Leading the way

RICHFIELD – A counseling ministry in Juniata County soon will have a new director.

Jerry O’Connell, current director and counselor of Shepherd’s Fold Ministry, will retire this summer from the ministry, which is located in the office of Niemond’s Independent Church in Richfield. The Rev. Joe Samples, formerly the pastor of Thompsontown Baptist Church, will take his place.

Shepherd’s Fold began in 1996 as part of Richfield Mennonite Church where O’Connell served as senior pastor. In the early 2000s, O’Connell left his pastoral position and took on the counseling as a full-time ministry.

It was in 2004 that the Rev. Arthur Mott, of Niemond’s Independent Church, became board president of the newly independent ministry. The board of directors includes representatives from Selinsgrove Nazarene Church and Agape Community Church, in Harrisburg, as well as Niemond’s.

“The true focus of Shepherd’s Fold was to offer true Biblical counseling,” otherwise known as Nouthetic counseling, Mott said.

The counseling services offered by O’Connell and soon to be offered by Samples are unapologetically Biblicallybased. The financial backing of the program also is faith-based. Those receiving services are not charged a fee. Instead, clients have the opportunity to choose whether to donate to the ministry. Shepherd’s Fold exists due to contributions from area businesses, individuals and churches.

In recent years, the ministry has become a resource for other pastors in the area, said Mott, as they are unable in one form or another to provide counseling.

“A pastor sometimes is unable to spend hours with one family,” O’Connell said, due to other pastoral commitments.

“It’s not to relieve pastors, however, from their duty of counseling,” Samples noted. “It’s still (the pastor’s) job. But this is a tool to help them; a resource.”

Samples joins the ministry with a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in pastoral counseling. Since he left Pennsylvania in 2000, he has been the pastor at churches in Kentucky and North Carolina but felt led back to Juniata County for this purpose.

“I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to Pastor Mott and to Jerry (O’Connell), as well as the community, for helping me get my feet on the ground again here,” he said.

Samples and his wife and two children moved back to the area in December. He has been working alongside O’Connell at counseling sessions since then.

“My family has been so supportive. I am just so thankful,” Samples said.

One of the goals he set is to help people within the churches realize that counseling can be done one-on-one with each other. He said it is important for the body of Christ to support and encourage one another. He said he is available to speak in area churches and explain the ministry to those interested.

Mott said a long-term goal is to have Samples lead a Saturday morning seminar on counseling topics.

“We would like to do what we can to get Shepherd’s Fold out there as a ministry resource … to develop a website and let folks know we are building a ministry focused on the centrality of the word of God,” Samples said.

For more information, contact the Shepherd’s Fold office, located within Niemond’s Independent Church, at 694-3700. More information about Nouthetic counseling can be found at www.nouthetic.org.