Before the sun comes up, you can hear the sound of many alarm clocks going off and the distant clatter of boots on the floor as the many farmers go out to start morning milking.
In Genesis 1:26 it states “Then God said, let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
I spent the majority of my life growing up on the farm and working hard, day in and day out, even on school days. I would do chores after coming home from school: feeding the calves, chickens, and cats, later progressing to milking both before and after school most nights in addition to the large amounts of homework I had to do. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world because it helped me learn many things on the farm such as hard work, dedication and growing closer with my family.
Now we weren’t the most religious growing up: we didn’t take Sundays off for a day of rest because we simply couldn’t. The cows still needed to get milked, they needed to be fed and the other chores still needed to get done. But, I did grow up going to church where I learned about the Lord and everything he does for us. I went to Sunday school, got confirmed, attended youth group, and learned everything I could from my home church.
However, I never expected to have the life-changing moment that I had later on in my life that would draw me closer to the Lord and my faith than ever before.
It all started sophomore year of high school when my family was going through what we call a bad “generation switch”. Now for those of you that don’t know, what I’m referring to is when a farm moves from one generation to another. In our case, the farm was being transferred from my grandparents to my father. I would come home from school to hear multiple discussions which eventually turned into arguments and battles that would one day end up tearing our family in half. When it finally came time for me to go to college, this constant battle at home was still going on. So I started college with this constantly on my mind and quite frankly, I was scared, I didn’t know who I could trust and who I couldn’t--which is exactly where my journey towards faith started.
I was busy caught up in school homework and sorority rush events when a girl I hardly knew invited me to a Bible study that she was going to. She explained that it was a Bible study with just St. Paul campus students from each of the five houses across from Bailey Hall that met once a week on Wednesdays at nine o’clock in the evening to discuss a Bible verse and how they could incorporate this verse into their everyday life. After debating about whether or not to go, I decided to go and met the girls on the front steps of their house only to walk a short way farther to Clovia, one of the houses across from Bailey Hall. After that day, I attended and later kept on attending week after week listening to this new perspective on religion that was focused on the Bible and what the Lord had to say about certain events taking place in our lives.
Fast forward to 2020 and my dad now owns the farm, with my brother and me planning to take it over within the next couple years. I am currently on leadership for a group called Reformed University Fellowship where I have met some of my best friends, and have recently joined another religious group on campus, Anselm House, making my life extremely busy. I constantly have events going on every night of the week and sometimes barely have enough time to do my homework at night. But, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world because I am spending more time reading the Bible and understanding what the Lord has to say than I ever did before.
For example, I actually take time to devote myself in prayer and reflect on the day’s events whether that be through my prayer book, journal, or an actual prayer. I have also been able to read many books of the Bible that I would not have read otherwise including Acts, Psalms, Ruth, Job, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Genesis, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and so many more. Through these fellowship groups I have been able to understand the story within the Bible and in turn, relate that story to my everyday life. I have even been able to face my fears and travel across the world to Israel and walk where Jesus once walked, which has taken my faith in a completely new and inspiring direction because I can actually see the places that are talked about in the Bible.
I finally understand that the Lord made my family go through the generation switch for a reason and that many others are also going through this same situation in which he meant for me to help and care for them as they struggle to understand just like I did. However, now as a junior in college and as I look towards my future, I am constantly looking for a way to incorporate my religion into my everyday life on the farm. I have talked to multiple friends and family members and have decided that I am going to find a meaningful church that keeps me as active as I am in college. I try my hardest to pray a couple times a day and am working towards reading my Bible or other scripture passage at least once a day. But, I know that it’s going to be hard because as a dairy farmer, I will constantly be busy from sun up to well past sundown. In the famous painting, The Angelus, two farmers stop their hard work to pray after a very long day in the fields. I know that there will be days where I feel tired and worn out, but I will still make an effort to take a moment and pray.
The National Catholic Rural Life Organization is an organization committed to strengthening the faith in rural communities as one of their highest goals. Even though I am currently ELCA Lutheran and not Catholic, I’ve found inspiration in some of the different ways they suggest farmers can pray whether that be through a Christian rural ethic, prayers for rural families, a calendar of blessings, or seasonal prayers. These are particularly interesting to me as I look towards spreading the message of gospel in farming communities, which will most likely have to be done over the radio, through small churches, individualized prayer, or personalized stories.
I know that as far as my story goes, I was able to come to terms with why my family was put in the place we were and was able to use scripture to overcome my fears. For example, every night I heard fighting going on, I would pray that we would one day be granted peace and our family would be whole again. In time, my prayers were answered and I can now happily joke around with my older brother in the barn again. But, there is still a part of me that struggles to forgive and that’s the part I am constantly working to better myself at.
What that means quite yet, I’m not sure exactly, as with many things in life. But, I am planning on practicing my faith through praying a couple times every day, taking the time to read my Bible, finding a church that makes me want to learn and participate more in my faith, and reaching out to other farmers to do the same. This way, the next time a problem comes up, such as a generation switch or a worldwide epidemic, farmers will be the first ones to get down on their knees and pray to the Lord above. Praying for a bountiful crop, healthy animals, a happy family, and a country full of citizens that appreciate all of the hard work they do to feed this nation.
As the Bible says in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”