Silence in a Not-So-Silent World

thank you mission trip

Thurs., June 23, 2016

Ruth 2:12: May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Since last Sunday, I have been south of Knoxville, TN on a youth mission trip. About 110 youth and adults traveled from various locations and churches in Wisconsin to be the hands and feet of God. Our purpose: help those who need a little assistance.

We’ve taken on some significant projects. Divided into 9 crews, we tackled various projects: painting, roofing, building decks and working at the local Habitat for Humanity location. I’ve been a part of the Delta crew. Jeff, another adult, and I worked with 7 youth. For about 2.5 days of the four day work week, we were joined by another crew because we had multiple projects at Anna’s house. Our tasks: tear off the old roof and put a new roof on the house; tear off and put a new railing on her front porch; remove the deck going into the side door and replace this with a new and sizeable deck.

Anna wasn’t present when we arrived Monday morning. A note on the all-ready delivered wood pile indicated she would be home about 1 PM. We found tasks to do until she arrived and we were able to get juice to run our power tools. There were plenty of jobs in the meantime.

Before arriving at the job site, we had been clued in about a specific condition for Anna and her husband. They are deaf. When Anna arrived home, I took out a notebook and we communicated through writing. It’s amazing how a person can really use fewer words when communicating. (My husband tells me all the time that I can tell a story, my Sunday message and other things in about half the words I use.) Anyways, we also found creative ways to communicate. Anna has about a 10-year-old daughter. When possible, it worked quickest to communicate through her daughter. We’d share with the daughter, who would sign to her mom and the process would be reversed.

Most of us have little understanding of the daily challenges of being deaf. Imagine going through daily life not being able to hear the birds sing, enjoying a song on the radio or being able to really hear your own child’s voice. We’ve been sleeping at a church while in Knoxville. Some of the doors make a slamming noise each time they close. The noise is annoying while trying to sleep. But I’ll take a slamming door any day over not being able to hear one of our grandchildren say something to me.

Today, as we were finishing up our jobs, Anna brought out a homemade card and gave to us. Included on the inside was the verse from Ruth at the top of this blog. We never had an opportunity to share our faith journeys with each other. I don’t think it’s an accident she included the verse from Ruth. I pray the work we did to her house this week will richly bless her family.

 Almighty God, thank you for the opportunity to serve Anna and her family these past several days. I pray the new roof, railing on the front porch and rear deck will allow her family to be in this home for many years. As I am reminded again how fortunate and blessed I am, thank you for the life that you have blessed me with. Amen.

 Blessings –


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Good-Bye Tony

Sun., June 19, 2016 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…

The last card game has been played. The last load of wheat straw has been hauled. The last call to the co-op asking about the price of beans has been made. On Wed., June 8, 2016, Anthony L. Vielhuber gave his final instructions before rejoining his wife of over 60 years, Ersel, at his heavenly resting place.

This is the opening line from my father-in-law’s obituary. Eleven days ago, we said good-bye to Tony. The end of his life came over a several week period. The 91-year-old patriarch of the family didn’t let go easily and hung onto life until the very end.

Yet, Tony lived a full life. Tony will be remembered for many successful Canadian and other fishing trips with family, neighbors and friends; proudly displaying a winning scorecard for the previous evening’s card club; making well-used machinery operate on their farm; having grandchildren and relatives drive his line of reconditioned antique tractors in local parades; looking forward to visits from and Sunday lunches with grandchildren and great-grandchildren; never being short of finding chores for everyone else to do.

One of my father-in-law’s most defining traits was being a farmer. This spring, he was at the eye doctor’s office. The receptionist assumed he was retired. He corrected her and said he was a farmer. She quizzed him about what kind of animals he raised. In the end, he admitted, “I feed the cats.”

Tony’s favorite way to farm was to assign jobs to others and make sure the work got done. In April, Tony wanted urea spread on the winter wheat. The day he chose to do this was a perfectly nasty day: cold and rainy. Tony called the co-op and the wagon was delivered. He helped my husband Rick by putting the pin through the tongue to attach the wagon to the tractor. Rick dutifully ran the wagon across the fields spreading the urea, getting colder and wetter with each round. When done, Rick went into the house and Tony exclaimed, “Whew! I’m glad I got that job done!”

Before he married his wife of 60+ years, Tony bought a milk route. He began hauling with a 1946 Ford open van can truck. In 1975, my husband Rick officially took over the milk route and hauled for 25 years. Currently, the Vielhuber milk route is run by Rick’s son, Darran. It is not common for three generations of milk haulers to haul milk for three generations of patrons. Yet, this is true for the Vielhuber milk route. In the above picture, Tony, Rick and Darran and pictured with the potential fourth generation of Vielhuber milk haulers, standing next to a replica Tony’s first truck.

One of the most touching moments I’ve had with my father-in-law happened a couple weeks before Tony’s passing. Tony had fallen the day before. He was having a hard time breathing and was easily confused. On Hospice, he was going to the hospital for five days of respite. Tony was never quite sure if he’d been baptized. We decided he would be baptized. In the TV room at his house, my sister-in-laws Judy and Linda, Rick and I gathered around Tony. With a small bowl of water, I baptized Tony with his children present as his sponsors. I’m confident everyone felt the Spirit’s presence with us and knew this was a very holy moment. As a pastor, I have had the great privilege of being a part of many very special moments. There is no question being able to baptize my father-in-law will rank near the top.

We often think life is doing great things in order to make our mark in this world. Through Tony’s life, I am again reminded it isn’t the big things that are most important. It’s doing a whole bunch of seemingly little and maybe insignificant things that are deeply meaningful to someone else which are most important. We are all called to reflect the light of Christ in our lives: the things we do, the choices we make, the priorities we make with our time and resources. None of us will ever do this perfectly, including Tony. Yet, this should never stop us from trying to honor Christ in all that we say and do.

Thank you Tony for reminding me once again of this very important lesson. On the Father’s Day, whether you can call our Dad or reflect upon who he was, may we also remember whose we are. We have a heavenly Father that loves us unconditionally who has done a bunch of big and important as well as small and seemingly insignificant things for us. Happy Father’s Day Tony, my Dad Dick, my husband Rick and all those other men who hold special places in our hearts.

Almighty God, there is a season for everything and a time for every activity under heaven. Sometimes our earthly fathers disappoint us and let us down. Other times, they are amazing examples of love and provision. May we see ourselves as always unconditionally loved by you, our forever Heavenly Father. Amen.

Blessings –


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