"Alfred Stadem's Christmas and New Year's Letter Reviewing Most Significant Events of 1947-1948"

Note: Typing his letter on Lutheran Fellowship League Stationery with the Lutheran Fellowship League letterhead and list of officers including Alf.l J.P. Stadem, Treasurer and Tract Secretary of the League, Alfred Stadem composed four pages total (though he did not have typing skills). So much is packed in, it could be a booklet, not a letter!

It is in the League letterhead of the letter that the purpose of the League is stated: "To Strengthen Christian Life." The Projects of this League are also listed: Gospel Sign Project, Tract Mission, and Mexican Mission. At the top of the page is the banner verse of the League: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"--Romans 6:23. This banner verse, and League Purpose, and its important Ministries, all describe Alfred Stadem, his own life and ministry, along with his beloved wife Bergit as she worked faithfully and cheerfully alongside him in everything he endeavored to accomplish for the Lord's kingdom and His Church on earth.

This particular letter begins with Alfred's calling attention to the weather condition known as an ice storm which created almost indescribable wonder and beauty in the depth of a S.D. winter. This year's re-occurrence was something out of the ordinary, however, inciting commentary in the paper. Alfred begins quoting his nephew Gordon Stadem's published words in the Henry Independent newspaper, and his taking the time to do so reveals Alfred Stadem's acute sensitivity to the beauty of God's creation, which seemingly surpasses that of the ordinary SD farmer's, which you will soon see for yourself is a fair statement.

He goes on to describe a wonderful Christmas celebration complete with miraculous reunions of family members not thought humanly possible at that time, that only the Lord could have made possible on PVF, and only then after many expressions of love and gratitude to God for all these blessings, does he begin speaking of the saddest events of 1947, the two deaths of his loved ones, his son Art and his son-in-law Robert Ginther in a plane crash near Baltic, SD.

He closes off with telling how God turned even this to good in the erection of Gospel signs by main roads in the Bryant area, directing lost souls to the Savior Jesus Christ, and refers to Mrs. Stime's tract, the Trumpet Call, which was printed in 3,000 copies by her own doing and expense and distributed over a wide area, all with the possibility of directing many souls to Christ.

The letter ends with a call for Christians, suffering the blows of life that must come to one and all, to endure steadfast in love of the Lord while endeavoring to serve Him.

Now Alfred Stadem will speak for himself! He is well able to do that! He is also quite a writer, as this letter proves, despite so little schooling, which did not go beyond the 4th grade, though he had some late schooling at Augustana College in Canton (before it moved to Sioux Falls, and the high school part was restarted in Canton and renamed Augustana Academy).

He was attending at this school for several months at least when Amundsen the great explorer was attending (he was a short-term student, however, and could not continue beyond this time, due to the needs of his own farm).

All that is interesting, but the real message of this letter is that it describes how God can use the weather and two unexpected reunions of family members returning home along with the arrival of a Christmas tree to turn (even transform) a run-of-the-mill, somewhat cheerless Christmas into something very special and unforgettable, all through his boundless grace and kindness to an old mother and father turned Grandpa and Grandma on a SD farm who had the winter before just lost two loved ones in a tragic accident.

He should be full of mourning, we know, but what about Christian hope and faith? This was a severe test, the next winter after the tragic events of 1947--would his anchor in Christ remain firm?

But God can somehow turn tragedy to good, and turn a thorn into a fragrant, beautiful rose.

Is this not also what God does with our frail and flawed humanity, which is only passing clay from a riverbank, yet turns it into enduring gold through the working of his grace and the refining fires of affliction tempered with his kindness and perfect consolations?

Lastly and least, please think a kind thought and, better yet, say a prayer for the transcriber, a Grandson of Alfred and Bergit, as he labors on these old yellowed pages with their extremely dense typing. It is very difficult to follow.

He knows that if Grandpa were alive today in the era of the Internet and instant communication electronically, he would be writing this letter on web pages for the sake of the younger generation of Stadems, and also for many others, that the Lord be glorified in their lives and God be given the glory for all his acts of kindness and grace amidst life's tragedies and upsets.

But Grandpa is in heaven, assuredly enjoying his rich rewards along with Grandma, and so the Grandson must be his humble, smaller hands and eyes here on earth (though those eyes are blurring at age 66, and seeing spots too that move about his vision as he prays for strength to do the task set before him).

The Grandson's prayer for you, the reader of this, is already prayed, that you receive some spiritual good, that you be encourage to walk worthy of Christ's love for you, and learn something valuable about faith and God for your own walk in life as we all strive to follow Christian the Pilgrim (in Bunyan's classic) toward Heaven's Celestial City where Grandpa and Grandma and all our other departed loved ones and Christian friends expectantly await us.

Thus, he urges you to read to the last paragraph, where there is a word from Grandpa in parting that can really speak to all of us, as we embark as Christian the Pilgrim on this new year of 2009, our eyes focused on Christ and the Celestial City shining in the distance!--Ed.

Alfred Stadem, Bryant, SD: Another year of our Lord passed on forever, and become history. But never, no never to be obliterated from our memory and needless to say why. And now 1947 Christmas is history also on Plain View Farm. And all we can hope for in that connection is that the effects or its influence may never be just history too. As far as the celebration within services and programs here was concerned, it was nothing outstanding. No, not even worthy of the occasion, I thought. But God God Himself took care of a very special part through the laws laid down in nature. I mean the decorating of the out of doors.

Our Nephew Gordon Stadem, editor of the Henry Independent just 17 Mi. away, described this scenery better than I am able to, hence I quote him:

'WHITE CHRISTMAS IS REALITY IN HENRY COMMUNITY AS NATURE DECORATES FOLIAGE WITH RIVER SILVER COATING OF HOAR FROST. CHRISTMAS CARDS APPEARANCE OF TREES ADDS TO SEASON'S SCENE.'

'"Dreaming of White Christmas" becomes more than just the words of a popular song in the local community this season s mother nature took hand in the holiday decorating scheme and covered trees, shrubs, telephone wires and fences with a silver covering in rich hoar frost, that sent camera fans hurrying about to get pictures of a most beautiful scene.

'Fogs which started to gather early in the week continued almost every day until the job was completed and a fairyland of painted trees and landscape greeted the eye on Tuesday morning. Weather conditions favorable to the transformation continued during the day, with the effect natural for the Christmas season.

Christmas cards with similar scenes seemed rather an imitation of the picture on every hand than the product of the artist's brush. Temperatures remained slightly lower than the freezing mark, and travel conditions were not too greatly improved as a result of nature's participation in making this a White Christmas.

"Optimists, who a few weeks ago were predicting a black Christmas season, were not to be found this week, but few there were who were complaining too bitterly because of the situation.'

[Alfred:] To this for emphasis I say AMEN!! This is a common scene in the Sunshine State in winter of course, but never have I seen it so profusely applied as this time.

But just to get closer again to the family circle at Christmas: Our Heavenly Father blessed Mama and I with this special that two of our own were home with us. O YES! We have had many more many times, but we thank God for that, but this year we dared not expect our Navy-Boy [Leroy], as his time of enlistment really would not expire until 2nd day of Christmas. But here HE was! Then Ruth got time off for Thanksgiving especially because of Mama's sickness, hence she could not expect to get time off for Christmas. But here SHE was too!

Then as here would not be any especially small folks this year, and the Evergreens [Christmas trees] were priced so high, we decided we had to go without this year. But listen--the day of Christmas Eve, here comes a nice, big, green and fluffy Evergreen clear from out near the Pacific Ocean, from the State of Washington and a city named Puyallup [sent by Pearl Ginther his eldest daughter, the wife of Bob Ginther his late son-in-law].

Yes, by far the prettiest one we ever had, and here it stands yet, not a needle shed from it. And as we set out to decorate it, it entered Granpa's Kokkieboddolidoo, hang up those pretty Christmas cards on it for decorations. But nope, even this big tree will disapear. Then it developed that a whole line full of cards was suspended from the lower branches with a few special ones, such as pictures of pretty people jsut arrived, the Zakariasons and a fine young lady with a most winning smile at Vina, Calif., but near the top star on a car a picture of Jesus by Salmon.

Then Ruth when she came brought a box of tinsel or Ribbon Foil icicles, which arrayed it all in sparkling splendor. And truly this aught to have been enough, but no, not so.

At the root (?) of the tree was packets and packages from sledgehammer to nuts and peanuts and too numerous to mention here. Yes, again the scribe of this was on the receiving and undeserved [end], with nothing in return, as usual.

But we are sure you all wondered (yes, I did too) how will it be at Christmas this year with the absence of two of our dear ones from among us on Christmas Eve? Well, their pictures have stood here on the radio-cabinet all the time, with bouquets of flowers arranged and rearranged frequently, should we remove them now? O NO--Leroy decorated it so wonderfully.

I'll try to describe it: The two pictures were placed back to the wall with pure white fluffy cotton (look like snow) in front with four miniature Christmas trees and two candles nicely arranged, then on a white background draped to the floor with vines and ferns pinned on, and above the pictures, underneath the big and beautiful Bible-Wall-Plaque we got from Arthur for Christmas last year, with I Cor. 15:58 in raised lettering on it.

He placed the Merry Christmas pennant, the blazing Star, with 5 twirler reflectors attached underneath. So here we had them just as real and pleasant as ever, only we had to keep in mind their souls were in Glory celebrating the perfect Christmas. We of course have their voices recorded, here too, but feared it would be too real, hence we did not play them at this time, but did not forget in our prayer to thank God for the happy and inspiring memory of them.

Thus passed the first Christmas on P.V.F. with two of the family circle in heaven, four here at home, and the rest in their happy homes with their children. And as we were again permitted to celebrate another Christmas, let us be mindful of the fact, that God has a definite purpose with that for both young and old. And now if we possessed the ability to express our gratitude to God for all the dear friends and you our dear-ones who cheered our hearts with lovely Christmas cards, cheerful letters and valuable presents!

Yes, Dear Lord, supply the words and read our hearts! We do thank Thee!

And then there is an anniversary coming up that overshadows everything in just a few days. But as we speak of Anniversary we think of celebrating. Well, this is a different {event], even though the two words are the same. This of course will not be a joyous occasion even tho in one sense it maybe should be, BUT I think not death is unnatural, God had not intended it, we know, even tho we cannot comprehend the mystery. And while we are searching or hunting for words to convey our thoughts, there comes to mind again letters we received after the tragedy took place, that bears out this truth, and we take liberty to quote just one:

'We received your welcome letter and family news, and thanks for the same. It was interesting and inspiring, but we were sorry that it had to contain cloud of sorrow in view of your departed loved ones.

Now if we were all Apostle Paul's we would glory all the more in such sorrow and reverses. We have the same GOD and SAVIOR as he, and the same message that 'My Grace is sufficient for you.'

From messages I have heard I marvel that you have been able to take it with such fine Christian spirit. God be praised, and it is our sincerest prayer that we will ever bear you up and that you may be able always to express His presence in your midst.

Opening the book to Isaiah 60:20 we read 'Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord Jehovah will be thine everlasting light, and the days of thine mourning shall be ended.'

We are all looking orward to that day because here are so many nagging griefs and festering sins about us that when we lose sight of the Lord it becomes seemingly unbearable. But when Jesus lifts and draws and we can take wings as it were then all about us becomes so much brighter. And isn't that the Glory of the LORD? It must be. I hope we will be able to contact sometime this summer so we can have a good chat.

We are having a lot of rain, which is a good thing.

All vegetation is very heavy and nature is very beautiful. Trees are laden with foliage, a great variety of flowers adorn the lawns many places, they are beautiful. Only one thing to mar it all--SIN. May God continue to reveal Himself to you all in fuller and fuller measure. Pray for us that God may use us. It seems I am so cold, indifferent, lifeless, etc., that I need to pray 'Create in me a clean heart, oh Lord." Sin really is terrible. II Cor. 4: 16-18.

Sincerely, Alfred & Gladys.'

This is the end of quote, and I hope my quoting it verbatim will not be misconstrued, with reference to the praise as by omitting it would change or interrupt the spirit of the letter. (This was from the Hernesses at Canton).

And now that fatal anniversary day has passed by [Jan. 9, the date of Bob and Art's homegoings], and we can truly say we did experience a healing, soothing balm, behyond expectation also that day, and again we must exclaim, 'God is faithful!' Yes, even then when we dare not hardly hope that He is mindful of us, poor, miserable, wretched sinners.

It brings to mind a short story we read recently about a little girl on the train for the first time. The train had to cross two branches of a river and several wide streams. When she looked through the window and saw the water ahead she began to be afraid. She did not understand how they would get over safely. But as the train came near the river a bridge appeared on which it passed over. Two or three times the same thing happened, and finally the child leand back with a long breath of relief. 'Somebody has put bridges for us all the way,' she said. Yes, God has truly done that very thing for us too. And we know where many of them are. They are the bridges, "arms of prayer" and the clear ringing testimonies and fellowship of those who are even closer to us than relatives in the flesh.

At this point I just cannot resist a desire to share with you one more letter we received when the clouds were hanging extremely low. We have read and reread that too several times, and it has never failed to cause the tears to trickle down the furrowed cheeks, yes even now. You may explain the why.

Here it is: Sioux Falls, SD., Jan. 10th, 1947, 'The Alf. Stadem Family, Dear fellow pilgrims on the way to glory: I have a definite feeling that our precious Lord desires that I write you anote at this time. I have been led to think of His instruction, 'Bear ye one another's burdens.'

It has been my privilege to share and enjoy in times past, fellowship in Him with most of you, and I am persuaded that you have 'found grace in the eyes of the Lord.' (Gen. 6:8).

And I too am 'confident of this very thing, that he which hath both begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.'

During recent hours, the enemy must have suggested repeatedly that the God of all grace has forsaken His own.

But may you, and yes we too, be enabled to rest in Him who is in us and is greater than he that is in the world, and who assures us that He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.' 'In the world ye shall have tribulation.' (John 16:33)

At times that passage acquires special meaning to God's children. But is also true that the last part of this vrse shall stand, 'Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' How marvelous for us, who are so weak, to have a Savior who is so strong. Your friends are concerned about you in the tragedy, but we realize that, like Job's friends, we are miserable comforters.

However, there is one who is more concerned about His own than any mere human friend.

When Peter was facing tribulation, He said to him, 'Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.' What a treasure to have one at the right hand that is praying for us. (John 17:20) And then too, 'the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.'

Dear Brethren and sisters, it is night now; we are still in the dark valley. But 'the scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35), 'And we are assured the Lord shall appear, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we shall be forever with the Lord.' Wherefore may we 'comfort one another with these words.'

When the day breaks for us and we shall know as we are known; when we shall have no need of the sun or the moon for the Lamb of God shall be our light, then one of the most blessed thoughts shall be that He leads us all the way, and I am persuaded particularly through sorrow and grief. For in such experiences His word shall continue to stand, 'All things work together for good to them who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.'

And now I commend you to Him who is able, and who is the same yesterday and today and forever. 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the word giveth give I unto you.'

Clara joins me in expressing sympathy, and greting you in the name of Him who uis so precious. Your brother in Him who is called Wonderful,Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace--Frank Vust'.

Again we thank thee, Lord, for true friends, whose who weep with us and those who rejoice with us. Help us to so live that wqe in some measure may be worthy of their love and confidence.

And today is also an anniversary, the 15th of January [the date of the funerals in Bryant for Bob and Art].

'O thou who dry'st the mourner's tear!

--How dark this world would be,

if when deceived and wounded here, we could not fly to Thee.

Then sorrow, touch'd by Thee, grows bright,

with more than rapture's ray,

as darkness shows us world of light we never saw by day!'

O yes, we are endeavoring to look beyond the horizon, and by HOPE and Faith trusting that this experience of just a year ago today will bear rich fruit for ETERNITY [that is our prayer too, as Grandson and also my mother, age 99, Alfred and Bergit's eldest daughter and oldest now in the Stadem relationship in 2009].

Just reread I Cor. 15. How majestic and awe inspiring. What a climax at verses 35-36. Then from thereon God's willingness to reason with us. Thank you, Lord!

Truly our vision is blurred and hard to see any possibilities, as their bodies were lowered into the graves, how close at hand was not the thought, 'this is the end!' Not so with God. The possibilities are still in evidence. Shall we mention one or two? The two Bible-Message-Road-Signs erected in their memory, the beautiful picture of the Face of Jesus, and the words from His mouth (John 8:42), 'If God were your Father, Ye would love me.' One is placed at the gateway to Bryant on HiWay 28, the other on a big HiWay 1/2 Mi. west of Baltic, and just 1/2 Mi. north of where the plane crashed.

There those signs stand with their testimonies visible night and day, and read by possibly thousands of people already and a constant reminder to those who drive by frequently.

And then the other evidence we want to mention, is the "Trumpet Call" tract sponsored by our dear Christian friends at Sinai, S.D.

And as we well know we are much indebted to Mrs. O. B. Stime for this message. And as we think of the possibilities here with about 3000 of those messages gone out far and wide, we know they are heart searching tot he unconverted and strengthening to the children of God. May the Holy Spirit lead and direct numberless souls into God's kingdom through these means, is our prayer.

[Quoting:]

'Why did there fall such a sense of gloom? Why did we sob at the thought sleep?

When one goes out of the Living Room,

Must all the rest of the family weep?

When the work is done and the day is sped,

Is it not time for the restful bed?'

[Quoting again:]

'These eyes shall greet once more

In a fairer land than this,

Where sight, not faith, will reign,

and partings o'er, Love may have its perfect bliss.'

As we are again approaching the bottom of this sheet we must close now.

Thanking God for every one of you, and praying that this will be a blessed year for each one, and fruitful in service to our King. And let us not grumble at the menial tasks we might be called on to do.

Also remember this we can show the world even when we play that we love our Savior and are endeavoring to live for Him.

WITH LOVE AND GREETINGS FROM GRANDMA AND GRANDPA."

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