Tuesday, May 19, 2009


One of the delights about being a history sleuth is that in the process of looking for information on a particular subject, a large amount of "peripheral" material comes to light. Most of the time such material serves to substantiate or flesh out points of interest, and from time to time one of these finds can be classified as a "gem." For me, one of these gems emerged when I discovered that my husband's great-grandfather not only served at Bethesda in Watertown, Wisconsin (which we had always known), but that while there, and also in Beaver Dam, he taught and mentored deaconess students.

Along with finding the supportive material and real gems also comes the surprise of unwanted discoveries. These might be, for example, the knowledge of sins that would provide no benefit to the Church by being exposed to the public. In cases of this type of accidental discovery, a good historian needs to stick to the facts - that is, simply state what happened in a particular historical context - without revealing the secret sins of a forgiven child of Christ.

As I carried out research on various individuals for
In the Footsteps of Phoebe, it was easy to immerse myself in their lives, sometimes to the point that I considered my subjects to be friends or comrades, even though they may have died before I was born. Reading what their peers wrote about them, and then reading some of their own notes, diaries, or letters helped me to appreciate their lives and service to the church. At the same time, it was apparent that these people had the same life struggles that we encounter today; the same temptations, the same sins, and the same forgiveness from God that is available to all in Christ Jesus. This realization caused me to remember my "new friends" in a different way - not just as heroes and heroines, and not just a sinful heroes and heroines, but as forgiven heroes and heroines. That realization made it easy to FORGET their accidentally discovered sins, and look only at what God has accomplished through them.

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