--A SHOFAR CALL TO THE 3RD AND 4TH GENERATIONS OF ALL STADEMS AND HOLBECKS
There could be a good lesson in it for all of us Stadem and Holbeck descendants, since it can be applied to a lot of other situations, where we need something but we also may need do something to get it, unless we prefer to wait a long, long time like the dear old Georgia saint described…
Well, here it goes!
Our forebears in Norway were rooted in Evangelism, the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Savior, but they didn’t wait in a buffet-style restaurant for someone to come serve them Christianity, no, they got up and got it, and then passed it out to others who maybe couldn’t get to a church, Why? They really knew the true new birth in Christ through accepting the free, unmerited, unearned salvation of Jesus Christ. They wanted to share it, since the Gospel and New Birth in Christ are provided absolutely free of charge by God for our bankrupt, sinful souls, so that we could be made true children of God and do his will thereafter. Proof that they were evangelistic “go-getters” and “go-sharers” were the vital Christian services they faithfully provided as godly, loving parents and also to the whole country as “colporteurs”.
Colporteurs transported Bibles, not coal. They carried Bibles and sold them to far and wide in Norway to spread the Word of God, and also preached the Gospel wherever invited. This occurred both on the Holbeck and Stadem sides of the Family, despite the humble, modest circumstances of both families. Both Holbeck and Stadem lines brought this love for Jesus and his Gospel to their new farm homes in America, where it since took deep root in many lives. These are our Roots—not in a Scandinavian culture so much as in God’s Word and in the soul-saving Gospel. Their “go-getting spirit” remained steadfast throughout their lives and accounts for the same spirit in many of our relatives, who have gone forth as missionaries to South American countries.
Some of us are yawning at this point! The yawners heard this all before, they think, that our Relatives were such and so, and well, times have changed, we’ve all gone on from those good, old days to better things. Besides, we’re involved in church, so that proves we are carrying on. But are we really carrying on as we should? A tree’s fruit tells me and you exactly what the tree is, whether it is producing eternal things or simply temporal things, whether the tree is God’s, or whether the tree is rooted in this passing world. Here is where the rubber meets the road, as they say. Are we truly “go-getters” and “go-sharers” of the Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our forebears surely were, or are we just good at church participation? Is it the truth about us that we are largely going our own way and doing our own thing, putting on good, godly appearances but denying the power of the Gospel in our lives? Are we really expecting to earn our salvation or way to heaven by our good works? Do we give just lip-service to “Justification by faith alone”? Is the Second Birth, or Rebirth, for others, but I have managed to be a good person without it?
The 3rd Generation (my own) is the one that, after two faithful generations, is largely doing its own thing. Jesus is seldom, if ever, on our lips, as a name or testimony of. That speaks volumes.
Have we come to personally know the saving grace of Christ? I know both sides of this most important question, for I have “been there, done that.” I sat in church regularly each Sunday from the age of several weeks to age 15, and was not saved but depended on my church attendance and Confirmation at age twelve and my Baptism as a baby to save me and get me to heaven.
What baloney that was, as I was stealing from my mom’s missionary bank in her Sunday School class and spending it on candy! I was a dirty little crook, and I did other things no less shameful and yet thought I was getting away with it, while all that time I was on a greasy pole over the mouth of hell. Then at age 15 I stopped playing this foolish game with God, of sinning and still thinking I was a saved Lutheran. Until then I resisted the call to be saved (as my Taylor cousins can testify), but finally I got alone in my dormitory room at Augustana Academy in 1957 and prayed and “got” a real Savior and Lord for the first time, after inviting Him into my heart and asking him to forgive my sins. He did! I received a brand-new heart from the Lord Jesus, and can’t go back to my old, unsaved life, though I backslid and paid a stiff price for 15 woeful years. That decision at age 15 was the best decision I ever made, and I can say it at age 68!
Whether I see you ever again in this life or not, this can be my last appeal to you of my 3rd Generation, and to those who are in the succeeding Generations. At least I have tried to shift your attention to the spiritual Stadem and Holbeck roots that badly need resusitation. Rev. Atle Svanoe wrote a little book that his grandson Rennard Svanoe paid a pastor friend to translate from Norwegian to English for our benefit. It says, we have, like the Sardis Church in Revelation, an appearance of being alive, but Jesus says we are dead. Nevertheless, Jesus goes on, a few among us of us are accounted worthy of wearing white robes of righteousness. A few! But how about all the others? Truly, some work of restoration needs to be done, or Grandma Bergit’s prayers and tears for us over the many years of her long life will be in vain.
This wonderful picture by the fine artist Bart Lindstrom that many of us in the 3rd Gen. have on our walls (and I have mine) is entitled, “Praying For You.” Grandma prayed and believed for answers, to her dying day at age 98. She prayed for US! Let us get down humbly before the Lord our God and become those Answers while we still have an opportunity. But back to the extremely realistic picture the artist did in water colors with only a photograph to go by: The curlers in the picture in Grandma's hair were taken out by the artist, but the rest is what he faithfully reproduced. That particular sweater she wore, is now in the possession of a granddaughter, and she keeps it in a dresser drawer, she informed Bart Lindstrom in a thank you note. And my cousin I recall as a newborn baby being rocked in the arms of her delighted Grandpa as he crooned gently over her, "Mari, Mari!" as a Norwegian would sound out her name. I'll never forget it, for it revealed the tender side to Grandpa's personality I had never seen quite this way before. His own children, Mom said, he would never hug or fondle, but by this time he was a changed man, you see (more about this later).
Those who made it to the grand Centennial birthday celebration of Pearl Ginther in 2009 all heard her recite, alphabetically, numerous scriptures. She and her Daughters Joyce and Roberta sang a medley of Gospel songs too that spoke of their love of Jesus their Lord and Savior. You see by this, the Roots are strong and alive in her. But she wants to pass the Torch of faith on to us. Will we take it? We won’t be asked forever, there comes a time Jesus will take the Torch himself from her hand and pass it to someone beyond the 3rd Generation and maybe outside the family. We will give him no choice, as He won’t pass us by if we open up to Him, even at this late date.
For this new year 2011, within a few days of the heart-breaking catastrophe of the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan, for those who take this urgent call personally to heart, we proclaim this theme, “Returning…To Our Roots In Evangelism!” Why? We told you what our Roots are, but we must also tell you WE ALL NEED TO RETURN TO OUR SPIRITUAL ROOTS, 3rd and 4th and even 5th Generations. There are no exceptions, whether young or old. How far can a tree or a corn plant get without its root system?—if it leaves its roots behind as many of us have done or may still doing? Please, dear soul, examine where you are in life. That self-exam or litmus test is commanded by God, daily. I remember giving an assignment to my class at a college, asking them to rate themselves in sincerity, and some reacted defensively and obviously didn’t like that assignment, whereas others were so humble and sweet and answered the question in a way Jesus must have been well pleased. Which group do you suppose gained anything from the assignment? It is obvious that the defensive ones gained nothing, as they didn’t take the question seriously as from the Lord. They were the self-righteous ones, justifying themselves, as if they were answering to me and not to God. Is that our reaction?
How much contact do you and I really have with our Roots as we have identified them here? This is the question we are faced with. The Holbeks (no "c" in the name then), Andrew and Bergit and her sister Katrina left Norway for a new life in America precisely because they saw Norwegians were abandoning their Roots in God, turning to a cold and formal, correct religiousness. This is their own testimony, not ours. As for the Stadems from Vik and Bergen, we do not know their motives, they seem not to have been recorded, but they surely sought a better life for their families in America than the one they knew in their homeland. They had to be courageous, pioneering spirits, and they insisted on living godly lives and kept close to the Bible and their church! We did not leave Norway as the Holbek orphans and the Stadem family of Oline and Sjur did, true, but we are called nevertheless to separate ourselves from a cold and formal religion in America too, along with its now pagan and unbelieving, even anti-Christian popular culture that increasingly marginalizes and ridicules Christians and particularly goes after those of us who believe the Bible is inerrant and seek to share Jesus with others, calling us ignorant bigots and hateful people.
Now is our chance to practice the 4 R's, to revive, restore, regrow, and return to our evangelistic Roots! But first we have to get up to get them, so to speak. That entails self-examination, a sober stock-taking in the mirror, followed by the resolve and decision to turn our feet back to the good, old ways we have abandoned. This is not nostalgia or primitivism or backwardness, this is going forward with the Lord and Savior again as He first intended for us to do. The Prodigal Son, by returning to his spiritual Roots, his father’s house and love, did not turn backwards, he went forward when he returned to his father. So too with us!
Now it is well-known that Money defines us as Americans, for it is a major fact of American life and culture, and how we use it reveals where our true values lie. It is Pearl Ginther’s intention to present $96 to her evangelistic sister Cora Taylor in honor of her 96th birthday March 5, 2011 and her life-long devotion to spreading the Gospel to the unsaved, and also offer it as matching funds to the whole Relationship, so that it can be greatly increased for her dear sister. By “matching funds,” we suggest that all respond sacrificially, from the heart, and God knows what that means to us, whether we give that way or not. 96 cents is sacrificial to some little ones. $9.60 is sacrificial to others who are young. $96 is sacrificial to yet others who are grown. $9,600 is sacrificial to yet even others. There are some of us who could even give $96,000 to the Farm for Evangelism purposes and it wouldn’t be truly sacrificial. (This should come as no surprise, as God has blessed some of us Stadems financially beyond our Norwegian forebears' wildest dreams). Whatever it is, please give sacrificially, or not at all. After all, each reading this will choose to keep for himself or herself what each chooses to keep back and not give to God. You may not believe in Evangelism as our Roots, or maybe you assign it a lower value than we do. Whichever it is, you will not feel any urge to give significantly. So why give at all? We are not asking you to give a dime, dear soul to something you do not believe in. Whatever we say about our forebears probably means little or nothing anyway, so nothing is lost, except perhaps your own blessing as a Stadem if you had a different perspective and saw things as we believe our forebears did. You can discount everything we have said so far, but consider this: One of the five young missionaries who was shot with arrows and killed by the Waodani tribe in the Amazon jungle on January 8, 1956 write (in his diary, if my memory serves me right): “He is no fool who gives what he can never keep.”
Do you feel guilty and so you give from that impulse? Better not give at all. If you want to put on a show, do not give either. God does not assign much if any value to money that is given without sacrifice. Jesus made that clear in the incident at the Temple involving the poor widow who gave her two mites (all her tiny income). He praised her, after the disciples ignorantly praised some rich men who showily gave large sums, bags of gold, out of their excessive wealth. The point is, God wants poor and contrite spirits, surrendered hearts, our hearts and lives, and when he has our hearts and lives, the money will also be there for his use too—right?
God loves a cheerful giver, scripture says. A grudging giver is one who hasn’t given his heart and life first to God. He says, “Hey, God, here is what I have left over, or what I can afford to give without any sacrifice! See everybody, I’m giving to God!” Well, that is hardly pleasing to God. The Bible says that everything we own comes from God. Yes, we may have worked for it, but God gave us the healthy body able to work, the mind to devise ways of improving our work, the opportunity to apply our work, the job, the economy and business climate around us that favored our enterprise and hard work, etc. We only used what God provided and made a gain on it. We didn’t create our bodies, our minds, the economy, the favorable circumstances that aided our enterprise so that we could make a gain or profit. We owe everything really to God, who owns the heavens and the earth. “Give and it shall be given onto you…” God’s word says. If we give little, or unsacrifically, we shall receive little from God. If we give much, that is, sacrificially, God will give us rich blessings that will be good for us and which we will share with others.
Cora Taylor has cheerfully given over sixty years of her life to Evangelism and Missions, and is still giving out the Gospel to needy souls down in Jacutinga, Brazil. Since she is not physically able to travel extensively any more to receive this Birthday money, we hope that someone from her families will come in her stead.
We invite the Holy Spirit to take charge again of the Reunion and all 2011 activities on our beloved Plain View Farm. With the blessed Holy Spirit we can be assured of God’s blessing on us, and spiritual fruit as well will be produced, and it will be an unforgettable experience for all those who make the effort and sacrifice to go to the Farm, those who truly cannot go, they can be blessed wherever they are, as God knows our hearts.
“RETURNING…TO OUR ROOTS IN EVANGELISM”—-it can be done, if our hearts are truly turned to God to do a restoring, saving, healing work in us. Prayer: “Let us each come to Him with open hearts and empty hands, turning from ourselves and toward our God. Then and only then will we see true revival in our land.” This is our deepest heart prayer for you and all of us and our cry to God.
Does America, do we Stadem and Holbeck descendants, need revival? Yes, it is a desperate need. America truly needs to return to her spiritual Roots, now that the one name that is politically incorrect throughout the public schools, courts, and government bodies is…Jesus. Every other name, however base or infamous, known and unknown, can be named, but not Jesus! Pearl Ginther says we all must say Jesus and to stop being afraid to say Jesus to others. She knows it is the one Name which has power by which we are saved. Jesus said: “If anyone denies Me, him will I deny before my Father in heaven.” He also said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Therefore, she lifts up the Name of Jesus to all of us, consistently and life-long. Jesus is our living, triumphant Hope, how can we not name Him if he is truly our Savior and Lord as He truly is hers? She is truly speaking for the 1st Generation to us as well as from her 2nd Generation. Will we not take heed and do what she is advising us to do here in this proxy letter?
These aren’t merely my thoughts, they are hers and the Lord’s. I wouldn't dare say these things, otherwise, and it would be a total waste of time. I can tell you that with full assurance--Jesus is calling us to return to our spiritual roots! Sheerly because of his gift of grace, I know Jesus, and Jesus knows me, and I am neither guessing nor lying to you when I declare: God wants us to “Return to Our Spiritual Roots in Evangelism”!
If only one Stadem descendant takes heed and makes the change from “dead to alive” in Jesus, and then gets up and goes and shares the Gospel with lost souls, it will be worth this effort to get this call out to you all. I have been praying for the Holy Spirit to give me one thing to say that will reach and touch hearts. I will fail completely unless he does that. My poor finite words cannot succeed where the Holy Spirit does not go. I truly want to reach one person, as it only takes one person to take the Torch and carry it on. Without that one person, our generations of Stadems, despite all our golden legacy, will fade away into the popular mainstream culture, which is ungodly, depraved, and doomed. Are you that one person who will take the Torch offered you by the Holy Spirit? Oh, I pray that you are! And I pray I will also take it, though I know I cannot do it, being so weak and fearful, except by his grace and mercy!
Most of you know that my family suffered a severe tragedy in 1947. I was five at the time when we lost our dad and my young uncle Art in a plane crash in rural Baltic, South Dakota. I and my younger sister (with yet another baby sister to follow 9 months after the crash!) were too young to "process" the loss, but my older four siblings dealt with it as best they could at their young ages. When I began to grapple with the event, it perplexed me. How could God let this happen to us? Why did it happen? I had to know. Was it God's will? If so, why did he allow it to happen? What was his purpose in it? It took forty years or more before the answer was finally revealed to me. My mother told how her Papa had grown judgmental and bitter, and spoke out against the Pastor of their church and other members, and told Mama not to go to certain stores in town run by men he disapproved of.
Mama Bergit told my mother she might have to leave Papa. Imagine such a thing, for she had the kindest, most loving and forgiving heart of any person on earth, but she was so grieved, Pearl says, that she seriously considered leaving him! My mom was also present when her Mama cried out one day to Papa: "Uffdah, God could take one of us if you don't stop this!"
He did not take her warning, obviously, and Mom grew even more concerned, so much so she was kneeling one day back in her home in Washington, praying to the Lord, and crying out for her Papa. She wrote: "I was so burdened about the church that my folks were members of as my dad loved the Lord but had ill feelings about the Pastor's children and other members of the church. Mother said, "You know, God could take someone from our family. Mother and I were burdened in prayer about this...In my devotions while my husband was digging out the basement for a new house, as I prayed I said in my prayer I would give up my baby for the sake of the burden I experienced, but give me the grace when it comes. When I got up off my knees the burden was gone, and I never thought of it again." She says she did not know until later that it wasn't baby Joyce God would take. In fact, she says that wouldn't have been enough for her Papa. No, it took the tragic loss of both his son and his beloved son-in-law Bob Ginther together in a fiery plane crash to crush the spirit of bitterness in him and turn him back to God's grace in Jesus Christ.
Some of my relatives in the 3rd Generation have heard about this account over the years since we began telling it, and have disputed it or been confused about it (quietly). But they do not know the facts as we do and this remains the plain truth, as my mother has never stopped telling this story to all who will listen, and she is no liar. I know there is no one in the whole relationship who would question her honesty and call her a liar. Understandably, the two youngest in her immediate family had the most trouble with the account, as they did not know their Papa's desperate spiritual condition as their older sisters did. Cora and Estelle knew of it (and Bernice never contradicted the account), as well as Pearl the eldest and her Mama, who were most deeply involved. Pastor Peterson and the various store owners in town Alfred Stadem criticised were well aware of it too. Uncle Andrew Holbeck also knew (as Cora wrote appealing to him to do something), but he wrote he did not know what to do about it.
Well, even if true, you might say, why not get over it and go on with your life? Why drag it out now after all these years? Well, just in case you are interested, dear soul, I have this to say to you. God will have the full story in heaven for us, and for me, and will be able if he chooses to tell us why the double tragedy happened. But we have one piece of the puzzle for sure: Mom's account. When this mother offered up her little baby Joyce to God if he would turn her father's heart back to God, and the burden of prayer was suddenly lifted off her heart, God used a mother's prayer in a most remarkable way, but he instead took her husband and her brother--as God in his wisdom knew that a baby's passing would not be enough for her Papa, he was just too far gone in the clutches of a terrible judgmental, bitter spirit. God in his infinite mercy had to perform an act of severe mercy on behalf of Alfred Stadem to save him by taking the very two loved ones whose loss would hurt him most and bring him at last to his knees in total surrender to God's grace and mercy.
The proof of this--that we have a true piece of the puzzle in Mom's account--is that Grandpa Alfred Stadem was radically, instantly transformed to a loving person, he was "clothed in his right mind and spirit", and he was actually hugging people--something he had never done before! Mother tells how people met her coming from Washington to the funeral in Bryant with exclamations of how changed Alfred Stadem was! It was a true transformation, the kind that only God can do in a man's heart and life. Mother wrote about her going out from Washington to the SD funeral on the train, and of her arrival in SD: "When my brother and sisters met the train in Bristol, they couldn't believe the smile on my face [God had given her such grace to bear the losses], especially when they tell me you should see Papa loving everybody that he hadn't associated with or even gone to their store for a long time. [He is] Embracing each others. It took 2 out of our family to bring about a reconciliation. God knew what it would take."
Wouldn't you like that transformation for yourself? I can really identify with what Grandpa went through. I too fell slave to a bitter spirit for many years, due to my negative reaction to the loss of my dad and all the poverty and hardship it brought my family and myself, and only God delivered me, when I was restored to him later in life after abandoning him for 15 years. I know that God can deliver from a judgmental, bitter spirit, for I had the bitterness of an old man in me at a young person, and it nearly destroyed me, and I also turned on others with the same spirit to hurt them all I could.
Consequently, after God set me free, I can testify the scripture is true: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."--2 Corinthians 5:17.
Are you a new creation in Christ? You can be! Right this minute too! He is waiting and willing to be your Lord and Savior too. Go to him, person to person, in prayer, and He will answer you. And don't delay. None of us knows if there will be another opportunity than this one.
What does this Stadem and Ginther tragedy have to do with "Returning to our Roots in Evangelism"? Everything! The greatly positive outcome saved their marriage, saved their family's future, and made a new man, and an evangelist out of Grandpa (though he had previously been very active in the Lutheran Fellowship League), and he and Grandma not only had evangelistic tent meetings on the Farm, inviting the churches and community all around, but they became the most strenuous fund-raisers and supporters for the Latin American Lutheran Mission (LALM) and its churches and seminary in Mexico, as well as the Claire Hobart School for the Blind in Laredo, Texas. They hauled their little house on wheels, the "Snuggery," down to Mexico a number of times, packing away clothes for the Mexican families who had little to wear. Their daughters and one surviving son went on spiritually, becoming ministers and missionaries. Would any of this have happened if Grandpa had not experienced a true turn-around and a return to God? With Grandma leaving him if there had not come a radical change in Alfred, such prospects would have been dimmed, if not crushed. To God be the glory! He was changed, but it cost my family greatly, as I have related. Yet without that change, we would have little or nothing today we could praise and thank God for. I made that observation to Mom not long ago, and she could not disagree. It was truly a time of crisis for the Stadem line, but God brought Grandpa through and all of us with him!
Truly, what a great and marvelous, saving God we have! Incidentally, while attending a Bible school in Tacoma, Washington, I received a call from a lady who was in charge of the youth ministry at a local rural Assembly of God church. I hadn't planned to be the speaker, as I offered only to bring a group of young musicians and singers from a Christian group home for troubled youth I had visited and liked. But when the program started, I was the one called to speak! I had to go forward, or run out the door! I went up to the front, with no clew what I would find to say. Somehow I started talking about how bitter I had been in my childhood due to my dad's sudden death in a plane crash, and how bitterness had poisoned my life. I finished telling about it, and how God had set me free from bitterness, and then went and sat down. The young people I brought in my car then rose to sing while playing guitars, and afterwards they gave a invitation for all those who wanted prayer to come forward. Young people ran up front, and they got some of the most zealous, sincere prayer you ever saw. That was wonderful to see, but still I had no clew what was going on that was out of the ordinary. A girl called me over afterwards in the church basement where refreshments were being given out, asking me to meet her boyfriend, and I said a few friendly words to him, and he took one look at me, made a face and took off! What did I say wrong?
I didn't choose to return with another program to that church when asked again, I was a little disappointed, to tell you the truth, and no one gave me a dime for the gas to go way out into the country and back to town, but later I heard from a friend who visited the church that there had been a true revival among all the young people. The young teen whom I briefly met turned out to have hated his brother for something he had done to him that he couldn't forgive, and he and a whole group of other teens there had been saved and gave their lives to the Lord! (God used someone else when I declined the privilege!) I expect to see that young fellow in heaven who had struggled with his unforgiving spirit! Both he and I were delivered from a spirit of bitterness and unforgiveness, you see! It might have made the difference for his life, as it has for me too. Any more questions about the connection between these two stories and "Returning to Our Roots in Evangelism"?
Lastly, a joke is always in season with a Stadem and Holbeck, after the serious meat and potatoes message. My mother gave me this joke: “Do you know what a bull is when he’s sleeping? Answer: A bull dozer.” The Pujals family who receive most of her jokes in letters will appreciate that one!
Cheers, Ronald Ginther, (3rd Generation of Stadems and Holbecks)
For: Lovingly, Pearl A. Ginther (2nd Gen.)
"Shofar"-- a traditional, ram's horn trumpet that had a variety of important uses: it was blown to call Israelites to war or to alert them to imminent danger of an enemy attack; it could signal them to break camp or it could call the people to an important assembly; shofars were used in the Temple in Jerusalem as well, and shofars also are mentioned in Revelation, being called trumpets or "the last trump" [no connection, however, with New York magnate Donald Trump or, I'm told, a certain winning hand in a game of poker they call a "trump"!]. Lastly, the temple repositories for offerings by the people to God and the Temple were shaped like shofars.