When I was completing my second full-time interim at English Lutheran in LaCrosse someone gave me the book The Land Remembers by Ben Logan. It is a tribute that a native of Gays Mills in the Coulee region of southwest Wisconsin wrote to the place where we grew up on a particular farm. The importance of being grounded in a particular place, especially on a farm, did not really hit me until when in July, 2014 my brothers and I completed the sale on the farm in central Illinois where we originated. Ever since that time I have been reflecting a lot on the contribution of that particular place to my faith journey.
I believe that the place in which you grow up literally grounds you in life. For me, growing up on a farm seven miles from the nearest won meant that I was largely influenced by my other family members. We had contact with the neighbors, but since most of our neighbors were of a different faith-- Mennonite (this was the 50’s and 60’s), it was limited. We learned to play games and sports just with our siblings. We also got involved with outside chores from the beginning, particularly helping with a very large vegetable and fruit garden that my mother oversaw. We did not see my father very much at busy times of the year when he would be out in the fields for sunrise to sunset—and sometimes beyond—days. This mean my Mom was in charge of us almost all of the time, and we would do the kinds of challenges to one parent that normal kids did. It was often divide and conquer.
Our rural location was important to our faith because going to church was super important to our social and religious life. Our church friends became our most important friends all the way through high school. We spent several Sundays enjoying the company of the pastor and family (they also had three boys), and I became accustomed to that family as normal, everyday people.
Growing up on a farm shaped an appreciation for land and nature. It is God’s good creation and a natural habitat for the seeds of faith growing to a harvest. When our farm home buildings (house and all) were burned to the ground in a planned clearing of the lot to create more tillable land, I felt a great loss. It was like a part of my family. But like Abraham who left his place of origin for another place that God would show him, I had answered God’s call to another place. Still, the farm that nurtured me is always with me in my heart. How is it for you? What place has most influenced your life?
Pastor Roger Black