A Norwegian Church in South Dakota

On our meandering trip across the prairie to Colorado over the past few days, we made a stop in Rapid City, South Dakota to see the Stavkirke Chapel in the Hills, a traditional Norwegian church.

Here’s how it is described on the website:

Nestled at the foot of the Black Hills, on the western edge of Rapid City, SD, the Chapel in the Hills is a quiet retreat open to all visitors. As a special ministry of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the chapel reaches out to vacationers and local residents alike, who look for a place to experience God’s peace in their busy lives.

The chapel itself is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. Our chapel was built in 1969 as the home for the Lutheran Vespers radio ministry (see “History“). Today, visitors from all around the world find the chapel to be a place of beauty and inspiration.

You can read more about the history of the chapel here.

Of course I was drawn to the stand alone bell tower in the yard at the back of the church.

I asked the volunteers on duty what they knew about the bell. They didn’t know much but directed me to a small souvenir book that had some information. Apparently the bell has a connection to St. Paul.

A separate bell tower behind the chapel houses an old bell, a gift from the American Lutheran Congregation, Presto, South Dakota. The project was initiated by the Lutheran Seminary Class of 1929, of which Pastor Gregerson was a member.

The inscription on the bell reads: “O earth, earth, etrth hear the words of the Lord — Jeremiah 22-29 Presho Lutheran Ladies Aid of 1922.” The third earth is misspelled. The bell was cast by Stuckstede & Bros, St. Louis, MO.

The bell tower was designed by Spitznagel and Associates, Sioux Falls, SD, and a gift from Robert Dilly, builder of the Chapel.

The gift is especially appreciated since there is a bell tower adjacent to the Borgund Church in Norway.

While the bell is of special interest to the Presho community, it will share its clear musical ring with the thousands of visitors to the Chapel in the Hills.

For many years the ringing of a bell has opened the Lutheran Vespers radio program. Now the Chapel Bell joins in this tradition of “Bells chiming and ringing calling the young and old to worship.”

If you ever find yourself in Rapid City, South Dakota, this place is a must-see!

 

Driving Miss Gracie

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for another road trip. This week we are Driving Miss Gracie to Estes Park, CO for a 75th anniversary reunion of World Venture, the mission agency that my parents served with in Pakistan. Not only that, her father was one of the founders as well.

We are taking our sweet time meandering across the Great Plains, minimizing our time on the interstate highways this time. We love driving the back roads.

Yesterday we swung through Badlands National Park. It did not disappoint!

Today we are Driving Miss Gracie through the Black Hills and on to Cheyenne, WY.

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Remembering the Earthquake

On May 12, 2008 the ground began to shake in Sichuan Province. By the time it stopped, nearly 100,000 people had lost their lives.

Anyone who was in China at the time can say where they were when they heard about it. I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the time, attending a conference. I was in a meeting with a dozen or so others (all from China), when someone came in and told us there were reports of an earthquake in Sichuan. Obviously we had no idea of the magnitude, but we stopped and prayed.

As the days unfolded, the horror of it all became clear. The numbers were staggering:

  • The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.
  • 4/5 of the buildings in the affected area were flattened.
  • In some cases, entire villages and towns were destroyed.
  • 5,300 children died, most of them in collapsed school buildings.
  • 375,000 were injured from falling debris.
  • 200 relief workers died in landslides.
  • 130,000 soldiers and relief workers were deployed.
  • The estimated cost of the quake in economic terms was $86 billion.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, the mainland-based site Sixth Tone has published a collection of pictures in a post titled, 100 Photos That Shook China: Memories of the Wenchuan Earthquake.

They are, quite simply, astounding. I encourage you to take the time to view them.

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Image credit: Chris, via Flickr

What A Difference Two Weeks Can Make

Just over two weeks ago, we had a doozy of a blizzard here in the Twin Cities that dumped almost 18 inches of snow on top of what had yet to melt from the previous 4 months of snow. Here’s what the snowbank (which I had lovingly dubbed “Mount Gracewood”) in the cul-de-sac by my mom’s house looked like: 

This is what was left of Mount Gracewood yesterday (2 weeks later):

Good-bye, Mt. Gracewood. See you in 5 months!

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The Fake Cars of Beijing

On my last few visits to China, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon — the conversion of 3-wheeled motorcycles commonly used by the elderly and handicapped into what I can only describe as fake cars. Someone is making serious money converting these 3-wheeled motorcycles into vehicles that look like they want to be cars when they grow up.

Because they aren’t registered as cars, it seems that most traffic rules don’t apply to them. They can zip up and down the streets and/or sidewalks!

Here are some of the fake cars I spotted on the streets of Beijing earlier this month.

Next time you’re in China, keep your eyes peeled for the fake cars!

And So It Begins

Last week, while making the trek to Tiananmen Square through multiple layers of security, I spotted this display in a souvenir shop:

The return of the exalted-political-leader-on-a-plate souvenir, something we haven’t seen for a very long time.

Two weeks ago, the current leader of China orchestrated a change in the constitution that will allow him to remain in power indefinitely. It seems that Deng Xiaoping’s attempts to move the Party away from indefinite rule by one powerful leader was only able to last for 30+ years.

Here is some more about the rise of Xi Jinping art and propaganda, from CNN:

It certainly is a new era in China, but one that has a decidedly “old era” feel to it.

 

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The 11th Foreigner

The National People’s Congress was meeting in Beijing for the past few weeks, and whenever that happens a new wave of silliness breaks out in the form of random (and mostly meaningless) “security measures,” ranging from bans on purchasing knives, flying kites, or rolling down the backseat windows of taxis.

The silliness seems to have reached a peak last weekend in Wudaokou, the university district of Beijing that is home to numerous expat watering holes. For some reason, a few establishments that cater to the large foreign student community suddenly announced that no more then 10 foreigners were allowed in at a time.

Here’s how the The New York Times reported the story:

Wudaokou (pronounced woo-DOW-koh) is a small neighborhood in Beijing’s northwest bordered by several universities, including two of the country’s most prestigious, Tsinghua and Peking. They provide a steady stream of young Chinese and foreign customers to the bars and cafes on this block adjacent to a metro station.

At least two venues received the notice ordering the limit on foreign customers — a cafe and bar called Lush, and Pyro, a pizza bar, both owned by the same person. Although the restriction will be lifted after the congress ends next week, some fear the scrutiny will not.

Managers of the two bars, who would not comment for the record, hung the notices outside the entrances. Photos quickly appeared on social media, where they elicited outrage and disappointment.

That same weekend, I was in Beijing and happened to have an appointment to meet a friend at a cafe next door to Pyro Pizza.  I must admit that as I opened the door, I was hoping that I would not be the 11th foreigner, and wondering what would happen if I were!

I wasn’t; they let me in.

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Saving Big Red

The day after Christmas I was in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis, near the University of Minnesota to meet some friends for lunch at one of my favorite burger joints, Annie’s Parlour (best fries in town, by the way). As I was driving along 14th Ave looking for a place to park, a driver exited his parallel parking place right into the passenger side of my car, resulting in this:

As you can imagine, I was not happy. The good news is that the damage affected neither the running f the car nor the operation of the doors. Nor did the crash affect my enjoyment of my burger and fries!

Fortunately the driver, who was very apologetic, had insurance and admitted that it was his fault — he simply had not seen me. He promptly called his insurance company and we were off to the races. After his company confirmed with me their client’s version of events they helped me make an appointment with an auto body shop for an assessment.

Since this is the high season for fender-benders in Minnesota, I couldn’t get it in for a couple of weeks. I dropped her off on January 15, and then waited.

Later that week his insurance company called to tell me that their adjustor had inspected the car and declared it “totaled.” FOR A HOLE IN THE DOOR! I was stunned and not a little bit angry since the car is in great shape and the damage doesn’t affect its operation one bit! They said that the cost of repair was too high relative to the value of the car. But in my mind, they were seriously low-balling the value of a 2010 Toyota Rav4 with 127,000 miles on it.

But I didn’t want to sell them my car (which I knew they would turn around and sell for parts and make some good money). I wanted to keep the car. They offered me a cash settlement to keep the car, which means I would take the money and then pay for the repairs myself.

I went back to the auto body place and they said they could find used doors and repair the car for less than what they had quoted the insurance company. In fact, the rep told me, he had already found 2 red doors from a 2010 Rav4, so they wouldn’t even need to do any painting.

With that in mind, I negotiated an amount with the insurance company that would allow me to keep my car. It was less than the offer of them taking possession of the car, but a lot more than I could now get the car repaired for. I know there are some downsides (she’s a “marked” car), but I just couldn’t see junking her for that amount of damage.

My only goal in all of this was to save Big Red! I figure she has a couple more trips to Alaska or Newfoundland in her!

On Tuesday I picked her up from the shop; she looks fabulous!

But I’m still mad at the insurance company for trying to take my car from me!

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