50 years of Northern exposure
WASILLA, Alaska — This state known for its natural beauty,…
FAITH, S.D. — After chasing stories all over the United States, I found Faith — a town in South Dakota with a population of 421.
With my recent trip to the Dakotas, I reached a personal goal: reporting for The Christian Chronicle from all 50 states and the nation’s capital.
What a blessing for me and, I pray, for our loyal readers who love news that informs, inspires and unites Churches of Christ!
Some of my favorite memories:
1. Getting to know faithful inmates inside prison walls in Alabama.
2. Witnessing the unity of Christians at a statewide lectureship in Alaska.
3. Hearing the resilience in Arizona Christians’ voices after a church member died in a mass shooting.
4. Praising God in song with homeless people at the River City Ministry in Arkansas.
5. Learning from a young man with autism — and a heart for serving the needy — in California.
6. Discovering “a royal mocha, fit for a King” in Colorado.
7. Focusing on sharing Jesus outside church walls in Connecticut.
8. Connecting with Christians who run a thriving church food pantry in Delaware.
9. Exploring themes of faith and politics with a congressman in the District of Columbia.
10. Stepping inside “Disney church” in Florida.
11. Following the personal accounts of former addicts on their journey from drugs to Jesus in Georgia.
12. Observing the Lord’s Supper with military families near Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
13. Brainstorming ways to reach the lost with the Gospel in Idaho.
14. Celebrating with a growing Spanish-speaking church as it dedicated its new building in Illinois.
15. Counting horse-drawn Amish buggies while traveling with a service-oriented church youth group from Indiana.
16. Crunching through snow to a farm church surrounded by corn and soybean fields in Iowa.
17. Soaking up sunshine as a Kansas Christian pitched in a high school baseball game just months after a life-saving heart transplant.
18. Enjoying time at a family-friendly drive-in theater owned by church members in Kentucky.
19. Swallowing a fried oyster — but just one — on one of my many reporting trips to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana.
20. Gazing at the moose heads on the lodge wall at Gander Brook Christian Camp in Maine.
21. Passing into the “politics-free zone” of a Washington, D.C.-area church in Maryland.
22. Returning “Back to Bible Basics” at the New England Lectureship in Massachusetts.
23. Riding along with an Iraqi convert to Christianity now serving as a missionary to a heavily Arab community in Michigan.
24. Making myself at home at a House of Compassion for Mayo Clinic patients in Minnesota.
25. Feeling emotional as a modern-day Job proclaimed the Gospel again after his wife and son were murdered in Mississippi.
26. Standing amid tornado debris as Christians rushed to help in Missouri.
27. Gathering under an open-air tent as once-feuding chuches came together in Montana.
28. Filling my plate at the York College cafeteria in Nebraska.
29. Speed-walking through a smoke-filled, Sin City casino ballroom while covering a conference of church leaders in Nevada.
30. Hearing stories of the struggle to fill pulpits in New Hampshire.
31. Catching up with a tattoo artist who found Jesus in New Jersey.
32. Spending time with a Navajo Christian who cares for American Indian orphans in New Mexico.
33. Reminding myself to keep breathing as I talked faith and journalism with NBC’s Lester Holt in New York.
34. Enjoying Sunday school with precious special-needs children in North Carolina.
35. Passing through a town called Faith on my way to North Dakota (did I mention that already?).
36. Twisting and turning in a church van on a gravel road in the coal-mining country of Ohio.
37. Shedding tears over the heartfelt prayers after a homecoming parade tragedy in Oklahoma.
38. Shadowing a minister who brought healing to an Oregon logging town after a string of suicides.
39. Becoming chilled by a minister’s account of his pedophile father — a fellow preacher — in Pennsylvania.
40. Joining in worship with Liberian refugees in Rhode Island.
41. Sliding into a desk to witness a program that offers Bible instruction in South Carolina public schools.
42. Sleeping in a wooden cabin at Black Hills Bible Camp in South Dakota (more on that in a moment).
43. Looking past my loss for faith lessons in the middle-of-nowhere cemetery where my grandfather is buried in Tennessee.
44. Searching for God in the rubble of a family’s tornado-destroyed home in Texas.
45. Connecting with families and children on a mission trip to Mormon country in Utah.
46. Sharing food and fellowship with Christians who serve the Lord in largely secular Vermont.
47. Standing alongside a campus minister at a memorial for the Virginia Tech massacre victims in Virginia.
48. Witnessing the special care given to military families by a church in Washington.
49. Singing and sweating in a hot gymnasium during an old-fashioned gospel meeting in West Virginia.
50. Discussing faith and films after watching “The Blind Side” with fellow Christians in Wisconsin.
51. Dashing into a Dairy Queen for a dipped cone with a church youth group after Bible study in Wyoming.
Praise God! What a remarkable journey so far. Lord willing, I’m just getting started.
By the way, we often talk about what a small world it is in Churches of Christ. Here’s one more example: On the night after I drove through Faith, I met my three cabinmates at Black Hills Bible Camp in Deadwood, S.D.
One of them was a minister named Calvin Chapman. He preaches for the Church of Christ in — where else? — Faith.
Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]
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