Yesterday I was taught the value of living history. Inez Oehlke spoke to our youth regarding the early history of the Woodbury community. Inez and her husband Glenn farmed the land where Resurrection Lutheran Church now stands and she donated her farmstead buildings and land to the church when she moved into senior housing.
Inez recently celebrated her 94 birthday, but she is still active in the community. She has spoken at Luther Seminary regarding stewardship and generosity as well as the Woodbury Foundation Gala on the early history of our city. She has seen plenty of change in the city landscape, but she also sees enduring values.
Yesterday, she told the youth about the early white settlers in Woodbury: the Middleton family. The immigrated from Ireland in stages, finally settling in south Washington county prior to the Civil War. The Middleton built their home near a rough trail that the Ojibwa Indians used to travel between the Mississippi and St. Croix River. The Middleton family welcomed the Ojibwa to camp on their land and fed them whenever there where food shortages. Inez praised the Middleton family for their values of hospitality and compassion towards others.
Inez then reminded us that the city of Woodbury continues to live out these values in two significant ways. Woodbury has the most Habitat for Humanity homes of any Twin Cities suburban community; the city thus practices hospitality in a meaningful way. Woodbury’s churches continue to show compassion through food shelves (like the Christian Cupboard) that works to feed the hungry in our midst. The values the Middleton family practiced more than a 150 years ago continue to impact us today.
In our fast-paced society, we rarely take time to remember our history. Inez reminded our youth of our shared values of hospitality and compassion.
I am so thankful for elders like Inez who inspire us to be faithful and generous.
What history lessons have you learned?
Lord Jesus, teach me to listen to the wisdom of my elders.