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Nelson DeBrousse has traded the east coast for the west and left lots of family members in Georgia as he takes the helm of Harvest Presbyterian Church in Ceres.

The 59-year-old pastor is no stranger to drastic change. He spent 29 years working in quality management for NCR (National Cash Register) Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, before he was laid off and entered the pastorship.

Both he and his wife of six years, Ginger, each recently faced life-changing tragedies when both of their respective spouses died early.

DeBrousse's answering the call in Ceres has been sweet news for Harvest, which has been without a regular pastor since Brent Mitchell left three years ago. Dr. Dan Thornton served as interim pastor until DeBrousse took over on Sept. 24.

The chemistry between the elders of Harvest Presbyterian and DeBrousse was rich enough for a commitment on his part.

The appeal of coming to Ceres was the people but also because Harvest has what he calls a "beautiful campus."

"The people that I encountered were quite remarkable, very strong faith and a good attitude about looking for a leader in ministry."

DeBrousse was strongly considering pastorship of a church in Georgia and noted that the move would have been much easier. But his wife suggested that he at least check out Ceres because he had "such a good time talking to them on the phone." The couple checked out the Ceres church and fell in love with the place.

DeBrousse has a vision to grow Harvest, which has suffered a decline in attendance and membership in recent years.

"That's typically what happens," said DeBrousse. "Anytime you have an interim pastor a lot of people lose interest.

"The wonderful thing is that now we have people coming back who used to come to this church and checking us out. They're thinking, 'This seems like a place where I can grow and live with other Christians.' I think God's got great plans for this church."

DeBrousse's philosophy is that making Harvest a place where Christians can develop their faith will make it grow into a larger church.

"I think the churches that are growing are the churches where people are being fed and people are coming to know God. As long as we're being evangelistic and reaching out to people and feeding the people who are here with the word of God, exciting things happen and people stay. As a friend of mine likes to say, 'Fat sheep don't wander off to the next pasture.' They don't."

Harvest Presbyterian is part of the Presbyterian Churches of the United States of American denomination.

DeBrousse, who plays the alto and tenor saxophone, said he expects that the church will have a blend of contemporary and traditional church music.

DeBrousse was born and raised in Dayton as a Roman Catholic, later became a Baptist and ended up as a Presbyterian.

"When I was 35 years old I really came to understand the gospel for the first time in my life," said DeBrousse. "Once I understand that salvation was a free gift -paid by Jesus - I stopped trying to work my way into heaven and that's where I started to have a whole lot more fun. A world full of grace is a whole lot more fun than legalism."

He started serving his local Baptist church as the leader of an adult Sunday School class.

For three years he attended the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. The school specializes in training new pastors.

For the time being, the DeBrousses are planning a bi-coastal marriage. She teaches school in the Atlanta area but plans to fly back and forth to be together.

"Exactly when I will be out here is not totally clear," said Ginger. "I make very frequent visits out here right now."