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Our Easter anniversary

Lisa Prater 03/28/2013 @ 8:01am

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.

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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