 1990.
His path as a minister has taken him on several journeys across the East Coast, from Harrisburg to South Hamilton, Massachusetts; Cortland, New York; and back north to Springfield, Massachusetts.
In Cortland for four years, he worked with the youth and college ministry as an Associate Pastor and became the pastor at Church of the Acres in Springfield.
Surprisingly though, he hasn’t always been a pastor in his adult life.
“(There was) a very, very clear sense of God inviting my family into just stepping outside of ministry for a time period,” Nicewonger said. “That has just been a fascinating thing. When most people enter into the ministry, it’s kind of where you stay.”
At the Church of the Acres, everything was growing, from the membership on up, when he got the sense to take a step back from his profession.
So in February 2008, the Nicewonger family, now including a son and daughter, packed up and went south to Locust, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte.
Nicewonger transitioned out of the ministry and into manufacturing at Corning, Inc.
“I was making fiber-optic cable and that was a fascinating thing,” he said. “Never did I imagine that I would ever be involved with anything like that, but what it did for me, and one of the great blessings, was that it provided for my family and allowed me to meet people that I never would have met.
“It allowed me to experience life as a normal person. In the clergy, life is a little bit different in a lot of ways as we order our lives and order our world. Being removed from that and being in the midst of ordinary, everyday normal changed (my) perspective on a lot of things.”
While he was there, he connected with Live Again Ministries and soon found himself back in a familiar place.
Live Again Ministries’ mission is to alleviate spiritual and material poverty around the block and around the world and one of the places they do that happened to be Roatan.
Nicewonger returned to Roatan 30-plus years later and after several trips over the last few years, he was able to locate Burt from the trip in his early years.
“I hadn’t been able to find him the last three summers, but last summer I found him,” he said. “It was a very interesting reconnection with him.”
Now, six years after stepping away from the ministry, Nicewonger is returning - this time to Kennett Square.
For the last six to eight months, he has been in contact with the First Baptist Church and decided to make the move.
“I see here just an opportunity to come in and love with a group of people and say, ‘Let’s learn to discern what it is God has for us to do as a congregation,’” Nicewonger said. “We’re beginning that journey together and will spend some time to figure out exactly who we are and exactly what it is that God is inviting us to be a part of.”
He has been in Kennett Square now for just a mere couple weeks and is anxiously awaiting his family to join him soon from North Carolina, but has been enjoying his time thus far in the community.
“It’s been great and I love it,” Nicewonger said. “It’s been wonderful. I’m still in that stage where I’m getting to know everybody, but it’s been a lot of fun to understand the area and the people here and just connect and get a feel for where you are.”