Big Springs Baptist celebrates 150th

Posted July 11, 2019 at 5:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

Their congregation’s mission is:

“To glorify God through growing mature disciples of Jesus Christ in our communities and around the world:

Exalting the Lord,

Evangelizing the Lost,

Edifying the Saints,

Equipping for Service, and

Encouraging through Fellowship.”

On July 19 – 21, Big Springs Baptist Church members are celebrating the church’s 150th anniversary.

For Ron Johnson, it’s been his church home for 84 years; Carolyn Hongslo, 61 years; and Mary Beth Lundburg, 43 years. They reminisced with The Akron Hometowner.

As a youngster, Johnson remembers boys having a Bible group, which wasn’t as organized as the Girls Missionary Guild (GMG).

“About every year we had a revival,” said Johnson, noting a speaker would come in for a week-long revival filled with special meetings and daily activities.

Johnson also remembers the church’s ball league which included Big Springs and Roseni churches. However, it was after his youth when the ball teams were formed.

There were also Sunday school picnics on Saturdays, which started with a potluck dinner at lunch time and included a ball game and games such as Egg Toss for both adults and children. The congregation also attended other church’s picnics.

Children who had regular Sunday school attendance received “tickets” to get items at the concession stand. Winning teams also received treats.

“Cleo Winquist always made homemade root beer,” said Hongslo.

She remembered Christian Youth Fellowships kids would go to Spring and Fall Retreats, staying in congregation members’ homes.

“It was a good time,” said Hongslo, who enjoyed reconnecting with youth and making new friends at the retreats.

Summer youth camps were also held at Swan Lake at Viborg, said Johnson.

The camps had special speakers, Bible studies, craft and swimming times and a canteen, said Hongslo.

“I remember summer Bible School,” said Johnson, explaining it was a week-long school-like session where children learned the Bible.

“We brought our own sack lunches to Bible School,” said Hongslo.

Mary Beth Lundberg began attending Big Springs at age 10 when her family moved to the area.

“My first memory was of learning Jesus wasn’t just a baby in the manger, he was also the man who died on the cross for my sins,” said Lundberg, noting the Big Springs congregation was the friendliest, most loving she’d ever been to. “I’ve never felt un-welcomed.”

The three love Big Springs’ Swedish Christmas “Julotta” Service, which in the early years started very early with people coming by horse-drawn buggies and on horseback. Now it begins later — at 6:30 a.m.

“It’s only been cancelled twice in the church’s 150 years,” said Hongslo, the last time was the Christmas Blizzard of 2009. “There is something special about coming Christmas morning. The lighting is different, coming in the dark (witnessing dawn).”

In recent years, the Christmas story has been read from books and a girl and boy are chosen to receive the book read, said Lundberg.

Lundberg recalled in 1997, Betty and Jim Selchert, with their three children covered in blankets, came in their horse-drawn buggy about five miles to the Julotta service.

Hongslo remembers the Bible memory work under the direction of Johnson’s mother, Gladys, who was adamant that children learn their Bible. She participated in Sword Drill races and the Ribbon where children added each verse they learned. Mrs. Johnson expected your Sunday school lesson would be done before class started.

Lundberg remembered Sunday night was Bible version memorization time.

What is so special about Big Springs Baptist Church?

Johnson, who is a fourth-generation family member, knows his grandfather, Gus Johnson donated a couple of acres of land, which is where the church’s ball field is now. He’s not sure if his great-grandfather, Peter Johnson, is the man who gave land for the original church. His great-grandfather purchased the family homestead in 1867 but didn’t settle in Union County until 1872; therefore, a neighbor with the same name could have been the one to donate the original land for Big Springs Baptist Church.

“It’s a church family,” said Johnson. “We have our friends, fellowship.”

“In all honesty, I never even once thought that I would change to the (Alcester church) when we moved to town,” said Hongslo, whose family is one of the church’s fifth-generation members. “This has always been my church, and I’ve never thought of going anywhere else. There’s the family connections but it’s also the warm feelings one gets in building friendships through the activities happening at church.”

“The Bible has been what has been preached and taught all through the years I’ve been here,” said Lundberg, who married fellow member Rick Lundberg, a fifth-generation family member.“But right up there are the relationships that have been built through the church. Friends become family.”

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