After Daniel was born on September 11, 1994, we prepared to move to Rudyard, Montana, so Nolan could begin pastoring the Calvary Evangelical Church. We packed up a moving truck, said good-bye to our friends at Pine Hills EMC and headed to Morton to see my folks. After spending a few days with them, we drove to Langdon to see Nolan’s folks as well before heading off across North Dakota to Montana.
We crossed the line into Montana and drove through Wolf Point. After awhile, we looked at each other and noted that we had not passed another vehicle for half an hour. Having lived in the city for the past number of years, it was a very strange feeling indeed! After that we started to pay more attention and see how long it was between seeing another vehicle. (I say “vehicle” most of the time because cars are not the most common form of transportation in this area–pick-ups and SUV’s are far more practical here.) As we drove it became obvious that the farther west we went, the fewer vehicles there were.
After many hours of driving we finally arrived at a sign that said, “Rudyard–596 Real Nice People and 1 Old Sorehead! Rip-snortin’ and Rarin’ for Business!” We turned north and drove over the railroad tracks into a town that looked like something out of a 70’s western movie. It had a Main Street with a couple of gas stations, movie theater, grocery store and a few other miscellaneous businesses. It was October and it had been a dry year, so things were dusty and there were, of all things, tumbleweeds blowing around. All we needed was the theme song from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” to play in the background! (That’s an exaggeration; however, there is just something about a tumbleweed blowing across the road in front of me that makes that tune come to mind.) We found the church and the house and it wasn’t long before a number of people showed up to welcome us and help unload the truck.
There was already a couch in the house, so I took baby Daniel and sat down to get my bearings after we’d done the walk through. It was one of those times in my life when I all of sudden felt the wind go out of me. The excitement of a new baby, a move and a new life had suddenly all come together and were now done. The next phase of life was about to begin and I had a sense of let-down after an adrenaline high. It took some effort to get up and get moving, deciding where to put things and how to unpack. I’ve now moved enough times to know that this is my normal thing to do and, also, that arranging a house is not my favorite thing, especially one I’ve never seen before. It felt like all the wind had gone out of my sails, so I sat for awhile and just tried to remember who everyone was and try not to panic.
Eventually everything was moved in, the truck returned and we started life in ministry. Nolan and I started getting names, kids, locations, occupations, etc. figured out. We found the usual mix of people there that you find anywhere. In fact, I’ve now lived in enough places that I tend to get people confused with people from places we’ve lived before. Although each person created by God is unique, we do have some similarities that make it hard to keep people straight sometimes!
We lived in Rudyard for seven and half years. In that time I have to say that we were always treated very well by the folks there, whether they attended our church or not. The Calvary people took good care of us and were patient as we learned the ropes of ministry. They encouraged and supported us as we tried different things. It was rare to have people complain even when we made mistakes. They also prayed for us, especially through the losses we experienced by miscarriage.
As I think back to Rudyard, I remember it as being a good place. The pain I feel associated with it was having to leave and knowing how deeply hurt they were by our leaving. Nolan never intended to move from Rudyard, feeling strongly that rural communities needed long-term pastors. His goal was to nail down the furniture, so to speak, and stay a lifetime. I wanted to feel that way, but there have been too many changes in my life that came in “never-change” situations to know that there are no such situations. But it hurt, nonetheless, when we had to leave.
However, that’s getting quite a ways ahead of the story! We would not have left Rudyard after such a short time if it hadn’t been for a spiritual journey that began with me. So, I guess I’d better finally get to that journey!