“Mom, you really should go visit a class at seminary and tell them about how interesting rural ministry can be.” That comment was made by my daughter, Elizabeth, about 10 years ago when she was in seminary. She marveled at some of the things our congregation was doing, plus some of the situations we have encountered. I have now been at North Valley going on 14 years. To some, it seems as if our church is in the middle of nowhere, but if you know the area, we aren’t very far from town. However, it IS rural Wisconsin, but we often times have big city challenges like drugs, alcohol and poverty, but they are spread over (and oftentimes hidden) a larger area.
As in any ministry setting, one week can be radically different from the next. Many weeks hold new experiences, as last week did. I have led Bible studies for the ladies in the county jail for about 7 years. I got a call last week from the jail informing me that one of their correctional officers (jailer) was killed in a car accident. His parents were coming from Illinois to pick up his personal effects. I was asked to conduct a prayer service while they were here, not only for the parents but also for the officers, who were also grieving. I was honored to be asked. Through the years, I have met many of the officers, who greet me as the steel doors slide open to allow me entrance and escort me to my destinations in the minimum and maximum meeting rooms. It’s tough for anyone to be in jail, but it’s also tough to be a correctional officer. They oftentimes have a thankless job. I was glad to be of service to them and share lunch at “Wiener Wednesday” with them.
After I left jail, two young people were standing outside the building. The woman asked if I could give her a ride to Luck. I asked her why. She said she had just been released from jail, but her father was working and she had no way to get home. She wasn’t one of my ladies from Bible study, but that was OK. She recognized my name when I introduced myself. We had an interesting conversation enroute to Luck.
After dropping her off, I figured I might as well stop at the grocery store to pick up something. After living in the area for 14 years, I’m almost guaranteed to run into someone I know…sure enough, that day I engaged in conversation with 4 people. It’s amazing how much ministry gets done in grocery stores. I recently read a comment by a rural pastor in Living Lutheran that much ministry is done outdoor of the church. That is so true!
Our congregation has a Good Samaritan fund to assist local individuals and families. Last week was no exception with a number of calls for assistance, the most recent being at 7:45am Sunday morning. We are also in the midst of helping someone who is homeless at the time.
So, a sad week, but such a wonderful Sunday with Holy Humor and a baptism and lots of babies in the service! Here is a picture of little Vivian Dawn with her family. Many shared good jokes. Andy, who is pictured here with babies, asked, “What is a cow with a twitch called?” “Beef jerky!”
Blessings on your week! Till next time…