Yeah, I guess Nebraska isn’t exactly what you’d think of as a vacation spot, but a few months ago when my wife Lori and I looked at the calendar, we realized that my girls would be on a missions trip this week, and my son still down at college, so we’d have this week before Easter to ourselves. I was booked to do a parent workshop in “Welcome to the middle of nowhere” Nebraska (seriously, that’s what the billboard said– some of you saw me Tweet that on the way), and then we had the week to ourselves with nothing but a map and open stretch of rural highway.
So, we decided to make it a Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming vacation… and so far it’s been amazingly better than we expected!
I think the element we’ve liked the most so far is the small town diner. Saturday night we went to Ainsworth, Nebraska’s “D & B’s Diner” with the local pastor and his wife, Mick and Amber. I now realize why some places are called a “greasy spoon.” Aside from the tasty fried food, we loved the authentic small-town feel this place provided. Many of the locals were hanging out together chatting it up about the abnormally warm weather, the Cornhuskers, and some funny new video that their grandkids sent them on Facebook. A table in the middle of the restaurant was known as the community table. If you don’t have anyone to sit with, you sit there. (So awesome!)
The waitress asked Lori and I why we were there and I told her, “I’m speaking at the Evangelical Free Church tomorrow and then teaching a parent workshop.”
She smiled and said, “Oh! You’re him! I’m going to that workshop!”
You would think that Sunday would have been “work” and the rest of the week “play.” But our weekend of ministry in this small church proved to be so much more. Mick’s church brings out about 200 people from this small town of about 2000. The church has two volunteer youth leaders, Mick’s wife Amber and an amazing servant of the Lord named Stan. Both are youth leaders simply because they love kids and love God… the rest falls into place. When Lori and I had a moment to ourselves Lori commented, “You know, it’s amazing. It doesn’t matter where you go. When you meet God’s people there’s an immediate connection. We spend a few hours with them and it’s like you’ve known them forever. God’s work is so evident in people’s lives.”
After preaching in the morning, then teaching my parent workshop in the afternoon (about 80 people from the community showed up), Lori and I hit the open road heading up to Rapid City South Dakota. We stopped at a small town called Valentine and found another greasy spoon. As we sat in our small booth eating soup and cherry pie, an elderly couple stopped to talk with us on the way out. Next thing we know they sat down and joined us. Delbert is approaching 90 and owns a diner in Nebraska. He and his wife seemed to know everyone in the small town.
Soon they said their goodbyes, and Lori and I just sat and soaked in the atmosphere, a picture of a stagecoach on the wall, a rope and a saddle…the smell of BBQ. Doesn’t get much simpler than this… or friendlier.
We hit the road once again with Nebraska in the rear view mirror and South Dakota in the windshield. Rapid City has such high winds today that it’s messing up the presidents’ hair at Mt. Rushmore, but we’re still going to visit so I can take a picture of me picking George’s nose. Then tomorrow it’s off to the unusual monument in Montana known as the Devil’s Tower (think Close Encounters of the Third Kind), then South Montana, and finally Colorado. Running, hiking, picking George’s nose… eating chicken fried everything at small greasy spoons… who needs Hawaii!
Besides… I’m with Lori. We’re having a blast.