The son of a professional boxer who grew up on Chicago’s Westside, Joseph A. Auksela fled with his mother, Olga, when he was four. He was hit with brass knuckles in the school library at eight. His mother dragged her troubled son to church when he was sixteen. She didn’t know he prayed every night, “God, save my mother, but I’ll burn in Hell before I serve you.”
God did a mighty work in Joe. By the time he was twenty, Joe studied at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina. After two years, he transferred to Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, where he graduated with a history degree in 1969. At Westminster Theological Seminary Joe earned his master of divinity in 1973 and his master of theology with an emphasis on the Old Testament in 1977.
Joe met Diane Wood at a conservative mainline Presbyterian church in Chicago. They married on this day in 1990 and have two children, Tania and Tony. Ordained by the Presbytery of the Dakotas on March 23, 1992, Joe served as pastor of Calvary OPC in Volga, South Dakota from 1992 to 1999, then as pastor of Westminster OPC in Bartlesville, Oklahoma from 1999 through 2013. For ten years, Joe also taught history, literature, and languages at a Christian high school in their Bartlesville church. For a year, Joe also taught a Sunday evening Bible study in Tulsa, Oklahoma—a sixty-mile drive each way. After serving as pastor for more than fourteen years in Oklahoma and eight years in South Dakota, Joe retired on January 1, 2014 to take care of his dying mother. “I owed her everything,” Joe said.
On June 23, 2006, he gave the devotions to the 73rd General Assembly. A linguist and passionate preacher, Joe served as chairman of the Candidates and Credentials Committee for both the Presbyteries of the Dakotas and the Central US.
During Prohibition, Joe’s grandmother was caught illegally making wine. His father pled guilty and went to jail. When Joe was an infant, his grandmother, perhaps from guilt, rocked him in her arms and prayed for God to take Joe into His work. God answered those prayers.
Picture: Joe and Diane Auksela