Last Sunday, on the evening before Memorial Day, Rose and I did what we sometimes do, namely to drive on the roads less travelled in the country near our acreage. It is fun to explore a dirt road that few traverse, imagining the hard life of early homesteaders.
A few days ago we found a new road to explore and drove past a small cemetery, nestled in some trees behind a white picket fence. We doubled back to take a closer look and found was small family plot with only eight markers, five of which contained only initials and three of which had more text. The grass was mowed and two of the larger stones had been repaired years ago. The mowed “grass” was actually old lilies, which also surrounded the fence. What we came to perceive is that, while the plot has been maintained, it doesn’t appear to be visited. And that seemed a bit sad to us.
A quick search on my phone revealed that the plot belonged to the Onken-Spahnle family. More research indicates that they were German immigrants, who worked terribly hard under adverse conditions to eke out an existence in rural western Otoe and eastern Lancaster Counties.
I began to wonder if they have any family left nearby, or if perhaps they are like Rose and me, living far away from their roots. It is sad to think about, really. Graves of hard-working saints, left alone on a day of remembrance. On that beautiful evening, just hours before Memorial Day I thought, “How sad, they have no one to visit them.” But then it dawned on me and I talked to Rose. Together we concluded, “But we are here. We can visit!” We decided, since we cannot visit our own parent’s gravesites, we could and should visit these.
On our way back home in the twilight, we hatched a plan. At noon on Monday we would return. Rose cut flowers from our garden – fresh from soil that would have a connection to theirs. We made a small bundle and placed it on the grave of the matriarch, Rosata, who passed to life-eternal in 1884. We prayed in silence and listened and felt the Spirit’s presence in the wind and the singing of the birds. And we looked upon quartz rocks that had been used to decorate and which seem to transcend time. Those rocks remind us of God’s timeless grace. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful way to spend a small amount of time in respect and bowing before God.
My writing is not at all to draw attention to our act. Rather, my reflection is that this is the beauty of ministry. It seems to me that ministry, in its purest and most fundamental form, is simply the ability to discern being the right person to fulfill a need at the right place and time. Seen or unseen, God regularly places us to meet a need, and this is usually right at the appropriate time. Being spiritually aware to act is what being a true minister or disciple is. And ministry is something as simple as placing some cut flowers on forgotten graves of faithful saints from 130 years ago.
How might you serve? I do not know, but God does. So keep your eyes, ears and hearts open and be ready to respond.