Religion should be the motor of life, the central heating plant of personality, the faith that gives joy to activity, hope to struggle, dignity to humility and zest to living. I grew up with people of every religion and learned that tolerance is a positive and cordial effort to understand another's beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them. Christians may not see eye to eye but can walk arm in arm. Christianity helps us face the music even if we don't like the tune. The worlds' shortest sermon, on a traffic sign "Keep Right."
I was about 5 years old when a neighbour came over and told Mother about what a wonderful feeling you get when you believe in God. I tried hard to get the feeling but I guess I was too young. I asked mother to sew a dress for my rag doll and she said, "No, it is a religious holiday—Good Friday."
As a child I always prayed the same prayer at night. It was a German prayer that rhymed. It meant this—"I'm tired and going to rest. Close my eyes, but watch over me with yours. If I did something wrong today, forgive me, as your mercy makes everything good again." In the morning my prayer was "I am small. My heart is clean. Not one can live in it except Jesus." We always knelt by our bed to pray. When I was older I prayed the Lord's Prayer at night and the Creed in the morning. Now I just pray from the heart and give thanks for what I have and not have—such as an illness.
I remember coming from school and telling Mother that Jesus loves me and he is strong. The first grade teacher had us sing the song "Jesus loves me." Mother said, "Yes, he is our strength and refuge." I still think of times when it was too cold to drive to church with the horse and buggy. Then Dad would read from the Bible and Mom and Dad would sing in harmony and us kids had to sit still and listen.
When I was about 12, old Pastor Hagger came and asked my folks to invite neighbours and have a prayer meeting. He showed me how to play the main notes for the hymns on our old pump organ and we knelt to pray. He told the children to obey their parents and husbands and wives to love respect and honour each other. One day I visited a new neighbour. They said "God bless you" and prayed for me. I was impressed, as we never did that. They were Pentecostal.
Another neighbour said, "We Catholics have to confess our sins to the priest," and I said, "We Lutherans confess directly to God what we did wrong in thought, word and deed and we don't pay money for it." Then I told her the joke about the priest who said the sins are three for ten dollars. When I told Mother, she said I should only tell the joke to Lutherans. Another neighbour said you must be immersed to be baptized. She was Baptist. I felt inferior for a while, then said, "Well, I am a Lutheran."
After I was confirmed, I joined the choir and Luther League. We put on a play called "The Prodigal Son" and we were asked to perform at Stony Plain and Bruderheim and Ellerslie. I still have the photograph of the group. They served us a good meal after the performance.
We belonged to St Johns' Church. We lived on an acreage three miles north of St John's and there were plenty of chores everyday. There was a Luther League rally at Ellerslie Church. I wanted to go, but Mother said we had to hoe the acre of cabbage so there I was hoeing and crying. Finally Mom said, "Well hurry and get ready and maybe you will still be on time." The young people had just left and I had to ride with three pastors in a car. I still remember the good food and all the games we played out in the yard.
After I was married, we lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We never missed going to church as our two uncles and aunties took turns inviting us to dinner after church. After three-and-a-half years, we moved back to Edmonton and St John's Church. One day our daughter Ruth came home from confirmation class and said, "I'm going to become a missionary." I said, "No, you are not going off to some foreign country."
Another time we visited a friend that married a farmer. I said, "Aren't you afraid all alone in the bush with no neighbours?" She answered "Oh no! Jesus is always my friend" and I started to feel that too. I just love that song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
My mother would sing "Jesus my Saviour is Winner and Lives" in German whenever she felt sad or was not feeling well. My dad rode his bicycle one evening to church to hear someone tell why we are Lutherans. He came home very tired and told us that they are Lutherans because their parents were Lutherans. In summer we would miss going to church once a month to play golf in a tournament, but I always felt guilty.
My Christian upbringing helped a lot when we cared for Otto's dad for four-and-a-half years and then my mother for three-and-a-half years. When Mother went to the Good Samaritan Hospital, I visited her every other day for three years. I felt thankful that I could do this for her. I sang songs to her and read prayers. I am an active member of the hospital auxiliary and I crochet for charity. I enjoy being a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Women (ELW) at church.
Popular mottos say, 'Don't worry, be happy' and 'Love means never having to say you're sorry.' Rather confess to God and you will be happy. 'Forgiven and happy' is the Christian motto. It takes more courage to repent than to keep on sinning. You can't repent too soon because you don't know how soon is too late. I have always felt that I had a guardian angel by maybe it was just my conscience that helped me stay on the straight and narrow.
-- Olga Ostermann
95 years old, Ascension, Edmonton, Alberta