Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Documentary focuses on missionaries’ life-saving roles in Nigerian civil war of 1966 January 27, 2017

My father, Elvern Kletscher, on the left with two of his soldier buddies in Korea.

My father, Elvern Kletscher, on the left with two of his soldier buddies in Korea.

I’VE EXPERIENCED WAR. Not first hand, but through the words of my soldier father who fought on the front lines during the Korean War. And through photos he took. Through textbooks, too, and the stories of veterans and immigrants. And in memorials I’ve visited, poems I’ve read, songs I’ve heard.

"The Disturbances" is told in both book and film.

“The Disturbances” is told in both book and film.

Now I have an opportunity to learn more about a civil war—one in Nigeria in 1966—through “The Disturbances,” a feature-length documentary. The film is screening at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 29, at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1054 Truman Avenue, Owatonna.

Missionary children at ELM House (Evangelical Lutheran Mission House) in Nigeria. Missionary children lived in the hostel so they could attend boarding school in Jos, Nigeria. The Rev. Paul and Margaret Griebel served as houseparents. Three of their children, including Kirk, are pictured in this group photo.

Missionary children at ELM House (Evangelical Lutheran Mission House). Missionary children lived in the hostel so they could attend boarding school in Jos, Nigeria. The Rev. Paul and Margaret Griebel served as houseparents. Three of their sons, including Kirk, are pictured in this group photo. He is in the front row, third in from the right. Carl Eisman (tall man in the back) is featured prominently in the film. He taught at the boarding school.

What brings a film like this to southern Minnesota? The answer, in short, is the pastor of Redeemer, the Rev. Kirk Griebel. He moved, as a second grader, from Minnesota to Nigeria with his missionary father and family in February 1966. They stayed until June 1969, took a furlough and then returned for two more years, leaving in 1972. The Griebels and other Christian missionaries found themselves caught in the middle of violent tribal atrocities. “The Disturbances” is their story—the story of how missionaries and Nigerian pastors saved lives.

Back then, missionaries did not openly discuss the situation. Now they are, in this documentary produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics. The stories of missionaries from various denominations, including those of the Rev. Paul and Margaret Griebel of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, are included.

I look forward to learning more about these brave souls who stretched their missionary skills beyond preaching, teaching, training and serving to acts of heroism that saved lives.

Kirk Griebel with his parents, the Rev. Paul and Margaret Griebel, on his Confirmation Day in 1972. The family left Nigeria shortly thereafter.

Kirk Griebel with his parents, the Rev. Paul and Margaret Griebel, on his Confirmation Day in 1972. The family left Nigeria shortly thereafter.

The Rev. Kirk Griebel plans to share memories of his experiences from that time in Nigeria. He was only eight years old when war erupted, but remembers a mob of men with clubs and machetes as the violence unfolded, according to a January 15 interview with “Faith of Steele.” I expect I will learn more about my pastor-friend who holds a strong interest in social issues. I surmise his experiences and observations in Nigeria helped shape his willingness to publicly tackle and participate in issues beyond simply preaching from the pulpit. War changes people.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

Sunday’s screening is at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

FYI: Please consider attending this free screening of “The Disturbances.” I always appreciate opportunities like this to learn and then relate what I learn to my life.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos from Nigeria are courtesy of the Rev. Kirk Griebel.

 

One father’s powerful story about domestic violence January 27, 2016

 

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna this past summer.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. Margie is the daughter of my former neighbor Ron. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna.

JUST OFF THE TOP of my head, I can think of perhaps 20 family, friends and indirect acquaintances who have been victims of domestic abuse/violence. Nearly all survived; some did not.

Dan Kasper

Dan Kasper. Photo courtesy of Redeemer Lutheran Church/Dan Kasper.

On Sunday afternoon, January 31, Dan Kasper of Northfield will talk at a church in Owatonna about his daughter Becky, who was murdered in April 2013 by her ex-boyfriend. Dan’s personal story of “Finding hope in the midst of loss” is certain to make a powerful impact.

Last week I spoke with Dan in a 90-minute phone conversation. I didn’t take notes to shape this blog post. I only listened.

Another t-shirt from The Clothesline Project.

Another t-shirt from The Clothesline Project.

And what I heard was the strength of a father determined to honor his 19-year-old daughter by sharing his experiences. I learned of the warning signs Dan and his wife missed, mostly because they live in Minnesota and Becky was far away attending college in Arizona. I heard a father who, even through the worst pain a parent can experience, has risen up to make a difference.

I learned more about his precious Becky, how she was compassionate and caring and how she was trying to help her ex-boyfriend work through issues. Dan would later meet, face-to-face, with her killer in prison.

I heard a man of faith speaking to me.

I heard the anguish of a man abandoned by some friends after Becky’s death, but also the recipient of unexpected support from others.

I heard this father, a secondary victim of abuse, state that “you can’t rely on the system.”

I listened to a hard-working man from a small Midwestern college town tell me of the near financial ruin his family has faced since Becky’s death due to funeral costs, lost income, travel related expenses and more.

His story is powerful. If you live anywhere near Owatonna, plan to attend this 2 p.m. Sunday, January 31, presentation at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1054 Truman Avenue. We all need to be educated about domestic violence/abuse. And I can’t think of anyone, other than a victim, more poised to educate us than a father who has lost his daughter to domestic violence.

#

the logo

FYI: Dan and Sheryl Kasper have established the non-profit Becky Kasper Foundation to honor their daughter. Click here for more information.

If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. You are so worth it. Contact a local crisis resource center or women’s shelter for help and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time; have a plan to leave safely.

Additional information is available, for abuse victims, family, friends and survivors by clicking on any of these links:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

NO MORE

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt.

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt.

Click here to read my July 2015 blog post about The Clothesline Project.

And click here to read the just-released Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women 2015 Femicide Report. Last year at least 34 people in Minnesota were killed due to domestic violence.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One father’s story of finding hope in the midst of loss January 15, 2016

WHEN YOU READ Rebecca Kasper’s 2013 obituary, you learn of a young woman described as sweet, beautiful and always smiling. You read of a former Northfield High School athlete and of a student finishing her second year at Arizona State.

You read words of heartache and heartbreak expressed by friends and those who never knew Becky. You read condolences for her parents, sister and those who loved the 19-year-old.

And you would wonder, if you didn’t know the story of Becky’s death, why she passed away tragically on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Becky was killed by her ex-boyfriend, now serving 30 years in prison for her murder.

Dan Kasper

Dan Kasper. Photo courtesy of Redeemer Lutheran Church/Dan Kasper.

But there’s more to the story. And that story will be shared at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 31, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Owatonna, 1054 Truman Avenue. Becky’s father, Dan Kasper, speaks about “Finding hope in the midst of loss.” He visited his daughter’s killer, Luis Soltero, in prison.

Dan Kasper’s presentation promises to be powerful as he talks about that prison meeting and what he has learned since his daughter’s murder.

Come and hear this compelling story of tragedy and of hope. You will also learn about the warning signs of domestic violence and more.

#

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. You are so worth it. Contact a local crisis resource center or women’s shelter for help and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time; have a plan to leave safely.

Additional information is available by clicking on any of these links:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

NO MORE

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The clothesline beyond laundry July 23, 2015

STORY UPDATED at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

A display from The Clothesline Project. Image from The Clothesline Project website.

A display from The Clothesline Project. Image from The Clothesline Project website.

ON SUNDAY, JULY 26, a clothesline takes on an entirely different purpose than drying laundry as the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County and Redeemer Lutheran Church of Owatonna bring The Clothesline Project to Central Park in Owatonna. Begun in Cape Cod in 1990, the national art project raises awareness about violence against women. Those impacted by such violence express their emotions by writing on t-shirts. The shirts are then strung on a clothesline.

This shirt was added to The Clothesline Project four years ago by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth. It honors her sister Kay, who was murdered by her husband in 2010.

This shirt was added to The Clothesline Project four years ago by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth. It honors her sister Kay, who was murdered by her husband in 2010.

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women manages The Clothesline Project traveling exhibit in Minnesota. Eighty decorated shirts representing the 80 individuals killed through domestic violence in Minnesota during the past three years are part of the display coming to Owatonna.

From 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday, attendees can create and view t-shirts honoring victims and survivors of domestic violence. A ceremony begins at 4 p.m. with remarks by the Rev. Kirk Griebel, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran; reading of a mayoral proclamation declaring July 26 as Domestic Violence and Abuse Awareness Day in Owatonna; and remarks from Crisis Resource Center and law enforcement representatives.

The back of the shirt includes the names of Kay's three children. Kim found the lips blotted on a piece of paper in one of Kay's books. A Duluth printed printed them on the shirt. Kay kissed everything with her big pink lips, says her sister.

The back of the shirt includes the names of Kay’s three children. Kim found the lips blotted on a piece of paper in one of Kay’s books. A Duluth printer printed them on the shirt. Kay kissed everything with her big pink lips, says her sister.

The Clothesline Project promises to be a powerful visual focused on raising awareness about domestic abuse and violence. I encourage you to attend. I expect every single one of you knows a woman and/or family that has been impacted by this. I do. Many.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every three women will suffer some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. For men, that number is one in four. Remember also that domestic abuse is not always physical. It can also be emotional, mental, spiritual and social.

Do all you can as an individual to stand strong against domestic abuse and violence. Refuse to remain silent.

As Pastor Griebel said in remarks at the Owatonna City Council meeting Tuesday evening, “Silence provides a cover for those who perpetrate domestic violence and abuse, while breaking the silence of domestic violence and abuse allows healing to begin.”

Powerful words.

Come on Sunday. Create a t-shirt. Join those who are choosing to break the silence.

#

FYI: If you are currently in an abusive relationship, seek help. Call a local safe haven/resource center or the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Leaving an abuser is an especially dangerous time. Seek help and have a safe plan to leave. You will need a protection plan for a year or longer after leaving your abuser. There are people willing to help. You are worth it. You deserve to live free of abuse of any form.

#

Kim has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence. She is the voice of her sister Kay, pictured here.

Kim Sisto-Robinson has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence. She is the voice of her sister Kay, pictured here. The shirt Kay is wearing is now part of The Clothesline Project.

I would also encourage you, dear readers, to click here and read My Inner Chick, a blog written by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth, Minnesota. Kim’s sister, Kay, was murdered by her husband in 2010. This blog is one of the most powerful I’ve read on the subject of domestic abuse and violence. Kim’s words will empower you and give you hope. She writes: “Kay was silenced, but her voice lives through me.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thank you to Kim Sisto-Robinson for sharing the photos of her sister and of The Clothesline Project shirt honoring Kay.