Greetings and Memories from Denmark

By on April 9, 2018 in News & Musings


Dear friends and fellow Christians in Zion on Pillsbury Avenue:

It was unpleasantly hot when Elisabeth, Miriam and Jakob (then 5, 9 and 11) years old, plus Lilly and I (then 39 both of us) were installed in your parish house one august evening 35 years ago.

But as I think back to an overwhelmingly wonderful year ‘under your roof’ it is more than anything the warmth of your welcome which I recall – first in its official expression through congregation president Carl Hendrickson.

But it was the smiles behind the outstretched hands and the welcome-words from the members of the congregation that took our breath away. You were like distant relatives – cousins, aunts and uncles –  whom we had just never met before and were then meeting for the first time.

A scholarship granted to Lilly – to prepare her to become pastor for the Deaf which brought us to America. And a connection to a Lutheran Deaf Church zeroed us in to Minneapolis. Danish Architect and former missionary colleague Poul Bertelsen, Minnetonka, was one anchor point for us.

We mailed him a flyer which explained our plans to study at the UofM and asked him for assistance in finding a home for us for the year. But when he asked Deana Miller – then his secretary – to copy and distribute the flyer she went instead to her congregation – you! – and suggested that you let us live for the year in the vacant house across the parking lot … for free!

You may call it unwarranted optimism or naive faith, but we soon found out that the budget which we had made for our stay was so naive that hadn’t Zion been so generously hospitable and let us live in the parish house, we could probably not have stretched our financial resources much beyond spring break – at the most.

Lilly will tell you that her readiness to become pastor of the deaf in Denmark was welcomed by the congregations here, who put her name forward for the bishop’s approval, but in an arrogant coup he appointed somebody else – who never really learned sign language.

But as Lilly will also tell you, that snub turned out to be a blessing in disguise: As a lay person she has been able to support and help develop Deaf communities in Madagascar, Uganda, and finally also in Nigeria where we had been missionaries from 1970-1977.

We are mindful that hospitality which we receive is – like so many other of life’s blessings – to be ‘paid forward’ to other people. You taught us much about Christian hospitality, which brings to mind a Scripture verse (3 John 1:5): “Beloved, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, and especially since they are strangers to you.”

The fruits of our studies at the U during the year when we lived under your roof is for me – and for our whole family – still a gift to be passed on.

And for as long as I live, I will be astonished if I should ever think to myself: “Surprisingly, the past year was even more fruitful and exciting to me than the year we spent from August 1983 to July 1984 with the caring flock of very hospitable and caring Christians in Minneapolis whose address of assembly is at 128 W 33rd Street.

God bless you all!

Niels T. Krarup


Our family’s great American year 1983/84

It is now almost 34 years since our family left Minneapolis and Zion after having been part of your ‘church family’ for a full year.

We loved being part of Zion and it was such a blessing to experience a whole year of church life with you. It could sometimes happen that I wanted to attend another church, but the children refused to miss Sunday Service at Zion. They were often given responsibilities and therefore they felt valued.

For the first time ever we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving like you do and give thanks for our American life. It was snowing so heavily that November day, and I still remember my walk to Super Value to buy a tyrkey so big, that I could hardly carry it home. We had never before eaten turkey, but ever since then tyrkey has been our favourite food for Christmas. Very often we have had to explain about our year in Minneapolis, when people here are surprised and ask how come tyrkey has become part of our Christmas tradition.

Christmas that year was also very special to us. We came to love the tradition with Christmas carols and I dare say, that even if we love our Danish family dearly it was nice to be able to concentrate on our own little family of five and not have to go around with a bad conscience because we did not visit that aunt or did not invite that cousin.

Even though it was an unforgettable Christmas, it is Easter morning that every year takes me back to Zion. It is vivid in my memory how the Christmas tree was made into a cross which later was decorated with a black cloth for Good Friday. Easter morning it was completely unexpected and overwhelming to come to church and find the cross decorated with flowers and flowers all over. Flowers that were afterwards taken to people who could not come to church. The scent of flowers and the beauty is something that comes back to mind every Easter. I have tried to copy it in a much smaller way when I have had some influence on the worship service Easter morning in our own church.

For Pentecost we were all asked to come dressed in red or at least wear something red. I never wear red, but I went to Goodwill store and bought a red blouse. I still remember the feeling of togetherness when almost everybody was there in the church, either dressed in red or with a red tie or scarf, and how we afterwards were sending balloons up in the air with a small greeting and a Bible quote inside.

You may still do all of this through the year, but for us as a Danish family it has marked us for life.

You not only gave us a house, but you also were like family to our three children. This is the main reason why it was possible for us as parents to put a lot of energy into our studies.  I managed to get a Master of Education at the UofM. That has not only benefitted me personally in my working life in Denmark as I later became head of an institution for training Sign Language interpreters, but it has also benefitted deaf people in many African countries.

As Niels indicated, a door was closed for my future as pastor for the Deaf but God opened a window. As you grow older it is a blessing to be able to look back and see, that what you simply could not understand at the time when it happened, can now in my seventies be seen as a pattern that God designed so beautifully just for me. Thank you again for being such a valuable part of my life’s design.

Yours forever grateful,

Lilly Krarup


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