Welcome Home


“Like the pine trees lining the winding road,
I got a name”

Jim Croce, I Got a Name

“Whether we like it or not, we all come from someplace.
And at some point in our lives, we have to make peace with that place.”
Jeffrey Stepakoff, The Orchard

“Hello, Wisconsin!”
Eric Forman, That 70’s Show

Somewhere around 10:45 last Monday morning I crossed the Menominee River and suddenly became younger. The all too familiar, yet very nameless, maternal voice of Google Maps spoke three words that turned on a mythical fountain of nostalgia: “Welcome to Wisconsin.” With those words my phone automatically turned back time.

I was home.

I first notice the rows of Red Pines lining the highway, planted in nice symmetrical lines. These trees planted in the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the federal work program that kept my grandfather out of the soup lines during The Great Depression. I stopped at the first gas station just outside of Pembine, walk to the back cooler and found them, right where I expected they would be—the cheese curds that assure me I am among my people. I drive the next two hours enjoying these bite size delicacies while singing along to a mix of Johnny Cash, WIllie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, the soundtrack of every camping trip we took as a family. When I finally get to my dad’s in Rhinelander I see that he has covered the bed I’ll be sleeping on with a Green Bay Packers blanket. This makes a real struggle for me with a sport whose politics around kneeling for anthems and the culture of sexual harassment has created more difficulty, as I am reminded that football is one of things that gives me a bridge to where I come from and to whom I belong.

I was home. Home is where you find your people.

That is what we seek to build here at Royal Oak First. A sense of place. A people to whom we can belong. A soundtrack that can carry us down life’s winding roads.

Welcome home. We are glad you are here!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Jeff's Signature

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