Saturday, January 09, 2010

Getting Going

So we finally made it to Nebraska...Our morning flight at 9:25am was cancelled because of severe winter weather, so we were rescheduled for an afternoon flight. We finally made it off at about 4:30pm. When we got to Omaha, the temperature was hovering around 0 degrees, with windchills somewhere in the negative teens. We were originally planning on driving to our final destination of Hartington in a diesel bus, but if you know anything about diesel fuel, it gels up in very cold temperatures, so we had to spend the night in Omaha. Right now, we're waiting for our driver to arrive to take us to Hartington. Normally, Hartington is a three-hour drive, but we might have to make a little detour through South Dakota because of some closed roads. We're hoping for no more than a four-hour drive, but we'll see...

We had a great time last night socializing and getting to know each other. We went to a local establishment called Brewburgers, where we enjoyed some delicious beers and Omaha beef. It was honestly one of the best burger patties I've ever had in my life, so there really is some truth to what people say about Omaha beef. Apparently, our plans to blend in with the locals were foiled. When we entered the restaurant, one of the locals looked at us all bundled up in our winter gear and commented, "Boy, you sure look cold." Maybe the hat, gloves, scarf, and goose down jacket was too much...

I hope to post some more later today along with some pictures once we get to Hartington. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Prologue: A Nebraska Adventure

While visiting family and friends over Christmas break in sunny, warm southern California, people would often ask me what my plans are for the new year. When I told them that I would be traveling to Nebraska in January, I would often receive an incredulous look in reply and a sentiment along the lines of “Why the heck would you want to go there?”

You see, I come from a very different land. Now granted, I’m sure that Californians have just as many stereotypes about Nebraska as Nebraskans have about California, but all stereotypes of beaches and palm trees aside, my little area of the state, Orange County, is about as urban and densely populated as you can get. Located about 30 minutes outside Los Angeles, Orange County is technically a suburb of LA, but LA suburbs are more like cities unto themselves, with one city squashed right up next to another with little to no green space in between. My hometown, Fullerton, has a population of about 130,000, and that’s pretty normal size for where I come from. Needless to say, southern California is about as different than rural Nebraska as you could imagine.

So why the heck would I want to go to rural Nebraska in January? A number of factors are drawing me to this rural immersion. From a purely practical standpoint, I’ve never lived in a rural area. It was a pretty big move to go from California to Chicago, but at least Chicago is still urban, so it wasn’t too shocking for me. Considering that about 65 percent of ELCA congregations are located in rural settings and that I have no rural experience, this trip will be a great opportunity for me to get a taste of what rural life is like and discern whether I could see myself serving as a pastor in a rural setting. I can’t honestly choose city life over rural life if I haven’t experienced both.

I also feel drawn to rural Nebraska out of a sense of adventure. I will see and experience life in a way that is completely different than my own, not just in the sense of people’s values and priorities but also geography and weather. You might think that going to Midwestern farm country in the heart of winter with possible wind chills of -40 degrees is crazy, but I look at it as an opportunity to step into the unknown and push myself in new and challenging ways. From what I’ve been told, I can expect lots of broad open farmland, tasty beef, and warm hospitality, but I guess that I don’t really know what I’ll encounter in Nebraska until I actually get there, and that’s the beauty of it. As I enter this new place, I’m trying to keep as open of a mind as possible, not letting any preconceived notions shape my view of the people and land of Nebraska.

I hope to use this blog to glean the wisdom that is harvested for us by our Nebraska hosts (please excuse my agricultural metaphor), offering pictures, videos, and stories so that this area of the country might be more accessible to you and you might learn a thing or two about a context different than your own. Although this blog aims to be educational, I hope to also have some fun in the process, so please forgive me ahead of time if I post some random photos or share humorous anecdotes. If you’re a seminarian, maybe this blog will open you to receiving a call to this place. If you’re not a seminarian, maybe you’ll just realize that there’s still a lot of country for you to discover in our diverse nation. Regardless of your situation, I hope that this blog will expand your horizons and entertain you in the process. Happy reading!