Nov 7, 2011

Bittersweet sound of the bell

Sometimes our mission receives gifts from people in Venezuela. Last year a woman sewed uniform pants for all of our preschool children (ordinarily the families must buy the required clothing). We also have received as donations, one six-stringed and three four-stringed guitars (we're still looking for someone with the skill, patience and dedication to teach our young people how to play them) .

Now we have been given a bell to signal the start of our services. Once, a long time ago, it was a schoolhouse bell. I actually can hold it in my hand, but its chime is strong and clear. We used the bell for the first time October 30, to begin our Reformation Sunday worship.

;The sound of the bell is bittersweet for me. It takes me back through the years to the church where I was confirmed, Immanuel Lutheran Church of Plymouth, Nebraska. Immanuel's bell was bigger; when it was my turn to ring the bell, I would have to pull down on the rope with all my strength. Then the rope would pull me off the ground as the bell rang.

Once I climbed up into the steeple to take a look at that old bell. I remember the steeple well, too. We lived in the parsonage next to the church, and late at night you could hear the steeple creaking in the wind. But, like the bell, that was a comforting sound. The steeple had withstood the storms of the prairie for 70 years, and I thought it would do so for at least 70 more.

The sad part is that, like many Midwestern rural congregations, Immanuel closed its doors in the 1980s. All that is left is the graveyard, with the old church bell set in a monument in front the gate. It still stands, as it were, as a sentinel over the tombs of the people it once called to worship. One can only hope that on that great and final day of the Lord, when the dead will be raised, that old bell will ring once more.

Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distrest,
Longing for rest everlasting.

Hymn #467
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Eph. 2: 19-22
Author: Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig, 1837
Translated by: Carl Doving, 1909, alt.
Titled: "Kirken den er et gammelt Hus"
Composer: Ludvig M. Lindeman, 1871
Tune: "Kirken den er et"

Losing more than a companion

It has been nearly a month since our dog, Peluso, died. (“Peluso” is the masculine form of “pelusa”, which means “fuzz” or “hairball”.) He had lived with us since 2005. We think he died of a heart attack, since the one thing that terrified him was thunder and lightning and we found him without a mark the morning after a tremendous thunderstorm. Peluso was more than a companion, he was our watchdog. Every night he would patrol our property. The wall that we have built keeps humans and animals from casually strolling on and off the grounds, but a determined and able-bodied man can scale the wall, especially under cover of darkness. I believe that thanks to Peluso, we have been spared the losses due to theft that have plagued our community as the crime rate has spiraled. In the past few months, two large public preschools on the other side of town from us have been robbed of all their computer equipment. So has La Caramuca's elementary school.

Sure enough, late one night last week, someone stole the electric pump that we had installed to provide water for our new public restroom facility. Now we will have to replace the pump and beef up the security on the outbuilding we built to house the pump. We also are looking for a new dog, but for some reason watchdogs are in short supply right now.

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