By Judy Baer
Book 1 in the Forever Hilltop Series

A new pastor tries to shepherd his flock in North Dakota

An Unlikely Blessing is a heartfelt story about a new pastor and life-long city dweller Alex Armstrong, who reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a two-point parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose-lovely and prickly all at once, much like the people who live there.

Alex quickly finds that this lovely place is in quiet peril. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet: Jonas Owens, a faithful member of Hilltop parish, is on the brink of losing the farm. Alex believes that part of why God called him to Hilltop was to help turn things around, and steps in with ideas for saving the Owens' land. But can even God's minister help save this rural community?

There are a lot of firsts for the new pastor-the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), King Oscar's fish balls, and the melody of the musical saw. And the new, single pastor creates remarkable excitement among the unmarried women in the community. If you could die of hot dish overdose, Alex would be a dead man. Whether performing weddings, counseling his flock, or herding cattle by snowmobile, Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him as he will teach them. Day by day, he falls more in love with the people of Hilltop Church. People may leave Hilltop, but Hilltop never leaves them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Judy was born and grew up on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people-either those she read about or those she made up in her head. Her most ambitious conjuring did not succeed, however. She kept a clean stall with hay and oats for the horse she imagined would come but unfortunately, it never did. As an adult, however, she managed to make that dream come true and raised foundation quarter horses and buffalo for some years. A voracious reader, Judy learned to read with comic books, anything from Little Lulu and Superman to the Rawhide Kid. She sold her first story for $10.00 to a farm magazine. She still has the $10.00.

She graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota with a major in English and education and a minor in religion. At the time, she was simply studying what interested her, but now realizes that she was educating herself for her future career as an inspirational christian romance writer.

Judy wanted to write for Harlequin even in high school but it wasn't until her youngest child learned to say "No" that she realized that she'd better consider a second career to fall back on when mothering was done. Her first book was written with her little girl on her lap. Judy would type a few words, say "Now, Jennifer," at which time her daughter would hit the space bar before Judy continued typing. It wasn't the fastest way to work, but it offered a lot of mother-daughter time together. An over-achiever, she's written 75 books for various publishers. The mother of two and step-mother of three, she now has lots of family to enjoy.

In 2001, she went back to school and became a certified professional life coach. Currently she is working on her Master's in Human Development in the areas of writing, coaching and spirituality and writing inspirational Chick Lit which, she says, is the most fun she's ever had writing. For more about Judy and her other books, visit

To learn more about author, visit her website at

An Unlikely Blessing
By Judy Bear
Published by Guideposts
263 Pages

Back Cover: Meet Alex Armstrong, new pastor and lifelong city dweller, who has just accepted his first parish assignment, a small parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose lovely and prickly, much like the quirky residents. Pastor Alex quickly learns that this lovely place is in peril; many of the farmers are struggling to make ends meet. As he settles into life on the prairie, he begins to experience a lot of new things like the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), and King Oscar's fish balls. Not to mention the excitement the single pastor creates among the unmarried women in the community! Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him and he will teach them, providing all with An Unlikely Blessing!

Review: “Uncle Alex! Look out for that pig!” Love the first line. Alex, the new minister in town has to navigate more than pigs in this small town; there’s cows, chickens, single women and things he can’t see and/or know to look for. This was Alex’s first ministering job at the age of’s scary! Having lived in the city all of his life and only seeing farms in movies and on TV was one thing, but actually living on the land and with the animals is quite another story.

Jared, Alex’s nephew, screams as he looks at the church, “It’s like a photograph…or a movie set! It doesn’t even look real…Uncle Alex it’s like we’re on another planet.”

Alex had to agree as they drove around town. He felt as if they were “driving thru a Norman Rockwell painting". He likes what he sees and hopes he’s heard God correctly in accepting this position. He prays, “Here I am Lord. You’ve taken me a long way from home in so many ways. It is like another universe. What had he signed up for?”

Alex learns about a new twist to his ministry. He would be the pastor of two churches; neither one could afford a full-time pastor of their own, so they shared in the expense of bringing Alex here. The board expected him to preach at both churches every Sunday morning. He soon discovers that these two churches are polar opposites of each other. He felt warmth and welcome from the people at Hilltop. Alex is overjoyed by the warm welcome and love shown to him by the members of Hilltop church and all the food they bring over is amazing. But things were a little chilly at All Saints; everything was done by the book. A book Alex hadn’t read and didn’t know the rules. Oh, God help him.

A sign said, “Welcome to Grassy Valley, North Dakota, City Population 1,254. A Place Like Home!” Alex wanted the sign to be true for his life. He loved what he saw in the land and community of Grassy Valley. He just had to learn how to warm up the members of the All Saints church.

His secretary at Hilltop says, “People tend to meddle in each other’s business around here. You’ll get used to it. Why, sometimes word gets out about what I’ve done before I’ve even gotten around to doing it!”

Alex is soon convinced that God has called him to this place and set the mission of helping these two churches be united in love. Alex is also compelled to help the farmers in any way he can, so that they can keep their farms. This wasn’t ordinary land; these were farms that have been in the family business for generations.

Judy Baer paints a town much like Mayberry on the 'Andy Griffith' show. Alex is single and new to town, which makes him a target for the single girls. That’s why Alex was getting all the food; young ladies were hoping he’d notice them and their cooking. This makes for fun times in the book. Alex learns about farming from a whole new angle. There is more to fruit and veggies than buying them in the grocery store.

I felt the town itself was as much a character in the book as well as the loveable, quirky cast Judy has put together. You only learn a little bit about each one in this book, since this is the beginning of the Forever Hilltop series. This is a lighthearted story filled with laughter, fun, adventure and truth learned along the way. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network


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