A Church Away from Home

This article was posted on: August 1, 2017

One summer late in the 1990s, we did exactly what so many families do. We loaded up our Suburban, pop-up camper, snacks and five excited children to make a large family pilgrimage. Of course, our destination was Mt. Rushmore! We didn’t have fancy iPads or videos to watch; we had magazines, “I Spy” and books on tape. Louis L’Amour kept the children mesmerized talking about the Old West as I read Good Housekeeping. I was reading a story from my magazine to my husband about a family that survived a tornado in the middle of the night. They laid in their tub as the house was razed around them. They emerged from the debris, barefoot among broken glass, nails and everything else. I’ve always loved stories of survival and was grateful I didn’t have any of my own. The trip was perfect, as was the weather and the children — which is rare for us.

We did night hikes through the Badlands, made foil dinners and s’mores and told ghost stories. We found a beautiful little park called Palisades State Park in South Dakota. We arrived late at night and check-in was on your honor. It was pitch black, except for the beautiful starry sky. We temporarily popped up our camper in the dark over the beautiful creek, with plans on moving it in the daylight. It was all the food we had left and we had plans on finding a little town in the morning to find groceries for the end of our trip. The crickets chirped nonstop as we crawled into bed.

I believe it was about two in the morning when our camper door blew open, the crickets were silent and the stars gone! The worst storm we have ever been part of hit this area. My husband ran up the hill to the Suburban to turn on the lights so we could see as he tried to find a radio station for a forecast. Our older children helped grab the younger ones as I reminded them to put their shoes on, as I learned from my article I read earlier. We all made it to the truck, soaking wet and scared. The children took it upon themselves to start praying the rosary in the back. The winds were biblical and TORNADOES were in the area! My husband drove down the road to try and find some shelter, but we had no idea exactly where we were. He pulled up next to this abandoned barn-type structure for at least some protection from the winds. I looked over and noticed he didn’t have shoes on and was worried if we got pulled over he could get a ticket or worse yet barefoot in a tornado — really? We were only about 300 miles from home, and Bob’s billfold was in his pants back at camp!

Eventually the storm passed and we all silently prayed that our camper was not in the stream. Well, God does answer the prayers of little children: everything was intact — wet but intact. I think the only solace I had that night is to know that our “home” was only a church away. Wherever we go in this world, we have a home. We have a family of support and comfort at our nearest church.
Remember, wherever you venture, you are only one church away from your home. Oh, and keep your shoes on!

By Cathy Cooper, coordinator of dietary and services for the Holy Cross Diocesan Center
Photography by Monica Organ



4 boneless, thick pork chops
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
1 cup large cubed pineapple
1 large cut bell pepper
1 large cut onion
4 tsp hoisin sauce
4 tsp soy sauce
4 tsp water or white wine

Ground pepper and a drizzle of oil
Make four thick foil packets, dividing up the ingredients, seal well and place on a grate above hot coals for about 40 minutes
You may also bake in an oven at 400 for about 50 minutes.

1 1/3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 package dry onion soup mix

Mix together forming 4 patties
4 large slices of onion
4 potatoes thickly sliced
4 large carrots thickly sliced
1 cup of beer

Ground pepper and salt
Make four thick foil packets, dividing up the ingredients, seal well and place on a grate above hot coals for about 40 minutes.
You may also bake in an oven at 400 for about 50 minutes.

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