Friend #31: John (and Lynne and Margaret)

I headed south from Fargo to Orange City, Iowa, a Dutch enclave in the rural state’s northwest corner, home of Northwestern College (not University), amazing almond pastries, and my friends John and Lynne.  John and Lynne grew up in Orange City, met when they were 8 years old, went on their first date when they were teenagers, and got married when they were 20.  The first time they ever got on an airplane was to move to the small Middle Eastern island country of Bahrain for an internship.  They are also the parents of my college roommate, and John was the pastor of the church I attended in Ann Arbor.

Since my roommate’s family was from Orange City, I had heard a lot about it and had a lot of preconceived notions.  When I was headed into town, my GPS told me I was supposed to turn onto John and Lynne’s street in a 1/2 mile, but I was still driving through a corn field.  So yes, it’s a small town, nestled among farm land and other small towns.  But I have to say, Orange City impressed me.

Sign for Orange City when approaching from the west.

Signs in town that direct you to various attractions.

I arrived into town on Saturday evening, visited with John and Lynne, and then they took me over to John’s mother, Margaret’s, house (my college roommate’s grandma), where I would be staying.  Margaret lost her husband about a year and a half ago, so I think she liked having someone around.  And I liked being around her.  When she and I were having breakfast the next morning, I asked her, “What was it like to have your son get on a plane for the first time and go halfway around the world?”

I was surprised by her response: “Well, I knew the boy he would be interning under from town here, and there were missionaries our church supported that would come back and speak about their experiences.  I wasn’t thrilled that it was the Middle East, but I felt OK about him going.”  And I found that Margaret’s sentiment was not an isolated anomaly.  Little Orange City, Iowa, population 5500, actually has a pretty global mindset.  Having a college in town helps with that some.  There is also a store on the main street that sells wares from around the world.  The store is staffed by volunteers, and the proceeds go to global charities.  Margaret volunteered there for almost 20 years, long before Ten Thousand Villages stores were around.  It seems that Orange City has people from all around the world coming and going through its square mile expanse.

There are downsides to the small-town mentality, too.  People talk about each other, though not always vindictively.  And there’s a lot of energy spent on keeping up appearances and worrying about what other people think.  In that sense, I appreciated being an impostor, because I don’t think people cared as much about what I thought.  I can imagine it would be difficult to break in if I was new to town and was sticking around, though.  But I experienced some wonderful hospitality and welcome whilst I was there.  In fact, hospitality is something that Orange City and and middle eastern cultures have in common.

John and Lynne lived in the Middle East for a long time. John’s parents even came from Orange City to visit them.  And Lynne’s parents lived there for 6 weeks when Lynne’s dad (also a pastor), filled in for someone on leave.  Mostly, John would be a pastor at churches for people from the international community who were living in these countries.  What I appreciated about John’s perspective in the pulpit was that he could share experiences from the culture the Bible was written in.  There’s a passage in the Bible that talks about life springing up in the desert, and John talked about a time when it rained and all the sand turned green with grass that sprung up that day.  My roommate attended high school in Oman and Bahrain, where they lived at the time.  Needless to say her global perspective was good for my Missouri mind.

John is finishing his doctoral thesis and teaching at Northwestern College.  Lynne is working an administrative job.  I thoroughly enjoy being around them because they are complete opposites.  And they’ve known each other almost 50 years and they’re still cute together.  It was wonderful to have down time in this small town over the weekend.  John, Lynne, Margaret and Lynne’s parents and I all visited over lunch for several hours on Sunday.  Then John and Lynne and I took a walk through town on Sunday afternoon and very few people were out.  It was slow and quiet, which I needed after going at light speed on the road.  I wanted to see all things John and Lynne.  We stopped at the courthouse, the elementary school, the houses each of them grew up in, a house they’re looking at buying.

The courthouse--Orange City is the county seat.

The local government offered tax deductions for anyone who made their storefront look Dutch, so downtown looks like a little Dutch town.

A giant wooden shoe at a park at the center of town.

John and Lynne pose in front of the current elementary school, which also housed the first two years of high school back in their day. So this is where they went to school when they met and went on their first date.

John and Lynne in front of the oldest building on the campus of their alma mater, Northwestern College. The building was completed in 1832 (maybe?). They got married after their sophomore year here. Now John is a professor.

It's a phone booth! Shaped like a windmill!

After going back and forth across the globe, they both seem pretty content to come back home, even to the same block where they grew up.  And I felt like a member of the family for the weekend.  I may even be able to write a few chapters of their family history.  From intellectual and historical and theological conversations with John to having a substitute mom for the weekend in Lynne, to endearing conversations and warm hospitality with Margaret, it was a lovely weekend!

For breakfast on Monday morning, we made omelets in a bag. You put 2 eggs and all the fixins you want in a ziploc bag and boil it for 13 minutes. Lynne even had our names on our bags for us. Less mess to clean up after!

John and Lynne and my new Facebook friend Margaret!

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2 Responses

  1. I love reading about my family and OC from your perspective! What a sweet post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I’m John’s sister and Margaret’s daughter. This was a pure and total delight to read. Thank you!

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