“You can take a big step or a small step, just take a step, whatever you can do, and take it now” – Zig Ziglar
When we look back on history, sometimes we have a tendency to think that the outcomes that we see were the product of some grand design at the front end of whatever planning process may have preceded it. Certainly, in some cases, there was a goal in mind. There’s sometimes a natural inclination to simplify history, though, which is unfortunate. There’s a lot to be learned from the un-simplified version.
Take the large group of Wends who emigrated to Texas in 1854, for instance. The high-level historical marker overview tells us that they left in 1854, were exposed to cholera en route, a number of them died on the way, but they ended up in Serbin and there’s now a beautiful church there now. A slightly less-than-high-level view might add that there’s a neat Wendish festival in Serbin each year on the fourth Sunday in September (make your plans now, y’all!) and the congregation there in many ways jump-started the presence of Missouri Synod Lutherans in Texas.
But history ain’t that simple (and my English teachers ain’t happy with my grammar).
Things don’t go according to plan more often than we’d like to admit. There are unexpected twists and turns in the road. There are things we could never anticipate, even with all of the planning in the world. There are questions that will never be answered before we start, no matter how hard we try.
If you want to do something, you have to start taking steps toward your goal, even if you can’t see all the way from here to there.
When the Wends sailed for Texas in 1854, they didn’t know specifically where they’d settle. They didn’t know they’d travel on a ship named after the highest peak in Scotland (the Ben Nevis). They had no idea they’d buy land from Absalom Delaplain in what was then Bastrop County. They didn’t know they’d be detained unexpectedly in Liverpool after being exposed to Cholera. They didn’t know that it would take so long to find and purchase their land that it would be too late in the season to plant. They didn’t know the next few years would bring meager agricultural yields.
But, they took the steps. One at a time. Whatever step they could take from where they happened to be that would move them toward their goal. Even when their situation was unexpected and difficult.
Pastor Kilian didn’t know he’d be separated from his family AND lose his papers while traveling across Europe to board the ship for Texas. He didn’t know that he’d apply to become a Missouri Synod pastor because Texas law would prevent him from performing marriages unless he was a minister of an organized denomination. He didn’t know they’d have a hard Winter in Houston, meet Pastor Caspar Braun (who would become a lifelong friend, and who did everything he could to help the Wends that winter), and he certainly didn’t know that their language– the language that he wished to preserve– would become an issue in a schism that had a somewhat unexpected outcome.
That outcome being the establishment of little Lutheran churches across Central Texas that can trace their lineage back to the little village they established in 1855 called Serbin. Churches in Warda, Winchester, Giddings, Fedor, Lincoln, Manheim, Dime Box, Loebau, Thorndale, Noack, and even as far away as Copperas Cove, The Grove, Vernon, and Cisco. And yes, Even Concordia University Texas (more on that another time).
Every journey is a series of steps. There will be Light from the Lamp that will illuminate your path. Perhaps not much, but just enough to see where to go next. Figure out the next step you can take, and take it now. You might be surprised where you end up.
(This picture from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Serbin was taken on August 18, 2006, on what was probably my first trip to Serbin. It was taken with a Kodak EasyShare CX6230 digital camera– only two megapixels! I had no idea at the time that I’d be living about an hour and a half from Serbin within nine years, or that I’d be driving all over Texas learning the history of the churches listed above. I didn’t even know most of them existed. I had no idea I’d be posting pictures and history on Instagram and on this Facebook page. It’s been a series of small steps, sometimes with missteps and corrections. But it’s been quite the journey!)