History. We study it in school, talk with our neighbors about it, and sometimes just ignore it. Moving forward requires a vision of our starting point. These next few articles will include history of the founding and growth of Ebenezer, leading up to our anniversary celebration, yet to be scheduled, as we look forward to the future.
THE CALL OF ABRAHAM AND THE CALL TO THE WEST
Genesis tells us of Abram, a man who lived with his father’s family, probably a good life. His father, Teran, uprooted the family, intending to live in Canaan, but eventually settled in Harran. Abram, however, had a different destination. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1). Abram took his wife, his servants, and his flocks, and left for the land of God’s promise.
It isn’t easy to pick up and leave your family, whether God calls or not. There is always the fear of leaving the “known” and the “comfortable.” Twenty-seven years ago next month my husband and I left our home in Pittsburgh, Pa. and traveled to Springfield, where we knew no one, to enter Central Bible College. I guess things worked out okay, since we are still here! Yet, the move was scary, even though it was an adventure in God’s call.
The history of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church has a similar beginning. This area was inhabited by the native American tribes known as the Osage. According to Stringfield (Presbyterianism in the Ozarks), The United Foreign Mission Society of the Presbyterian Church, in 1819, sent two men to explore the Missouri territory. This call to establish a mission “among the Osages of the Grand River” was undertaken by a group of nine men and eight women in 1820. Two of the women died on the journey.
A second group was then sent to the Osages of Missouri, leaving New York on March 7, 1821. They traveled “by way of the Ohio, Mississippi, and Osage rivers on keel boats” and founded the Harmony Mission. In 1823 the missionaries in the Harmony, Union, and Dwight Missions formed what was called the Indian Mission Presbytery. Although this outreach seemingly did little for the native American population, the work became known as Harmony Presbytery, which later disintegrated.
This time saw many individuals, not because of a call to missions, as earlier, but for freedom, good land, and a good life, pack up their lives and move westward, mostly from Tennessee and Virginia. These men and women brought with them not only their supplies and equipment, but also their faith.
Unfortunately, the Presbyterian Church underwent some changes, and in 1838 the denomination split into two divisions: Old School and New School. The Old School group held to strict Calvinist theology (irresistible grace, etc.); the New School group interpreted regeneration (salvation) as essentially voluntary. From these divisions two churches were founded in this area: Mount Zion Church at Cave Springs (New School) and Ebenezer Presbyterian Church (Old School).
As stated earlier, it isn’t easy to change. We become established, tethered to the comfortable and ordinary. The unknown can seem frightening and lonely, while the known –even if not pleasant—is recognizable and has few surprises. Yet, as with Abram, God daily calls us to new experiences, perhaps even new locations. We hesitate and resist because of fears that plague us; yet God still calls, still speaks to our hearts.
Where is God calling you today? Perhaps to a new relationship with someone who needs a helping hand? Maybe God is calling you to ministry, whether in the local church or beyond. God’s call may be for you to enter a church building (someplace you haven’t been in sometime) to become part of a congregation, or perhaps to step forward at your church to be a part of things God is doing there.
Whatever God’s call may be, we have the assurance that wherever God calls, God will be with us. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:8-10).
This year, as we celebrate 170 years of serving Christ, we proclaim that we are still alive! As we look forward, we are not content to live in the past, but we are looking forward to what we will become “when we grow up.” If you do not have a church family, will you come and visit us? Whether Ebenezer or another congregation, there are people waiting for you to be a part of their family. Take the step!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393
Greenfield, MO 65661