My grandmother left the little town of Aga, Norway in 1905. She was 20-years-old. The people of her village on the Hardanger fjord thought she and another young lady were sharp and full of potential. They believed the girls’ chances of realizing that potential would be better in the United States. So they raised the funds to send them to America.
My grandmother left behind a box with her name on it. It appears she kept school supplies and other things she valued in it. She never returned to Norway. Her brothers who stayed kept the box and passed it on to their children and grandchildren. My wife Cathe and I recently visited Norway and my cousins let me bring grandma’s box back to the U.S.
My grandmother died before I was born but still had a big influence on my life. She had a strong faith in Jesus that impacted her daughter, who became my mother, who passed on to me what she had received.
As I look at the box that once contained school supplies I think of what my grandmother learned. She learned intellectual truths at school. At home and church she learned spiritual truths. She learned that Jesus died for her sins and rose again from the dead. She learned she could have a personal relationship with the living God. She learned the Lord could be trusted to care for her as she ventured into a new land.
It couldn’t have been easy for her to leave her home and family and cross the ocean and begin life in a new country, speaking a new language. She had learned, though, that she could trust the promises of God. She believed the Bible was God’s Word. She knew she needed to hear God’s Word proclaimed. She knew, as she started out alone in a new land, that she couldn’t remain alone in following the Lord. She needed to be part of a congregation. So she became a charter member of a Lutheran Free Church congregation in Luverne, Minnesota.
The box once contained things of value to my grandmother. It was empty when we got it, but the things of greatest value to my grandmother have already been passed on to me. She valued faith in Jesus. She valued the Bible. She valued her local congregation. She valued missions and sharing the good news of Jesus with the world. She valued her family. She valued loving God and loving people.
I’ve been blessed to have a grandmother who lived out what it says in Psalm 78:4-7: “… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. … so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God.”
It is good to have grandma’s box. As I look at it, though, I am reminded of the more valuable things I received from my grandmother, even before I was born. A box that is over 100 years old is good to have, but a hope that is for all eternity is priceless.