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Our Easter anniversary

Twelve years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. My
husband and I had moved to our place in the country a few years before that,
but we had neglected to find a church home in our new neighborhood. With a baby
on the way, it was time. We decided Easter was as good a day as any to start
our search.

We made a list of possible churches within a reasonable
distance, and it just so happened that the one we chose to visit on Easter
Sunday was Lacona United Methodist Church. It's in a small town just a few
miles away, and we noticed the sign out front said church started at 9:15.

Easter morning, we got ready and went to church. There were
all kinds of cars parked outside, but when we entered the sanctuary, there was
nobody there. We eventually figured out that everyone was in the basement, but
we weren't sure whether they were having Sunday School or what, so we decided
to just choose a pew, sit, and wait. And wait. And wait.

About 45 minutes later, people started streaming upstairs, some
carrying casserole dishes and serving spoons. Aha! They had been having breakfast!
Everyone introduced themselves, shook our hands, and told us we should have
come down to eat. It seemed promising.

Once the service began, we fell in love with the pastor,
Jerry Oliver. He was a farmer and a science teacher, and talked about things
like calves being born, planting crops, and going mushroom hunting. He spoke
from the heart, and tied his Biblical message into everyday life so that it
didn't seem like a sermon at all, but like a conversation with a neighbor. After
the service, he talked with us for a while and invited us back.

Our list of potential churches fell by the wayside. We felt
like we were home, so we just stayed.

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We eventually filled an entire pew with our family, as we went
on to have three sons: Jake, Luke, and Will. They were all baptized in our
church, by our beloved pastor. He clapped when they sang or performed. He
presented them with their Cub Scout religious awards. He taught them that if
the only thing they ever remember from church is, "God loves you,"
then that's enough.

Every Easter, without fail, Jerry would wish our family a
happy anniversary. It was a special day for us, since that's the day we found
our church home. Jerry said it was a special day for the church, because we
became part of the congregation and eventually brought three children into the
fold.

Jerry passed away in 2010 after a hard-fought battle with
cancer. It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was one of the best people I ever
met, and he truly changed my life. He made me see that faith and religion are
simple. Love your neighbor. Do your best. Be thankful. Be humble. Give of
yourself.

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Our church has seen some rough times since Jerry's passing.
We have yet to find someone with feet big enough to fill his shoes. I'm not
entirely sure that person exists. He led our congregation for more than 30 of
its 100 years of existence. It isn't the same without him. But come Easter
Sunday, my husband and I and our boys will be in our regular pew, surrounded by
the congregation of farmers who have become family. 

Like many small-town churches with aging and dwindling
congregations, our future seems uncertain at times, especially without our
beloved pastor. But Easter is a time of new beginnings. Over the past 12 years,
we have learned that when times are tough, our church family is there for us.
We have learned that a small group of people can do an enormous amount of good in
the world. We have learned that one person with a good heart can change the
lives of so many.

And we have also learned that on Easter Sunday, breakfast is
at 8:30 and church is at 10.

 

Happy Easter to you and yours!
~Lisa

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