Saturday, May 24, 2014

A New Day In Nebraska

Our group has been delighted by the wonderful scenery that Nebraska has to offer. On Wednesday, May 21, 2014 we traveled to the Kingsley Dam and saw some awesome views of Lake McConaughy. Lake McConaughy is Nebraska’s biggest lake and largest reservoir in a four state region and is built on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills.

Then on Thursday, May 22, 2014 we traveled to courthouse/ jail rock in Bridgeport near the Nebraska Panhandle. These formations are amazing and are defiantly worth the while to stop and take a look. 

We continued enjoying seeing some sites when we traveled to Scottsbluff National Monument in the Scottsbluff County, Nebraska.

Yet, it seems the most special part of the day was when our group went to visit the Lakota Lutheran center in Scottsbluff County, Nebraska. The Lakota Lutheran center is a small congregation that bases itself on social ministries, youth education, providing meals for those in need, and pastoral care within the community. This amazing center strives to bridge the gap between the Lakota people and the residents of the local community. We had the luxury to spent time at this center getting to know the social climate of the Lakota people in this area. We found out that their socioeconomic situation within the community can be extremely oppressive for a number of these people. Jail is sometimes the unfortunate reality that is part of some of the lives of the Lakota people in Nebraska. A main reason for jail time for some Lakota people is because of use of drugs or alcohol. When people are caught engaging in a drug or alcohol crime they can be bound to a life of being subjugated by their local justice system. This is because individuals who do not have the financial resources to help themselves out of their circumstance must serve the fullest penalty for their crime. Although, the Lakota center is operated by providing hope to those who seem to have no chance of being freed from their situation by providing programs for those who feel persecuted by their crime. The Lakota center was a sobering experience of social justice that seemed to affect us all. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

I did not mention in my last blog about the house hosts who are providing for Matt Lawler and I (Steve Bogie) a place of shelter and rest during our stay in Nebraska. Matt and I are tremendously  fortunate to be invited to stay with Jerry and Glea Haupt. The Haupt's are two of the sweetest people who treat us both like family.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2014 we visited multiple rural church communities such as, Keystone interdenominational, Grace Lutheran, Saint Mark’s Lutheran, and Berea Lutheran church. Each of these churches had special offerings of survival in rural contexts by working together as a combined community.


A unique example of a combined community working together for survival was demonstrated by Keystone interdenominational church. Keystone exemplified Lutheran/Presbyterian backgrounds that worked together hand in hand with Roman Catholic traditions in one building for the combined practice of worship. The need for a church in the community outweighed the denominational differences that typically would separate these traditions. Yet, as demonstrated in this church community one of the best traits of Nebraska is that the people happily figure out ways to work together as a community even through difficult situations. 

Grace Lutheran:

Grace Lutheran Church provided a sobering perspective for our group with the difficulty of keeping a small church community together in times of struggle. Grace has a congregational size of eleven to nineteen parishioners on an average Sunday for worship. Vonnie Brown explained to our group the history of this congregation and its ability to continue forward even without a called pastoral figure. Vonnine shared with us about her father's life as the pastor of this community and his subsequent passing which led her to take over the responsibilities of leading this community to keep it afloat. Vonnie explained to us about a PMA which and helped us understand what type of role the Parish Ministry Associate embodies. A PMA is a ministry leadership role that is unique only to the Nebraska Synod. A PMA is trained to serve in a ministry role that allows them to preach and administer the sacraments in a single parish. PMA's can do most things in the church like a called pastor, but PMA's are not allowed to sign marriage certificates.    

Saint Mark's Lutheran:

Saint Mark's is a gorgeous church that is lead by Brenda Tophoj a PMA who is filled with a beautiful fire and energy to serve God as well as her parish. Brenda emphasized to us that being part of a small community parish is a great gift because people of a small community work together through thick and thin. Brenda took over Saint Mark's as a PMA when its previous pastor left accepting a new call at a different church community. Brenda was a wonderful host filled with insight about how special it is to be part of rural ministries in Nebraska.   

Berea Lutheran:

Berea Lutheran is an absolutely beautiful church that we as a group were fortunate to be able to visit. Berea and Saint Mark's Lutheran Churches are part of a four point parish community. Brenda Tophoj is the PMA for the congregation at Berea as well as at Saint Mark's. Members of Berea's congregation spent at least an hour with our group conversing about their outlook of rural Nebraska. We as a group were able to embark on conversations about school, social life, shopping, the police and fire departments, and crime in rural Nebraska. The conversation we had with these congregational members provided exceptional insight into the lives of the people who live in rural Nebraska. One member lived in Denver at one time in his life and at the end of our conversation he emphasized how happy he now is living in rural Nebraska. 

It seems that life is good for the people who live in rural Nebraska. All of our hosts emphasized how happy they are living in rural communities of Nebraska.    

First Post

Each student that is taking part of the Leadership and Mission in Rural Congregations course has different interests they want to learn about while being immersed in the countryside of Nebraska. Yet, as we spend time together as a group we have started to understand the importance of building strong relationships by working side by side by embracing our differences in personal desires. A strong image that has been present since the first day of traveling to Nebraska is that God’s work gets done by relationships that communally work together regardless of the diversity in personal interests in that community. As this group walks together unified there is a hope in finding a deeper and richer appreciation of God’s presence in the midst of Nebraska’s rural environments. Therefore, each day will be a blessing for this group in our pursuit of understanding how God’s work gets done in rural Nebraska regardless of its diversity.            

8:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 20, 2014 we began our adventure to Nebraska.

Dr. Terry Baeder  /  Katherine Tuttle /  Matt Lawler             

Michael Oellig /  Louis Tillman                                          

Steve Bogie 

We arrived by car to Midway Airport before 9:00 a.m., went through security, and waited patiently to board our plane for Denver International Airport.

It was a smooth and safe flight to Denver International Airport.

Next, we met Kent Miller who drove us from Colorado to Nebraska. The three hour trip from Colorado to Nebraska allowed some of us a moment for some needed rest.

 Kent / Matt / Katherine / Michael                                                                                 Bev / Terry/ Louis
Kent is immensely hospitable he made sure that we felt welcomed, taken care of, and provided all our meals throughout the day.
Lutheran Church Of Our Redeemer                                

We then visted Kayla Hochalter for a short pitstop in Fort Morgan, Colorado at Lutheran Church Of Our Redeemer . Kaila provided excellent insight about relationships within rural ministries and what it is like being a pastor in that context.

Louis / Steve / Terry / Matt / Katherine / Kaila / Bev Michael

After our meeting with Kayla we hit the road again, and after a long trip from Colorado we finally crossed the state line into Nebraska. Soon after crossing the line we met our house hosts and settled in to where we were staying for the duration of our immersion.

Some of us took a walk around the neighborhood and found out that even though we all are a long way from Chicago, Illinois there is a piece of home in Nebraska.