A Grandpa Larson Story

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalms 31:24)

My maternal grandfather, Leonard Larson, died when I was just 8 years old. He, along with his wife Alice had quite a life! Both of them grew up in Worthington, Minnesota, and were high school sweethearts. Leonard was a chaplain and cook in the First World War, and during the 1920s he and Alice served the Covenant Church as missionaries in China, where he ran the school for all the missionary children. Eventually they settled in Kansas City, Kansas where he served as pastor of First Covenant Church for 35 years. My mother, Alyce (different spelling!) was the sixth of seven children born to them. Whenever I’m with my Larson family, and as I grow older, I’m told I’m the one who looks most like him.

There is one ministry story that I come back to again and again, in those times when discouragement and doubt creep in. Somewhere in one of those fallow seasons of church life that come, Leonard went back to his war cook roots and decided to invite the neighborhood to the church basement for a chili supper. (Tangent here, grandpa Larson’s chili is one of many delicious recipes of his. His baked beans, Limpa bread and many other family recipes can be found in the Larson family cookbook). He was famous for delicious food and making a mess while doing it!

Back to the story. No one from the neighborhood came to the chili supper. And I’m sure he was discouraged about that.

But what he decided to do was go and find small containers and fill them up and take them up and down the street and welcome the neighborhood. He took the party out to the people, he brought the beloved community into the neighborhood in a moment when it would have been most appropriate to pack up, wipe the dust off his feet, and go home.

When he was an old man, years later, when I knew him and we made our yearly visit to Kansas City, doctors would need to turn down the level of his pacemaker because of his excitement and hutzpah. That’s who Leonard was.

I think it’s true that I bear his resemblance in many ways, for which I’m grateful. I can only hope too to learn his tenacity and strong faith, and his way of ministering the love of God.

As you reflect on your own life’s journey these days, how does the defunct and redeemed chili supper story speak to you?

Love from here

PETER HAWKINSON

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