Monday, July 21, 2014

Iowa and Minnesota

Great visit to the Mid-West!

Ron and Anne Larson have been supporting me for some time.  They live in Dows, Iowa so I went to visit yet another state I had previously only passed through!  They provided wonderful hospitality.  With Craig Russell, they arranged for me to speak at their church, First Lutheran, with representatives from other Lutheran congregations in the area.  After my talk, we enjoyed homemade vanilla ice cream with toppings, including homemade hot fudge!  What a treat. 
Des Moines

The next day Anne, Ron, and I drove around the area.  We saw farmsteads that had been in their family, land that they own, Hampton (the county seat), downtown Des Moines, and had lunch at the Waterfront, a wonderful seafood restaurant.  We saw lots of corn and soybean farms, of course, and lots of farm equipment.  I promised show some pictures of those to the Central African farmers – imagine what they could produce if they had even some small tractors!  I am not advocating 3 to 6,000-acre farms which are becoming more common in the Mid-West, but if Central African farmers could form cooperatives that shared equipment (and could afford to buy it – a huge stumbling block), image what they could produce.  Maybe when peace returns…

The Larsons arranged for me to stay in Hampton, a town about 18 miles from Dows.  Since I was there, I attended the county fair the second night I was there.  What fun to see the pigs being judged, look at other 4-H animals (cattle, goats, rabbits, chickens, sheep…) that youth raised, sample local wares (including more homemade ice cream that was being made there), and do a lot of people watching.  I did not ride any of the rides (designed mostly for kids) and decided not to attend the rodeo. 

We also had lots of good conversation about my work and our lives.  I am very pleased to have been able to go.

Next I drove to Northfield, MN to stay with Gordon and Betty Olsen in order to be able to attend network
meetings for partners and synods who work with CAR.  Present were representatives from Global Mission (Churchwide in Chicago), mission personnel from CAR/Cameroon (including me), Global Health Ministries, Lutheran Partners in Global Missions, and three synods: Western North Dakota, Eastern North Dakota, Texas/Louisiana/Gulf Coast (listed in the order that I visited them – trying not to show favoritism!)  It was a pleasure to see several people I had met earlier in my Home Assignment tour.

We were able to share a lot of information about what has been done and what is planned.  We also talked about future plans, coordination and communication with lots of time to get questions answered.  Meetings get long sometimes, but they are necessary and these were productive.

The first evening, the Olsens took me to visit St. Olaf College located in Northfield.  They did not attend there, but their children did as did Anne Larson who I had met in Iowa.  Beautiful campus.  It is part of the growing list of universities I have visited this trip:  North Dakota State, Concordia in MN, Texas Lutheran, (maybe a couple more?) and now St. Olaf.  Plus, the missionary conference this week will be at North Central College in Chicago.  Education is important at all levels.  And, tours or walks through these campuses have been relaxing.

Saturday, I was able to attend the annual picnic for those who have worked with CAR and/or Cameroon through the years.  I met one man who went as a missionary in 1938 – one in whose footsteps we all follow.  In addition to good food, various people shared updates from the area.

Chicago – arrival
After some time, I left for Chicago.  I spent the afternoon downtown, mostly at Millennium Park.  I also was impressed (again) by the public transport system that includes metro, elevated trains, buses, and the rail to the airport (that is sometimes above ground and sometimes below).  I am impressed with this system and wish more cities had them.  Yaound√© needs one too, but I won’t hold my breath on that one.  I didn’t have my camera with me, so I bought a couple of postcards so you could see a little of the area.

I am headed to the Summer Missionary Conference this afternoon.  When it is over, I am officially done my Home Assignment travels.  I will have some time with family and friend in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Mechanicsburg/Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh).  Still some travel, but less hectic, I hope.

CAR Update
Programs and institutions continue to operate in the Evangelical Lutheran Church – CAR.  Here are some highlights:
  • All 20 schools of the Village School Program completed the school year and students took the exams.  The exam for entry into 6th grade (a national test) is to be held this week for Lutheran and Catholic school students.
  • The yearly Pastoral Retreat (usually held in December but delayed this year) was held last week in Baboua.  The theme was Reconciliation and Peace.  I hear that it went very well.
  • Baboua and Bouar continue to be calm.  There are sometimes still bandits that appear on the road between towns, however. 
  • I continue to talk to various colleagues from the church by phone every few days.  They and their families are well and work continues. In each conversation, they ask that I sent you greetings.  They appreciate your prayers and support.  

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