A Recent Visit to Our First Church
Last month, we were able to take a vacation out to South Dakota. What a beautiful state. We were also able to take our son, Ben, and his lovely bride, Ellie. We had a blast! (Dairy Queen, Badlands, a huge dairy farm, hiking, Mount Rushmore, seeing family, card games, Black Hills, car time, etc.)
On the way to South Dakota, we took time to stop by Balaton, MN, where Becky and I spent 3½ years as pastor and wife. This was our very first church right out of seminary. The church is located in the gentle cornfields of southwestern Minnesota. This is where many Scandinavians settled over the last few hundred years. Our church was called, fittingly, Skandia Evangelical Free Church. Moving to Balaton (population 753) was a cross-cultural adventure for us back in 1987. We had a rotor phone, a party line, had to burn our own trash, and had to fetch our own water at a local state park. We grew veggies in a garden, “walked beans,” rode on tractors, hunted deer, and butchered chickens. It was a lot of fun.
Pastoring Skandia Free was also a huge learning experience. We learned about pastoral care, loving a flock, dealing with church discipline, and living on little financially. For example, sometimes the church didn’t have enough money to pay our salary, so we’d get a partial check for that month. Sometimes our next-door neighbor would ask us to help butcher chickens and then give us several chickens to eat.
Our years at Skandia were precious and challenging for Becky and me. We were called to serve and lead a great group of folks through some very difficult waters. We still miss them. And we have often gone back to visit over the years.
Taking Ben and Ellie there was a lot of fun. It also gave us many hours afterwards to talk about some of the lessons we learned there. We reminisced, laughed, and told them a number of stories about being a pastor and wife in rural America. Becky and I thank God for those 3½ years in Balaton. We will never be the same.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor