Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Mission Fest 2013--Being neighborly
When we moved to town in 1976, the Casey's corner was entirely residential--nary a business could be found. If I'm not mistaken, American State Bank moved in first with something of a satellite office on the northwest corner, something with a railroad motif. Then there was Caseys, across the street, and then Hardees, southeast. It may have been the car wash that completed the quartet--I don't remember who displaced the last family dwelling, the one on the southwest corner.
Look, even I enjoyed Hardees coming to town--Sioux Center's very first fast food joint--well, Sioux Center's first fast food hamburger joint because A & W had a place on the other side of town for years already. Hardees was a real chain place, almost a McDonalds, coming to our town, and right in our backyard.
It took just a few months before we started getting really tired of overhearing other people's late night orders and decided to move. But that's the way life is sometimes--some people pay for others' good fortune. We moved. Today the whole corner is business.
I remember thinking back then that if I went for groceries at HyVee or Peters IGA or Fairview (that downtown grocery store), I knew just about everyone buying groceries--or knew "about" them, which church they went to maybe, or whether their folks were from Newkirk or Carmel. Even though we were newcomers, I was not a stranger long. And I had a name with two a's, a name that almost guaranteed a secure fit.
One beastly hot night--the story can be told now!--I couldn't handle the heat without a cold beer, and the only place to buy such contraband was from Docs Cafe, the hole-in-the-wall downtown bar, right there on Main. Sioux Center had a way of centering sin back then, at least when it came to drink. If you wanted a brew, you had to trespass in a place lit only by Budweiser lights, a place so dark you couldn't see the floor. Think of it this way--even the way we drank was Dutch Calvinist.
I entered from the front door actually because I didn't want to be the kind of 'fraidy cat who carted brown bags out through the alley in the back. No way.
The bartender took one look at me and said, "Schaap--I hear you're going to be teaching at Dordt," and then laughed because, I can now admit, he thought it amazing. After all, I did frequent the place when I was a student. That greeting made me think my tenure at the college was already in jeopardy.
What I'm saying is, Sioux Center was overpoweringly Dutch Reformed in those days, and while those with Dutch surnames still hold sway throughout the community, Sioux Center is a totally different place than what it was 40 years ago, when my wife and I and our baby daughter arrived from Arizona.
No change--nothing, even hard liquor for sale in HyVee--is as huge as the immense demographic shift which no one could have imagined in 1980. Today, if you're Anglo, you can walk into WalMart some days and feel like a minority. Ten years ago, at a grocery store in town, I followed a Hispanic customer who had some trouble with the currency. When he walked out, the cashier, a young woman, high school age, said, under her breath in a fashion meant for me, "Why don't you learn to speak English?"
Two generations previous, her own great-grandparents almost assuredly had the same problem dealing with merchants who didn't know Dutch.
When I wrote a letter to the editor in the local paper, the very next morning, someone from HyVee called me because they wanted to know if that incident had happened at their store. I thought that was really good management, still do.
I'm sure the crime rate has soared and public schools have had to change their offerings wholesale, but many, many Sioux County residents with Dutch surnames have learned to co-exist with Hispanic workers and their families all around. They're everywhere. When our new house was insulated, I expected the crew to be Netherlands Reformed, from the family business who do almost all the insulation in the region. I walked over to our new house when the Ymker truck was there was greeted, cheerfully, by three Hispanic workers, nary a white guy to be seen.
How does a community live with immigrant people who come from a wholly different world? Do we try to make them Dutch Reformed? Do we build them their own church? How do we do evangelism, mission work, when the field isn't across the world but just down the block? And how do we respond when our own congressional representative makes political hay when says the majority of our new neighbors are drug-runners?
Yes, this is an ad. Just one of the sectionals at Saturday's Mission Fest will be an exploration of what we're doing well and what we can do better in building relationships. Panelists will include four men, three Hispanic pastors, one a Sioux County native in urban ministry in Kansas City, who will talk with each other and with us about how we might consider thinking about doing better.
In Sioux County, Iowa, the "browning of America" is as much in evidence as it is anywhere in this country. How does the church, an Anglo church, an Anglo church in the Reformed tradition, respond?
That's a good question.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:42 AM