This summer we had a unique vacation in Nebraska with our daughter and son-in-law and their four children. We were questioned by several people as to why we would go to this Midwestern state. Our answer was because this is where both my husband and I grew up. Our grandchildren wanted to learn about their Nebraska heritage. Tombstones and testimonies were on our agenda. As I reflect upon our vacation, I discover there are scriptural applications to be made.
“Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.
He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come,
saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying,
‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ “For the LORD your God dried up the
waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God
had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed;
that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is
mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Just as the twelve stones were stepping stones to opportunities for the Israelites to share testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness with their children of future generations, so the tombstones of our family members were stepping stones to opportunities for us to share the testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness to our descendants. While visiting the cemeteries where family members are buried, our grandchildren made rubbings of the gravestones recording names with birth and death dates of their great grandparents and great great grandparents. These tombstones came alive with the testimonies of their heritage. History was revisited as to how the older generations of our family lived in the early 1900s and why ancestors chose to settle in these communities when they came to America from Sweden and Ireland. Always there was evidence of God’s faithfulness. My husband and I wanted to fulfill I Peter 2:5 that says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We desired to encourage the current generations of our family to follow the faith of their forefathers.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
to work it and take care of it.
Farming was always the livelihood of our early Nebraska settlers. The Lord blessed the endeavors of our ancestors as He did Isaac in Genesis 26:12, “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.” Colossians 2:7 NLT says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” This was true for our ancestors regarding both physical and spiritual roots. Our grandkids were amazed as we told stories of how our dads began farming with horses when they were young. Such a contrast to the huge modern machinery used today. When we visited the farm where my husband grew up, one of the highlights was for each of our grandchildren to ride a 1934 John Deere B tractor with PopPop. (My husband’s name of PopPop is very appropriate when considering the pop-pop sound the John Deere tractor!) Even our daughter had to ride with her dad in honor of rides she had taken during her childhood when we visited the farms on vacations!
By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
Family history came alive as we visited the farms of our early descendants. The farm where I grew up was homesteaded by my grandfather over 100 years ago. I am the third generation of our family to own these acres of dirt. Although we now have renters for the land and buildings, the house still technically belongs to me. While going through the various rooms of this house, I told my grandchildren stories of memories that stirred within me. Our daughter admired the detailed woodwork in the house and the brick foundation upon which it was built. As Jill pointed out the foundation, I was reminded of I Corinthians 3:11, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” We moved from the basement to the attic of this 1913 farm house where our daughter and grandchildren found treasures they claimed as their own historical memorabilia. We even found books given to my grandfather from my great great aunt. The foundation of faith was evident in all of our endeavors of exploration.
He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven
and crops in their seasons; He provides you with
plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
Paul shared these words of Acts 14 with the people in Lystra while on his first missionary journey. Now I apply them to our historical heritage in the state of Nebraska. My husband and I have fond memories of the Lord’s provision for our pioneer families and for us as we grew up on these farms. Bountiful crops of grain were produced by our family of farmers because of necessary rain that fell upon the fields. The Lord also provided spiritual rain needed for crops of the Christian faith to be produced within the hearts of our ancestors and ourselves. Joy filled our hearts as we shared our own testimonies as well as the testimonies of the tombstones dating back to the early 1900s. Psalm 119:14 says, “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.” Throughout this vacation, we were richly rewarded as we saw how excited our grandchildren were to learn of their heritage. We were blessed with the joy of our children and grandchildren.
*Highlighted words are denoted by this author.