Shiloh Church in Andersonville, ND
Andersonville, North Dakota – Rev. James Burmont pastors the Shiloh Church, a small, independent congregation in the plains of southern North Dakota. He began his ministry as a second career when he was 35 , working bivocationally to provide for his wife Gladys and their five children. He works as a “honey dipper”, that is cleaning out septic tanks. He always had a dream to complete his education, having attended the county community college when he was right out of high school, but never finishing.
In 1998 he got his first email account and was overjoyed as he began to receive email. He especially noted an email offer to complete his degree and proceeded to do so earning his bachelors degree in 1999. But the email offers for continued education flowed in and he reasoned it was because he was such a good student. He went on to get his Masters degree.
But was especially intrigued by the offers for a doctorate. He felt this was an answer to prayer and that likely in attaining such a high level of academic achievement he would be able to devote himself full-time to his ministry and eventually retire from the honey dipper business. That was in late 2000.
Now in 2007 the Rev. Dr. Burmont has seventeen doctorates. He explained that the email offers continued to come and he reasoned that it was merely an acknowledgement of his hard work and a recognition of his life experience. He felt the more the better and he actually enjoyed filling out the paperwork and felt the small fee was more than reasonable in light of the prestige of a doctorate.
When asked by our ALFN reporter if he dealt with any pride Burmont acknowledged, “Well, it really is hard to be humble when you just might have more doctorates than anyone else in the world.” (In fact Burmont is making inquiry with the Guinness Book of World Records regarding this very matter.)
When asked concerning future plans Burmont said he was going for 25 doctorates but would “probably” stop at that point. He expressed concern that such a high degree of education might make it hard for him to relate to his small, rural congregation.
In fact there has already been some confusion with some in the church and community believing him to be a medical doctor. He explains that he still tries to help them using advice he receives through emails. Recently he was approached at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket by Martha Fernwald, who inquired about her hives. Burmont recalled an email he had received several weeks earlier about a “miracle ointment” and was able to pass this helpful information on to a very appreciative Martha.
He also receives questions concerning financial matters, apparently because people assume that because he has all these doctorates he must be knowledgable on all issues. Burmont has been kind to pass on offers he has received from generous wealthy Nigerian businessmen who have died and left a fortune and want to bless others with it. He feels really good about using his advanced education to help these needy people achieve financial success.
Burmont still has not seen his dream of full-time ministry but believes his service is a sacrifice since with his degree of education he could probably go anywhere, including the top seminaries. He also feels the honey dipper business keeps him humble and in touch with the people.