September 24, 2018
Today was an interesting day at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, with my college friends who like me turned 70 this year and figured it was time for another reunion. We met as college freshmen and worked with area churches to start the United Campus Christian Ministry at Eastern Montana College, including calling our first Campus Minister who remains a dear friend.
We were immersed in the history of this area, including not only Fort Laramie from fur trading post to Army fort but also Register Cliff full of carved names from as early as 1815 and the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site. It is the last which inspires my thoughts for today’s blog post.
Reading about the Oregon Trail set us all to thinking about the lives of people involved in such a major undertaking as spending six months going west with a covered wagon. Death stalked them continuously, with sicknesses like cholera, infections with scarce medicines, drownings at river crossings, and of course death of babies and mothers during childbirth.
As we all know, death brings grief to the spouses, parents, siblings, and friends left behind, and grief although natural is an additional burden during already overwhelming times and situations. Can you imagine suffering from grief while you also must struggle to keep others alive, to tend to horses or oxen, to provide meals and rest, and to negotiate difficult passages in mountains or across rivers?
What kept people functioning during those times? The answer often was Christian faith. If you read pioneer journals, almost always they wrote of praying and of putting lives in God’s hands, of trusting in Him, and of looking toward a future of promise because of God’s promises. Second, these people also believed in their dreams and practiced perseverance. Third, they worked together, helping each other with everything from childcare to wagon repairs to directions to assistance with tasks for everyday living.
What a gift our faith is when coupled with true Christian community! Christianity doesn’t make life easier, but it certainly makes coping easier and more hopeful.