He knocked the city out of me…

by DanWolgemuth on January 18, 2019

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” (Romans 12:2, Phillips)

My parents, Sam and Grace Wolgemuth, grew up in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Rural and productive. But, by the time my twin sister and I were born, love, and life, and leading had planted them firmly in Wheaton, Illinois.

So, while many parents in suburban Chicago were sending their kids to a YMCA summer camp, Sam and Grace sent Debbie and me to Lancaster. To the farm. To extended family.

Enter Jesse and Wilma Dourte. One of my Mom’s younger brothers. An uncle with six kids. An Aunt and Uncle with a gritty work ethic and a willingness to “educate” two city kids.

An education that included the smells. The sounds. The schedule of rural America.

It was shock and awe with a purpose. An alignment with our roots.

Chores. Daily, rigorous, unrelenting, and deeply rewarding.

Jesse Dourte was on a mission. Quite simply, this was an effort to knock the city out of us. No orientation needed. The farm called, and it didn’t coddle.

Gathering eggs from unimpressed and uncooperative hens. Pigs that needed to be fed. Cows that calved and then got milked. Hay to bale and load and stack. Tomatoes to pick. And yes, stuff to shoot. With guns. Real guns. Then… repeat.

Jesse and Wilma were on a mission and they had deputized their six kids, my cousins, to assist. And they loved every minute. Every uncomfortable minute… every hold this, squeeze this, aim the milk at this, shovel this, shoot this, slop this, stack this… minute.

Any hint of self-importance evaporated. Soft and supple city hands surrendered.

On January 16th, at the age of 95, Jesse Dourte, a Renaissance Man, before there was such a thing, met the King he served. Jesse Dourte, the man who knocked enough city out of me to make room for far more important values, was reunited with family members who had preceded him.

Jesse Dourte… farmer, bee keeper, ordained pastor, wood worker, singer, teacher…

Uncle Jesse. The man with the twinkle in his eye every time he ushered me to the next unfamiliar and potentially embarrassing task.

Calloused hands, tender heart. A man on a mission.

City expunging. Value inducing. A re-molded mind. In Lancaster County.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

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