I am well aware of the stress and anxiety that is making itself available to us as July winds down and we check off another month of a year that has been fraught with chaos and unrest and ugly surprises. I have started this email so many times and I keep deleting it because you don’t need me to remind you of all that is presenting itself. My goal in sending these is to always offer you hope and truth and an opportunity to choose to live differently than the world.
After numerous starts and rewrites, here is what is on my heart:
One summer when Russ’s parents were definitely slowing down, but still living in their own home and maintaining independent living, his mom did something that was so out of her normal personality it kind of took me aback. She basically mandated a family reunion with as many of us as we could snag for a weekend. Our collective children, among Russ’s siblings, ranged from elementary to young marrieds. I have to say that at the time and even as I look back, I marveled that she was so adamant we do this. It was so unlike her and it was a bit of an inconvenience to all of us to make it happen and I couldn’t possibly be more thankful that she did. It is one of my most treasured memories of her.
It was the last time outside of a nursing home setting or funeral home that we were all together. The memories made still make us laugh and smile. And I learned so much about the history of the area that Russ’s family settled in and called home that I am richer for it.
One of the things she arranged for us to do was visit an old farm house out in the middle of nowhere, Iowa that was on the Underground Railroad. We traveled caravan fashion out through parts of the countryside that had not been introduced to cell phone service nor paved roads. Our car was so thick with dust, I can still remember laughing with our sides held as Zach scooped layers off of the INSIDE of the car doors when we opened them.
But my heart still burns and the hot tears still fall when I recall the tour of this home and the sacrifice of this family in a time in American history that marks our country to this day.
The home was built with a full basement but designed in a way to conceal half of it. An elaborate system of walls and furniture made it appear to be a partial basement for food storage, but if you slid a heavy cabinet aside the other half was a place where runaway slaves could hide until it was safe to make the next part of their journey to freedom. As we stood in that basement I could hear the echoes of hushed voices, mommas trying to keep children quiet, fathers who prayed against the odds for when that ferry would be able to run and hoping against hope that no betrayer was going to interfere along the way. They had selected this plot of land because it was in close proximity to a landing for a ferry across a nearby river.
The house was purchased along with a large plot of farmland. The owners had bought it fully with the intent to build this basement. They hid their work of a full basement as they made a home in the community and farmed the land and made a life there. The whole project involved a huge investment of money, resources, time and taking on the role of a farm family so that they could be a part of doing the right thing. They researched, planned and executed a way to help their fellow man.
I don’t know the name of this family, but their story inspires me to this day to be wiling to use all that I have been given for the purposes for which God has given me to make a difference in the lives of others. God is all about setting captives free. As we look around us today, what can each one of us do…not demand others to do…but we ourselves, with the resources and opportunities we have been given…what can we do to set up a stop along the way for someone else to journey to freedom?
God bless you as you sort through that question. May we each rise to the occasion to serve faithfully in the time and season of our own lives <3