Rev. Dr. John Dale Erbele, 76, father, grandpa and pastor, departed this earthly life to meet his Lord and Savior on Friday, Sept. 20, in Bismarck. He fought a two year courageous battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Dale was born June 30, 1943, in Bismarck, to John and Florence (Diede) Erbele. He spent his early days on the family farm located between Lehr and Streeter, growing up with older sister, Donna, and younger brothers, Raymond and Robert. Dale attended Jamestown College where he received a degree in Christian education and a minor in psychology, and also met the love of his life. He married Vonda Lee Lautt from Harvey in 1965. They were married for 43 years, until her death from brain cancer in 2008. They had four children, Kendra, Korissa, Korinda and John.
Dale felt the call from God into ministry as a young man. He went on throughout his life to receive three post graduate degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School - a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry. In 1966, he started his ministry as interim pastor in Bismarck, Casselton, and Chaffee. His first official full-time church was in Montana at the Lockwood Evangelical Church from 1970-1974, and then he served as pastor of the First Evangelical Church in Missoula for 26 years.
Some of the highlights of his ministry were helping Russian refugees establish a church in Montana and helping mentor a law student named Ken Sande. Dale worked with him to develop the Christian Conciliation Services that led to Ken Sande’s “Peacemaker” ministry. Dale also served for eight years as conference superintendent of the Western Conference of The Evangelical Church. In 2015, he moved to the Beartooth Mountains of Fishtail, Mont., to become president of Arrowhead Bible College. His legacy will continue through the young people that he mentored and encouraged throughout his ministry.
Dale had a love of history, especially Native American history and studying about his Germans from Russia roots. He enjoyed traveling around the U.S., Israel, and throughout Germany, Ukraine and Russia to explore his ancestry. He played the accordion as a young man and he loved to sing. He often sang in concert with Vonda and his four children as The Erbele Family Singers. They recorded three albums and traveled nationwide with a camper and station wagon, fondly known as “The Wally Wagon.” His children carry on a musical legacy today. Dale also loved cars, especially the Edsel and Volkswagen Bugs. He loved to garden, was a great handyman, and could fix anything with duct tape!
Dale had a great sense of humor and was a captivating storyteller. His grandchildren enjoyed hearing those stories of growing up on the farm. He was an intentional grandpa who made memories with them, whether it was fishing, helping with homework, making apple cider in the apple press, or sharing Bible stories with them. He made his way to heaven as his family surrounded him, and they sang, “What a Day That Will Be” - one of the first songs he sang with his children, and now the last on this earth.
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He is survived by three daughters and sons-in-law: Kendra and Kent Husband, York, S.C. (children: Kailee, Karina and Kensley), Korissa and Darren Olson, Minneapolis, Minn., (children: Emerson and Everett), Korinda and John Luhmann, Missoula (children: Annie, David, Jonathan, Phinehas, Thomas, Peter and Ruthie), his son and daughter-in-law, John and Hannah Erbele, Bismarck (children: Corban, Cameron, Lauren, and Jordan), and a special daughter in Christ, Margaret Neff, Mexico City, Mexico.
Dale is survived by sister, Donna Iszler; brothers, Raymond (Carol) Erbele, and Robert (Susan) Erbele.
A private family graveside service is planned for next summer. Interment will be in the Emmanuel Cemetery north of Lehr.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They will rest from their labors, for their deeds will follow them.” - Revelation 14:13
A memorial fund has been established to benefit the students of Arrowhead Bible College.
Make checks/donations to: Beartooth Mountain Christian Ministries, 130 Trinity Trail, Fishtail, MT 59028, Memo: Dale Erbele Memorial, or online: www.arrowheadbiblecollege.org.