GAYS MILLS - Gays Mills held what is planned to be the first of a series of free community suppers on Friday, Nov. 30. The event was a collaboration between Luther Memorial Church in Gays Mills and Our Savior’s Church in Soldiers Grove, the Village of Gays Mills and North Crawford School District.
Approximately 175 people gathered to share supper and fellowship. The meal consisted of three kinds of soup, grilled cheese and desserts made by teachers at North Crawford Schools. The ambiance was warm and inviting, with a Christmas tree lit up in the background.
Another supper is being planned for Friday, January 25, 2019. Stay tuned for more details.
“Though my sister Amy and I were the instigators of the event, it really was a true collaboration between all the partners,” said Pastor Carrie Anderson. “Amy worked with the school to obtain volunteers and the desserts, and for outreach; I approached the churches for financial and volunteer support; and the village provided the space free of charge.”
Anderson explained that, as a pastor for the churches in both villages, she could see that there was a need for community building in the aftermath of the historic flooding in early September.
“After the flood, I was approached to participate in a training for clergy in crisis intervention and ways to gather a community together after a traumatic incident,” Anderson explained. “The program was a collaboration between FEMA and Vernon Memorial Hospital, and now they are seeking a grant to expand the training beyond clergy to make counseling available to members of the community that could benefit from it.”
Anderson said that her goal in organizing the event was “to facilitate healing and help to give citizens a path to healing from the trauma as well.”
“The community supper is a start in the process, allowing people to find ways to rally around each other and be supportive,” Anderson said. “The community seems to be struggling with the question of its identity and grappling with the decision about whether to stay in the old part of town or not. I have talked with my congregations, and said that we can’t go backwards, and so in the future, things are likely to look different than they have in the past.”
What it means
Some of the people present at the supper expressed what the event meant to them:
“This reminds me of a Hallmark movie, with the Christmas tree and the slough out back,” Julie Kruizenga said. “Everyone worked so hard after the flood, and it is nice to be able to come together like this.”
“After what our community has gone through, it’s good to come together like this,” Brenda Zegiel said.
“And it’s also good to remember that we don’t need to have a flood to have community events like this,” Albert Zegiel said. “The flood reminded us that we don’t do this enough.”
“I hadn’t heard about this until I saw it on Facebook,” Dee Arnold said. “Then, I saw it in the paper as well, and decided it would be a nice opportunity close to home to get out and socialize.
“From my perspective, I thought ‘hey village’ the school is part of your community too,” Amy Anderson said. “Personally, I’m very glad to have grown up here and proud of our community.”
Village President Harry Heisz may have summed it up best.
“This event is a nice thank you for people in the community, and it is great to see the partnership between the school and the village, and to all be part of one big group.”
Pastor Carrie Anderson is someone who has “come home” to the area after leaving to pursue her education and her ministry. Anderson grew up on a farm outside Mt. Sterling. Her parents, Orvin and DeLee Anderson ran a dairy operation. After exiting dairy, her father worked as a plumber.
Anderson was the fifth of five children, and was born late to her parents.
“It was like I was an only child, but not really,” Anderson said.
Anderson graduated from North Crawford High School in 1999, and then attended Luther College in Decorah where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater.
“I bounced around a lot of different majors at Luther,” Anderson remembered. “At one point, I thought I would become a teacher, but over time I realized that what I really wanted to do was to become a pastor. In the end, I took a theater major because that was what most of the classes I took were in.”
Anderson went on from Luther College to take a Masters of Divinity from Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, a four-year educational program.
“Wartburg Seminary is a beautiful replica of Wartburg Castle in Germany, located in downtown Dubuque,” Anderson said. “Wartburg Castle is where Martin Luther hid after he’d been excommunicated and was translating the Bible and founding the Lutheran Church.”
Anderson is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. After graduating from Wartburg, she was assigned to her first church in Lanse, Pennsylvania, where she served for three-and-one-half years. After that, she took the opportunity to “move closer to home,” and served as pastor in the church in Baldwin, Wisconsin (near Hudson) for four years.
“I took two years off after serving in Baldwin, when I was diagnosed with Lupus,” Anderson explained. “I needed the time to adjust to my diagnosis, and I moved back home to Mt. Sterling and worked at different jobs before becoming the pastor in Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove.”
Anderson says that she has really enjoyed coming back to the area where she grew up, and working part-time has also allowed her time to do other things such as working 10 hours per week with the North Crawford’s ‘Beyond the Bell’ program.
“I like the area where I grew up, and really enjoy the churches here,” Anderson said. “I have learned that it’s not always possible to get what I want, but I hope to be able to remain the pastor for Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove as long as I can.”
Anderson explained that her focus in each of her two churches is slightly different, reflecting differences in the communities themselves.
“The church in Soldiers Grove is growing,” Anderson said. “Their focus is on connecting more with the community and with young folk in the community.”
“Gays Mills is a smaller congregation, and their focus is on connecting with the community in the aftermath of flooding in recent years,” Anderson said. “The focus of my work there is fostering emotional supportiveness in the community.”