Saturday, January 13, 2007


I know I already posted once today, but that was this morning. I wanted to let ya'll know what I did today, and tomorrow is church, so there won't be quite as much time in the morning.

Marianna had hoped that I could see the sunrise this morning, but it was overcast, so no luck. Hopefully, I'll be able to see it at least once while I'm here. We got going early, just in case the forecasted snow fell heavily earlier than expected. Marianna let me drive and we toured the four - that's right FOUR ELCA churches within twenty minutes of her house (they may be closer, but I was driving and was a little bit nervous on the gravel road). I saw St. Matthew yesterday. Today, I saw Martin Luther, St. John, and Hickory Grove. St. John is the other church in the two-point relationship. It is known as the "Old Stone Church" (pictured at right).

After the "church tour" we went to the grocery store to get stuff for dinner. We came home, had homemade chicken noodle soup, enjoyed a movie (Netflix!), and worked on our afghans. For dinner we had a pot roast. I am in home-cooked food HEAVEN!

Marianna and I have had a great day getting to know one another. She knows so much about the people in the community. She's related to a lot of them! Moreover, she has so many memories. She was born in this community and married her high school sweetheart. Her husband and five children lived in Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas. After 50 years, she has returned to her home community and is very involved. Because of her varied experience, we have gotten to talk a lot about the differences between city life and that of the country. The biggest difference? Marianna says that it is the way she shops. Here, it takes a little bit of time to get to a grocery store, so when you shop, you shop so you don't have to go back. I think I ought to learn how to do that, anyway. Who wants to go to the grocery store everyday, anyway?

Well, I think it is time to sleep. Blessings!

First Impressions

For me the biggest surprise so far has been the brownness of the landscape. Now this probably seems like a "duh" observation to everyone else, but I'm from the Northwest and we don't really do brown there so much. Someone yesterday commented on all the trees and I blinked, because I hadn't noticed any trees. Oh wait, those are trees over there, they're just brown and leafless. I had kind of forgotten that not all trees are fluffy evergreens. The grass gets brown here too. I hadn't seen that in years. Amazing.

Shortly before we landed yesterday morning, someone said something very interesting. Apparently there is now a little bit of Iowa on the Nebraska side of the Missouri, because the Missouri decided to move a bit. I wonder if anybody was living in that section, and how they feel about it.

All of the students on the trip have different hosts. I'm staying with some nice people, or perhaps I should say one fabulous lady, since the rest of family went hunting. Today we are supposed to be soaking up a day in the rural life, but my host is working, so I get to follow the pastor around. We hit the convenience store/cafe, the grocery store, and did three visits, all before lunch. Now that we're getting icy snow on and off, we're sitting and relaxing, but, boy, the pastor is a busy lady.

Arriving in Nebraska

We're HERE!

We left LSTC at 6:15 AM yesterday morning (translation: very early for a seminary student). We flew out of Midway and arrived safely in Omaha, Nebraska. For my first flight since I was eight years old, it went surprisingly well. Security was stressful. Everyone is expected to just know what to do. Thankfully, nearly everyone else in our group had flown recently, so I just followed their cues.

When we arrived, we met three pastors: Gretchen, Brenda, and Barbara. We had a nice chat over coffee before taking off for Arbor Day Farm. That's Arbor Day, as in the day we plant trees. The inside of Lied Lodge, where we had lunch, was beautiful. It was huge, with trees floor-to-ceiling. If I know my artictectural styles correctly, I believe it was "arts and crafts" style. It had quotes from people like Frank Lloyd Wright and Teddy Roosevelt. The food was delicious. Next we went to the Lewis and Clark Exploration exhibt in Nebraska City. I learned a little bit about they trek. I guess what I really learned is that I am not nearly brave enough to do something like that.

Finally, we took off for Johnson. I think it took us half an hour to get here, but I took a cat nap in the car, so I'm not sure. We arrived and my host mother was waiting. Her name is Marianna. She is so sweet. Last night we learned that we both enjoy crocheting and Grey's Anatomy. After dinner with Pr. Catherine, the pastor of the congregations who are hosting us (St. John's and St. Matthew's, a two-point parish), we sat down, watched a movie, and worked on our afghans. I think we're going to get along very well.

After 24 hours in the state of Nebraska, I've noticed a few things that are differently from the rural Indiana towns I'm used to: there are significantly fewer paved roads here and there are LOTS OF HILLS! That's right HILLS! Hopefully, I'll have a picture of the scenery for you soon, but I'm afraid it will be snow-covered, because we're supposed to get 12 INCHES of snow tonight!!!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ready to Go

Today was our last day in the classroom before we head out to Nebraska. Some highlights . . .

Rogation Sunday in the rural church was talked about and we saw a snippet of one on a video. I'm not sure that I'd even heard of such a thing as rogation, much less knew what it was, until I read Open Secrets a few months ago (a great book I'm now making my whole family read). It turns out that there is even a full Lutheran rogation service available on the web. I had no idea.

It turns out that all sort of stuff can be made out of corn. I had no idea about that either.

On the theological front, we talked about how activities like farming link rural life to creation. Our leader talked about the need for us to have a theology for the care of creation and rural life. He pointed out that land is a central Biblical theme and that we need to recognize that the center of creation is not humanity, but God. He used the example of Noah as a just man who is given by God the job of preserving creation. What he said made a lot of sense and I think will still be fermenting in my head twenty years from now.

We leave early tomorrow morning, so I've got my bag packed and ready to go. Thanks to my bag's color, there's no way I should be able to miss it at the baggage claim either, no matter how tired I am.

Nebraska here we come!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rural Immersion: An Introduction (Or Just What the Heck is It?)

My name is Joy and together with Adrianne, I'll be blogging about my experiences in rural immersion during January term. We are both first years at LSTC (the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago). We are both in the school's master of divinity program, which means that with any luck (and a lot of prayer), we will become ordained ministers in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in about 3 1/2 years. In the mean time, we work on discerning exactly what it is that God is calling us to, and learning everything we can, while LSTC does its best to ready us for the ministry.

So how how exactly does this relate to the whole rural immersion thing? Well, during the January term, LSTC gives students the chance to do and experience a variety of things. One of them is the opportunity to learn more about rural life, i.e. get some idea of, if we become ministers in a rural area, just what we might be gettting ourselves into. I feel that God could be calling me to rural ministry so I'm trying to find out everything that I can about it.

We've had class this week, meeting with some great people from the Nebraska Synod, who have have attempted to at least fill us in on some of the basics of their state. (As a result, I am now much more familiar with a map of Nebraska than I ever was before.) They've even been nice enough to take us out to dinner.

Adrianne is third from the left (really, I promise) and I'm second from the right.

Like most any course at this institution, there was some assigned reading, Discovering Hope and Rural Evangelism. I particularly enjoyed Rural Evangelism, so much so that I jabbed my sister several times on the flight home for Christmas, so that I could read her excerpts from the book (last time she'll sit next to me). However, most of this course is about experiencing the reality, an immersion in the environment. That's what me and Adrianne (along with our other brave classmates) will be doing, and the two of us will be attempting to bring at least a taste of it to this blog for your reading pleasure.

So hello and welcome to our blog. Put your feet up and stay a while.