What a wonderful opportunity to meet people and see part of Eastern North Dakota! I drove to Kindred and Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota. Between Bismarck and Kindred I passed many farms and LOTS of flat land (not a surprise, really). I went to Kindred first as the Lutheran Church there has been supporting me. The town is small and lovely. Many more wood houses than we see in Pennsylvania and wide roads. (The picture was taken from my window seat on the plane from Minneapolis to Philadelphia. The fewest clouds I have seen in a long time on a flight – and one of the bumpiest rides! The water is Lake Michigan.)
After sharing the liturgy with Kindred Lutheran (and preaching), three women took me to the Hjemkomst Center to see the Stave Church that is a replica of a church in Norway that was built in the 1100s. Great to see. An interesting point was the lepers’ window. The pastor could give communion to lepers (and others with sever illnesses) from a place near the altar while lepers stood outside on a covered porch. Exclusion, but also a way to limit the spread of disease. The center also has a replica of a Viking ship that was built and sailed to Norway in the early 190s.
I also got to see the Welcome Home parade for the girls’ softball team from Kindred who won the state championship! Go girls! Sunday evening Kindred Lutheran welcomed some bicyclists riding for Gears for Change. They road across the state to raise money for the homeless. One of the riders was Pastor Sue whose church I visited two days later.
Note about homelessness in ND: There has been some homelessness in Fargo and other areas, as there is everywhere, but the situation is getting worse. There is an oil boom in the western part of the state because of fracking techniques that are allowing access to resources that were not easily removed before. Because of the influx of workers in this boom, housing is very short. Many landlords, going with supply and demand, are now raising rents exponentially so that those on limited or fixed income are being evicted. Too many are now homeless and many have moved to Fargo. The churches are working together to address the problem as are others in the area. I can’t imagine being homeless in the winter when temperatures are often below zero with lots of wind.
Both Monday and Tuesday mornings I spent time at the Eastern North Dakota synod office where I met the current Bishop, Rev. William Rindy, and the Bishop-Elect, Terry Brant, and various other staff. Tuesday afternoon, I also had the chance to visit personnel at the Northwestern Minnesota synod office including Bishop, Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe.
Monday evening I stayed in the home of Nola and Ken Storm who invited the Mission Committee from Olivet Lutheran. This church along with two others to be mentioned soon have decided to begin to support me in my work in CAR. All three had been supporting June and Phil Nelson who finish their work in Cameroon in July. I am sad to see the Nelsons leave, but am gratified that these churches have so quickly moved to choose a new missionary to generously support.
Tuesday evening I presented some information about my work and life in CAR to the Intergenerational Vacation Bible School at Elim Lutheran in Fargo (who will begin sponsoring me this summer). This picture shows an another outside activity where we demonstrated that the love we receive from those around us (represented by water in paper cups) come together in ways that overflow (shown by the overflowing bowl into which each person poured his/her water while naming someone who loves him/her).
Finally, on the way back to Bismarck to fly to Pennsylvania, I stopped in Valley City at Our Savior Lutheran Church (who will also begin to support me this summer). I participated in the regular Wednesday Bible study sharing information about my work and the situation in CAR. I also went with members for a coffee and continued conversation.
Thanks to Pr. Paul Schauer’s habit of daily walks, I got into the groove, too. I walked for 45-60 minutes each day, plus regular walking to get from place to place. I am pleased to be moving – and balancing the wonderful meals I have been eating with all of the people I have been meeting!
I only allotted a week in North Dakota thinking I was vising three places. I was blessed to visit seven! It is helpful to put names to faces and places and these visits will facilitate/encourage communication in the future.
Today, I presented a forum at the Lower Susquehanna Synod Assembly entitled, "Feeding Spiritual and Earthly Hunger in the CAR." It went well and participants had good questions. Bishop Jim Dunlop introduced me during the first session explaining that we are even related! His wife’s brother is my sister’s husband – got that? As he said, that means mostly shared turkey dinners!
Another big thank you to all who are making my travels smooth and fruitful.