After the fire that devastated Zion Lutheran Church in Finland, parishioners and community members posted messages on Facebook expressing shock, sorrow, hope and memories of the many events that had taken place in their beloved building. Finland resident, Brenda Van Bergen, however, received a different kind of message.
She said she doesn't know where the messages originate or why, but she said the words pour into her head, and she writes them down. Her gift is well known in the community. So after the fire, her cousin, Verna Sinderman, asked her if she'd "written anything." Van Bergen said she hadn't, but decided to go to the site of the fire and see if something would come to her.
" I was just hoping for some hope," she said. "I went to the church and asked and it came, all at once from beginning to end."
Van Bergen is reluctant to take credit for the message, seeing herself as a conduit, rather than the author. She has also experienced long periods during which there were no messages.
"It's not like it's just a skill, I can't just sit down and do it all the time. Sometimes you go for a really long time and... nothing," she said. This was true after she developed severe tinnitus, a condition that causes humming or ringing in the ears, resulting in emotional distress and an inability to concentrate.
"For a good 10 years nothing came through. That was really hard when people would want (me) to write something and nothing would come." But Van Bergen said she was happy to be able to receive this most recent message.
"We were all so blue about the church. (Verna) needed the message for herself and other people," Van Bergen said, "I hope it makes people hang in there."
"As I walk around the remains of Zion Church, ashes swirl at my feet.
I catch pieces of paper blowing in the ruins. Pastors reports, song book pages and old pictures of past events tumble around the rubble. Burned, wet and smelly pieces of then. Nearby is a pile of bricks, pieces to take home to treasure. I pace up and down the parking lot, waiting for Zion to speak to me. It finally says, in the wind:
If I were a person...
Welcome to Zion, please look inside and remember. Through the doors and down the hall, for fellowship and worship. I am Finland's pride. IN here lives years of love, pride, prayers and promise. I am the shelter for sorrow, the venue for memories, and open at all times for sanctuary. I've seen you baptized, confirmed, married, buried. we've cried, laughed, talked and sang, especially sang. We came together for all different reasons and seasons. There has been food...grandma's cake, auntie's cookies, mom's soup. Always with coffee, lots of coffee. I am Zion. Proud, precious and beloved. We all enjoyed so much for so long.
If I were a woman I would be gray, but shining.
If I were a man, I'd be retired, resting, but sturdy.
If I were a couple, I'd be silver and gold and leaning on one another.
If I were a person, I'd be thankful for so much, from so many, for so long.
But I am not alive. I'm only alive in you. All the good and God and love came in the door with you. So... Remember where the door was. Look for me through the windows. Sip coffee at my tables. Open wide for wonder. For I am waiting inside you.
We have one great thing in common; one thing we yearn for...
a promise of resurrection."