Category Archives: The Gift of People

Just in: Pictures of Emmaline and Sam


Sam and Emmaline were engaged in the pasture behind her family home.

So, this granddaughter is the first born grandchild, a surrogate mother and official right hand to her mom. The gal who always seemed to have a mature relationship with the Lord. For example, when she was nine years old, as we were leaving the grocery store, she turned to me and asked, “So how are you doing spiritually, Oma?” Shocked, I stumbled around saying, “Uh, I am very comfortable with my relationship with Jesus, Emmaline. How are you doing?”  “Well,” she replied, “i am working on my judgmental spirit right now. I have asked Jesus to help me with this.”

That was and is Emmaline. She was the last we ever expected to move away from Kitten Creek Road. But today, she and Sam are living in Missouri. This will take some getting used to. But this is what it is all about: sending the “arrows” out and blessing them as they begin their own lives and ministry.

Emmaline, Sam, with Lillian (Emma’s sister and maid of honor.)
Leaving Kansas. Missouri bound.

So Much Happening on Kitten Creek


Milestones: Two weddings. Our grandchildren are growing up. Brother/son/grandson, EJ, was married to Jena on March 18. The next weekend sister/daughter/granddaughter, Emmaline, was married to Sam. Words do not suffice in expressing our joy and thankfulness.  Emmaline’s pictures are not available to me,yet, but here us a link to EJ’s and Jena’s wedding pictures. The pictures relate the joy of the couple and also of those who love them.

Actually, there were three wedding in that one week. Our dear neighbors, the Bascoms, were also celebrating a daughter/grandaughter wedding. The original farm acres were filled with guests and celebrations.

We are now in relaxation and recuperation mode.

What was and is and is to come. 


My thoughts in writing have been very much focused on what was.  How did God create a place of worship and community out of an old ramshackle farm?  I have marveled in His presence and His gifts and His transformations.

Today I am forced to take a deeper look at what is, and perhaps a little of what is to come. The present is heavy upon us, but God is present.  The future is behind a curtain, but God is there, also.

This past week we lost  Charles Bascom, in a sense the “pastor” of our community. His life blessed us in ways that formed much of who we became.  He was the wise patriarch who continually pointed us to Scripture, prayer, and celebration.  His life was a gift, given in time but now continuing in eternity.  We will celebrate that gift at his memorial service this Saturday.  And in the future we will continue to celebrate through our lives that have been enriched and changed because of Charles.

The loss of Charles’ presence will be felt deeply by us all.  But there is also celebration in the fact that he is no longer weighted down with infirmities, the result of our fallen world.  We have lost others here at the farm:  a grandmother, a still-born granddaughter, a grandfather, and a teenaged son.  Yet the loss is only temporary.  We will see them again when we step into the “what is to come” of Heaven.  We celebrate the promise of that gift.

People are gifts.  Each person who has entered our lives has brought the gift of who they are.  Those gifts have come from the Giver, and through the years we have received those gifts and been changed through those gifts.  We have unwrapped them and celebrated His presence.



For those who have not been to the Swihart Farm, it is unusual to describe.  Most farms are squarish. This farm is on a quarter mile wide strip that spans a half mile (80 acres east and 80 acres west) on each side with a “belt” in the middle – a fairly straight Kitten Creek Road which roughly follows a very crooked Kitten Creek.  When the Swiharts bought the old Fritz farm in l982, there were just a scattering of dilapidated buildings west of the road: a house, barns, and sheds.

Transformed now, I picture the geography in terms of a butterfly at rest.  Her body is Kitten Creek Road.  Her feelers point southward toward Keats village.  Her upper right wing is polka-dotted – no, polka-squared – by the original home and barn, plus new outbuildings and the Bethlehem Revisited “set.” Today the upper left wing is marked by Dan’s family farm, and Judd and Nancy’s new home.  The lower right wing now hosts two Bascom homes, and the lower left wing, the Reppert farm.  Many have come to this spot in their chrysalis years, and have flown away into their butterfly pilgrimages.  It was here that many of us found reality in Jesus, in fellowship, in creative undertakings together, and in solitude.

We’ve glimpsed a rich variety of transformations – transformations of land and relationships and experiences.  Like what?

  • Hosting a L’Abri Conference at McCain Auditorium inspired the creation of a fellowship in the making – “the group at the place” it was first called, before transitioning into “Wellspring.”
  • A widower’s derelict, plumbing-less little house became a family’s lovely expanded three-generation home.
  • A barn full of hay invited a prank: Judd’s truck completely hidden in the hay!
  • Once emptied, the red barn became a rustic meeting place.
  • A fallen tree became a bridge over Kitten Creek, the woods a sanctuary for Sunday afternoon quietude.
  • A chicken coop became one crazy clean-up project.
  • A granary became a guest cabin.
  • A muddy weekend in May became host to our first Family Life Conference.
  • Fallen down sheds reconfigured became a getaway cabin up top.
  • A woodsy draw saw Wellspring’s first building project become a six-sided prayer chapel grounded in railroad ties, framed with cast-off window panels, centered with a huge flint rock- become-altar.
  • An old elm tree’s shade became the site for HIS’ first few International Labor Day picnics.
  • The old root cellar before dawn became Jesus’ tomb, followed by a trudge up to high pasture to worshipfully await the sunrise, framing His cross.
  • The old barn’s slide doors opened to Spiritual Life Conferences, Wellspring Reunions, Family Dynamics Conferences, neighborhood potlucks, Easter Sunrise Service breakfasts, a coffee house season, youth-group gatherings, graduation receptions, wedding parties, and silent retreats.
  • Cut down trees became framing for Dan’s get-away cabin in the deep cedar woods.
  • A hillside became a Quiet Garden, and charted woods and fields became the Wellspring Nature Trail.
  • A home became a “writer in residence” hide-out for finishing his book.
  • The Reppert creek crossing became a Jewish Tashlish stone-casting site.
  • The ample Swihart dining tables became set at Passover with Seder Service accouterments.
  • Creating a booth with garden produce hangings delighted children at Sukkot time, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.
  • Twelve rocks in the pasture became Joshua’s twelve tribal Stones of Remembrance.
  • The waters of Kitten Creek occasionally became a baptismal site.
  • A $50 toilet hole drilled into the flintstone pasture became Judd’s gift to the outhouse of a honeymooners’ cabin.
  • The little high cabin became one couple’s first home, later hosted overnight camp-outs, gathered a poetry writing group, and graced several proposals of marriage, provided solitude during Silent Retreats, and is still transformed into Mary and Joseph’s home at Christmas.
  • The farm kids’ Christmas pageant evolved over the years into Bethlehem Revisited.
  • A hillside and plateau under the stars became the “set” for a reenactment of Jesus’ life story.
  • The haymow below the barn became Jesus’ manger.
  • The old root cellar and huge stone became Jesus’ tomb.
  • Kitten Creek oaks, cut, dried, and planed, became door and window framing for Judd and Nancy’s new home.
  • Starting with one, five more family homes have gone up on the acreage, “barn-raising” style.
  • Two hillsides are growing into mini self-sustaining farms.
  • Although in “provincial midwest Kansas,” the farm became a place where hundreds of Internationals have come to events, to homes for meals, and sometimes to live for a while.
  • The Fort and K State make Manhattan a transient community. Many of us  who enjoyed fellowship at the “butterfly” on Kitten Creek eventually flew off to other countries for months or years – to Russia, Lithuania, England, Holland, Poland, Romania, India, Afghanistan, China, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Mali, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Guatemala, Bolivia,  and more… to geographical and spiritual places only God knows.


Yet we still return to our spiritual roots at the Farm with deep appreciation and thanksgiving.

Well, that’s just off the top of my head, and you all can remember other transformations, many of which were not visible, not quantifiable, known only to you and to God.                                                                   Kb  3/27/15


Fire in Them Thar Hills


A group of thirty to forty of us had gathered in and around the prayer chapel after making our way from the barn, across the pasture, and down into the ravine.  Listening to the prayers of thanksgiving and dedication, my mind was drawn back to that fateful day the previous fall.

Derrick and I had headed down Anderson on our way home from Kansas State University. The four mile trip home past farms and fields was always refreshing and restorative. Oblivious of the drama going on at the farm, we were enjoying the spectacular fall colors.  I had never appreciated the grassy fields and roadsides in the fall before we moved to Kansas.

My first fall here, on an inspired whim I had stopped one late afternoon and picked the tall prairie grasses that were growing along the road.  Bundling them up, I had taken them home, trying to preserve the beauty as long as I could in a large vase on the table.

Today, as in every fall, the leaves were changing again into yellows, reds, and gold, and the prairie grass to shades of purple, red, and orange.  Beautiful!  A steady wind was blowing from the south across the fields, and the grasses and leaves danced to its rhythm.

Rounding the corner into the little village of Keats, we were sobered to see a fire truck coming down Kitten Creek Road and pulling to a stop as it waited to enter Anderson. “Oh, no!  There must have been a fire on our road!  I wonder who? Where?” We were both speaking at the same time.

I couldn’t help but press my foot to the gas a little harder as we entered the gravel road and sped toward home.  As we passed the Peterson’s we could not see any signs of more fire trucks or activity.  But by the time we got to the Hageman’s, we could tell the activity was in our own front yard.  “Oh, please, no, God!” I prayed softly.

Pulling into the driveway, we took a quick inventory.  Thank God, the house was still standing, the barn was still there.  As another fire truck rolled down out of the pasture, past the barn, and into the driveway, it was clear that the fire had been up in the pasture.

It is true, we Kansans do burn our pastures in the spring, but never, never in the fall.  With the dry grasses and the wind, fall fires can quickly grow out of control, so this was a fire that MUST be stopped.

We saw one remaining truck in the pasture as we ventured up the hill and waded out to the truck across the black ashes and soot, all that remained of the grass.  The volunteer fire men were still dousing the fire on the hillside above the prayer chapel.  We did not realize the extent of God’s grace that day until we scrambled down the hillside and into the chapel.  The trucks had lightened burn of chapelmanaged to get to the top of the hill just as the flames were licking at the corner of the chapel.  The only damage to the structure was where the fire had settled into a corner of the railroad ties out of the reach of the hoses and had smoldered there until the firemen reached it with containers of water.

Later that evening we were able to put together the pieces of the story as Sara and Kay recounted their harrowing day to the rest of the family.

The schools had been closed that afternoon for a half-day teacher in-service, and Sara, a Jr. High student at the time, had been the only one at home.  The rest of us were either at the university or at work.

Arriving home on the bus after a morning of classes, Sara was relishing her freedom from classes and was looking forward to a peaceful afternoon.  She had settled into a comfortable chair, ready to pick up the book she had been reading the evening before when the phone rang.

Kay Bascom, our dear “over-the-hill” neighbor was calling.  “Sara . .      .” (pause).  Not wanting to alarm Sara, but very concerned, Kay chose her words carefully.  “I think . . . that maybe I am smelling smoke. Do you know if anyone is burning something?”

Sara, quick to hear the concern in Kay’s voice, looked out the window.  “No, I don’t see anything,” she said cautiously, “but let me go up in the pasture and check.  I’ll call you back if I see anything.”

Now it has never been a secret that Kay does not appreciate the controlled spring “pasture burning” process.  In fact, there usually is a plan to have Kay busy in town when we plan a burn.  But today, Kay and Sara were the lone occupants of their respective homes.  After this fateful day, Sara joined the ranks of pasture burning naysayers.

Sara did, indeed, begin to smell smoke as she climbed the hill, and then see smoke, billows of smoke.  Coming from the south the fire was raging toward the barn.  Or so, at least, it appeared to her.

Since this episode was taking place long before cell phones were part of the normal communication process, Sara raced down the hill and into the house.  Grabbing the phone, she dialed Kay’s number.  “Yes!” she reported, out of breath and gasping for air. “There is a fire, and it is headed our way!”

They quickly confirmed that Kay would call the fire company and Sara would call her dad. When Judd’s secretary answered the phone and told Sara that Judd was in a session, Sara left a desperate message:  “The pasture is on fire and is headed toward the barn.”

Meanwhile Kay had dialed 911 and the fire trucks were on their way. Volunteers arrived first and determined that the fire was actually in the fields, and the structures around the house and barn were not in danger. However, in the fields above the barn the fire was barreling its way across the pasture. That wind that had seemed so playful on our trip home was creating chaos in our pasture.

Thinking it was a simple pasture fire, the firemen were quickly corrected by Kay.  “You must stop it before it goes down into the woods.” Kay’s love for the chapel made it especially difficult for her to remain calm. “There is a structure in its path down in the ravine: a prayer chapel.  Please stop that fire,” she begged.

I am sure those firemen had never considered a structure would have been erected in that ravine, let alone a prayer chapel; but rising to the occasion through Kay’s desperate pleas, and guided by her directions, those volunteers were able to get to the woods above the chapel, just as the structure received its first licks from the flames.

By the time Derrick and I had arrived, the remaining fire truck’s crew along with Kay were making sure that they had extinguished every last ember.

We never did determine how the fire had started, just that it had begun in our neighbor’s pasture, and with the wind coming from the south it had raced hungrily toward ours.

My reverie of remembrance was abruptly interrupted by a song. The chapel and the wooded hillside reverberated with the voices of our thankful group as Charles led us in singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” The prayers had been offered and the scripture read and a little bronze plaque had been nailed to the wood beside the charred hole.  “Thou dost encompass me with deliverance.”  Psalm 32:7, the plaque reads.  Yes, even when we are unaware of the dangers that may threaten us, He does prepare a way of deliverance: someone who smells smoke, someone to put out the fire, a community of deliverers.

Leaving the chapel that day with this thankful group of friends, I turned to read the words inscribed above the chapel door, “Let him who is thirsty come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”   Revelation 22:17.  We were finding the sacred in the midst of the mundane once again.

Crazy or Inspired?

prayer chapel

Recently, Teri, my writing partner, and I spent one of our writing sessions walking around the farm and visiting some of the buildings that have been a big part of the ministry of Wellspring.  One of those spots was in the secluded hard wood forests north-west of the farm-house.   Visiting that spot brought back warm memories of past years.  I could almost see the faces and hear the voices of those young men so many years ago as they erected this unusual building dubbed “The Prayer Chapel.”    Although it is in dire need of repair today, through the years it has been a place of dedication, tears, lamentations, heart-cries to God, and rejoicing.  But its story began many years ago.

I am not sure what the neighbors thought as they watched that old pick-up truck make its way slowly down Kitten Creek Road loaded to the top of the cab with wooden ammunition boxes.  I am sure we were creating some interesting conversations.  These crazy Californians seem to be very busy over there at that Fritz farm.  Lots of activity goin’ on.  Can we trust them?  And now they are bringin’ in a truck load of ammunition.  

New neighbors were not a regular occurrence on Kitten Creek Road, and most of the neighbors were kin. Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers all seemed to settle around the old farmsteads where they had grown up.

We were strangers from California and under suspicion here until we could prove ourselves. Bringing in a truckload of ammunition boxes did not help.

The truth was a lot less dramatic.  Lowell had won the bid for these empty wooden boxes at an auction at Fort Riley.  When he and Judd unloaded them in the barn, there was some discussion as to how we could actually use them.   We would find a way.

Cheap, free.  Those were our criteria for building a ministry at that time.  God supplied, and we trusted that he would give us the creativity to put them to use.  These particular “possibilities” became rustic seats and cupboards; some of the wooden lids became the backdrop for painted artwork.

In fact, we had a hard time passing up any treasures that had potential, and the wooden ammunition boxes were only the beginning.  Windows scored quite big on our list of acquisitions.  Dave and Suzanne Osbourne had attended the L’Abri conference and were members of our church, Grace Baptist.  Dave owned The Osbourne Construction Company, and when he won the bid to renovate an elementary school in Manhattan, he donated all of the old windows and the slate from the black boards to Wellspring.

We would find a way to eventually use most of the school windows in various projects. Over the years the slate became black boards, fire-proof backing for wood stoves, and tile for the entrance to the old farm-house.

“A prayer chapel. That should be the first official Wellspring building project. A place where there is silence, nature, and an invitation for solitude or for group worship.”  I am not sure who introduced the idea, but our focus on this project became a focus of the whole group.

Looking at the supplies that we had on hand, we decided those old windows from the elementary school would be a perfect fit. Creativity and imagination reigned in those days.

A committee scoured the land looking for the ideal spot to put a prayer chapel. Along with Lowell, who became the architect on the project, the group found that spot beside a small ravine back in the hard wood forest.

I secretly believe the guys took great delight in the building of that scan0005chapel.  It rises high into the top of the trees.  Those men used ropes and scaffolding to get that creative circular center and shingled roof put into place. Man-work.  Railroad ties (another scavenged commodity), the Osbourne windows, rocks, sand, muscle, creativity, danger, and fun  went into building that rustic edifice.

In the end, a charming chapel was erected: a six-sided building that reaches to the tree-tops.  Four of the sides are built from the windows; two sides are open, allowing pure nature from the secluded forest to enter the chapel uninhibited by any man-made objects.

I am sure Mr. Fritz, the original owner of that property, never imagined a prayer sanctuary would grow out of that forest where he had probably hunted, trapped, or looked for lost calves.  It was not useable, fertile ground, just a wooded acreage that had grown in a useless ravine.

Crazy?  No.  Inspired?  Yes.  One more gift where His presence is unwrapped in a very simple and “mundane” location on this farm on Kitten Creek Road.



Painting by the Number (continued)

One evening we gathered in the living room of our little home with people seated on chairs, couch and floor.  We had worked together and eaten together.  Now we were relaxed and spending some time in worship, song, and sharing. Dennis led us, playing a few of our favorite choruses.  Judd and John co-led as we jumped into one of our favorite topics.  The discussion was one that had become familiar, but this time Kathy recorded what we said. What was the next step?  Better yet, what was the big picture that God was painting?

Jane began the discussion in her calm, level voice.   “Perhaps, when you look at the gifts represented here, one focus we have could have is a home for emotionally disturbed children . . . or even family therapy,” she suggested,  her brown eyes resting on Judd in particular.

Ken, leaned forward in his chair intently. “Or we could be a community that welcomed pregnant women who needed shelter and a place to be loved and accepted.”  Ken was also seeing a potential that would possibly meet some of the needs of society and combine them with the gifts of our group and potential of the farm.

After some discussion of these possibilities, Dennis, his blue eyes fixed intently on the floor in front of him, looked up.  He slowly crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.  “What if we offered a place as a community where others could come to discuss and present ideas for feedback?”

Thayne jumped in and expanded  Dennis’ idea, “Perhaps we could be a community where we were living and supporting one another.  Where we are there to meet each other’s needs . . .  an alternative to the “me” generation.  We could offer an example of Christians living in a fallen world but exhibiting the consistency of God’s character, meeting emotional needs of acceptance, a place where questions will receive listening, and a place where people can come to regain themselves.”

More and more as we talked, we began to identify, not only gifts, but an expression of heart needs.  We would be a community, and together we were molding the shape of what that would look like.  All of those gifts and heart needs, a rainbow of colors, began to blend together to create the foundation of God’s “art work.”

It was a rich experience, this “visioning” together as we began to uncover that particular piece of artwork God was directing.  We all had our paintbrushes out and we were doing a lot of dreaming and coloring.

Of this group, only Charles and Kay and the Swiharts  (including our children’s families . . .Dan and Sara Swihart/Troyer”s  and Nat Bascom’s) would be the ones to finally build that permanent community. The rest of this small focus group would paint some lasting stories and pictures here at the farm before they would spread out into the world to create their own beautiful works of art.