Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: An Old Bible Holds Answers to a Shared History of Immigration

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: An Old Bible Holds Answers to a Shared History of Immigration

Article excerpt

Once a year, I flip through the pages of my mom's old Bible.

It sits in a wooden case on a shelf next to the television in the living room. The Bible was given to her when her father died. "Our deepest sympathy, United Steelworkers of America, Local Union No. 3029" is embossed in gold lettering on the back. I got it after she died.

Usually it's October when I take my walk down memory lane. My mom kept death notices from all of her relatives, going back two or three generations, tucked into the pages of the Bible. Once a year, in remembering her, I remind myself where I came from.

Disturbing news caused me to pull the Bible off the shelf early this year.

About a week ago, a Somali immigrant who had moved to the United States as a baby stabbed 10 people in a mall in St. Cloud, Minn. The man, a Muslim, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer at the mall in the city northwest of Minneapolis. The FBI is investigating to determine if the man had ties to terrorism. In the wake of the killing the same week a bomb exploded in New York the large Somali-American population in St. Cloud faced bigoted backlash.

As a child, my mom lived in St. Cloud.

But she was born south of there, on a farm near Butterfield. Her father came from a family of Mennonites. I didn't know this until she died, when I first flipped through the Bible and saw relatives all buried at the First Mennonite Church of Mountain Lake.

There was Diedrick Harder, born in 1905. He shelled corn and drove a truck. His mom, Mrs. John D. (Anna) Harder, was born in 1877, the daughter of Diedrick and Anna Seamons Heppner.

"She grew to womanhood on the family farm and in 1897 was baptized and upon confession of her faith received into membership of the First Mennonite Church," says her death notice. She lived to be 92 years old.

The Mountain Lake Mennonites, like the Somalis of today, were refugees who came to Minnesota seeking a better life. Their route to America was a long one. According to various histories of the Mountain Lake area, nearly all the Mennonites in Mountain Lake started in Holland, and left to live in the Crimean region of Russia when they faced religious persecution. …

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