“History is alive, active and oral in ways not often found outside small towns.” “The heart of the rural congregation beats to the rhythm of the Creator God's bounty of the seasons.”
These are just a couple of the insights I gleaned from the books on rural ministry we read for the J-Term Rural Immersion 2012. In our first 24 hours in Nebraska, I and my travel companions – Josh Buzbee, Zak Wagner and Prof. Rosanne Swanson – have already begun discovering the truths in these statements. This is our travel crew in the middle of one of Ervin Gobber's 5,000 acres of farmland in southeast Nebraska.
We arrived yesterday in Omaha to the warm welcome of members of of the Nebraska Synod Rural Ministry Committee and were treated to lunch in historic downtown Omaha and stumbled across this awesome payphone. It's not the first working pay phone we've seen so far.
On our way to the home of our first host family, Candy and Marvin Blecha of Humbolt, we stopped at three ELCA churches. This is the nave of the First Lutheran Church at Avoca. It's important to note, however, if you asked a local where First Lutheran was they might not know what you were talking about because many of the churches are identified by name of the river or creek they are closest to, so despite what historical documents may say, this is really the North Branch church.
This is Moose – he provides important ministries at North Branch and we fell in love with him. We are sure our spouses and roommates will be very excited to find out that we may want to add a Bouvier to our Hyde Park apartment lives now.
We ended our first day in Nebraska by participating in an Epiphany potluck and Service of Light at St. James near Humboldt with Pastors Amalia and Eric Spruth-Janssen. It was a lovely evening. This morning we were back at St. James for a Rural Ministry Workshop where we learned a lot about the flooding that devastated this part of the country and its people last summer. Hearing the stories of the devastation and loss was powerful. I found myself amazed that we heard very little in national news of what these people were and continue to go through because of the flooding.
Our last outing of the day was a farm tour with Ervin Gobber which included tractor rides for me and Zak. It was amazing. Here's Zak getting ready to take off on his tractor adventure. We were actually witnessing something quite rare: the winter has been so mild here this year that the Gobber's are tilling in January in preparation for next year's crops, a time of the year when the ground is usually be frozen and covered with snow.
And now we are all back at the lovely Blecha abode, well fed, in comfy clothing and reading to sleep through our second quiet and dark Nebraska night.
I close with part of a prayer from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays.
Gracious Lord, Open my heart and pour in all that is lacking. Saturate my words with love and encouragement, so that I may truly be an expression of your presence in this world. I thank you for the countless blessings of this day: gifts of sight, sound, hearing and smell – for wonders without end. Amen.
In Peace, Ann