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Christmas Comes to Home and a Danish Lutheran Church

Decembers in Michigan are anything but pleasant. Heavy clouds with promise of snow are common. One arises in the dark and cold of impending winter and returns from school or work in the same dark bone-chilling dusk. Into such a dreary time comes the promise of Christmas, with the warmth of home, of joy and of lights and love. Mothers have been busy for a month with preparations for this most happy day. The delicious smells of cakes and cookies or favorite meats and sausage await children and fathers alike as they enter the home from outside. Handmade gifts have been sewn or knitted and secreted in favorite hiding places. Final preparations for the big day culminate in the cutting or selection of the evergreen tree soon to be hung with ornaments, some hand-made, in the evenings of mid-December. All is in readiness for the coming, once more, of the blessed Christ child.

In the week before Christmas the elders of our congregation would set a large spruce tree, carefully selected from the forest, in the chancel area of the church. On its very tip would be placed a silver star. Red bows were tied strategically to outer branches and candlesticks firmly attached to other carefully chosen locations, making sure the area immediately above was clear of needles. Fire was an ever-present danger when the candles were lit on Christmas Eve. Each candlestick had a short section of wire and weighted ball on the lower end to assure that the candle would be absolutely upright. Pure white wax candles were then inserted into their sockets. No other decorations were placed on the tree. The altar rail was draped in a garland of evergreen boughs and red bows and on the end of each pew was attached a bit of the same greenery and a red bow.

Our Christmas Eve service began at five in the afternoon. Stores, businesses and shops in Manistee closed at three that day, allowing personnel to prepare for the holy event. Snows came early in Michigan, so the ground normally had its mantle of white by the end of November. Often snowflakes would fall as we trudged through the snow in the half-light of December 24. As we approached the church we could see the multi-colored glow of light escaping through the stained glass windows. It was a welcome and warming sight.

The service was not a long one. Waiting back in each Danish home was the already-prepared Christmas Eve dinner featuring roast goose and rice pudding. We sat quietly in the pews—contemplation of the holy birth was as important as the short sermonette prepared and delivered by the pastor. An opening hymn, the brief liturgy and sermon, a second carol sung and the service neared its close. One highlight remained. The church was darkened and the elders lit the snow-white candles. All attention focused on the tree with its flickering candle light. The organist softly played the introduction to our most beloved Christmas hymn. Then as we sang the familiar words to “Silent Night”, the dying candles, one-by-one, would be snuffed out. When the last one had been extinguished, the church lights would come on, the pastor would extend the blessing and we would quietly file out of church. Once out of church, Christmas greetings would be exchanged. Then each family would depart for home to the festivities awaiting them there.

+ Carl Jens Christian Jorgensen was born in Manistee, Michigan, in 1914. Carl was a member of Saint John's from 1970 until his death earlier this year.

Carl Jorgensen’s Irises

RoxAnn Karkhoff-Schweizer has been tending several of the church’s flower beds for several years. This summer she decided to do something extra special and plant irises developed by member Carl Jorgensen when he was a horticulturalist at Colorado State University.

RoxAnn went to Phil Phelan, a manager at Jordan’s Flowers in Fort Collins. He had worked with Carl and thought he might be able to find bulbs. Last summer (2014), he did! The irises that have been blooming in the brick planter by the north entrance are Carl’s hybrids “Summit Sol,” “Summit Snow” and “Summit Sunrise.”

RoxAnn asked Phil to provide a little background on how he knows Carl and where he found the irises. Here's what Phil shared:

I first met Carl in 1988 as he was tending his Iris gardens which were located just SouthWest of the Hilton on Prospect. For many wonderful years I assisted him in caring and breeding his irises, poppies and daylilies. Visiting the gardens in bloom was a yearly ritual for locals and garden clubs who knew about it and Carl always enjoyed showing it off.

For years Carl had placed many of his iris varieties at Longs Gardens in Boulder, which has a large collection of irises to sell. I contacted them and they provided a few of the remaining varieties that they had.

As you know, Carl is a retired CSU Horticulture Professor and had extensive knowledge spanning fruits, greenhouses and trees both locally and globally. Carl was instrumental in developing the city of Fort Collins’ Forestry Department and has his hand in many of the older tree plantings around town.

Carl is also an outstanding watercolor artist capturing many flowers and landscapes from his travels around the world. We developed a friendship that lasts to this day and I count myself lucky to have gotten to know him and appreciate his many talents and contributions! Phil Phelan

Thanks to Phil for finding these flowers for us to enjoy and to RoxAnn for the idea and follow-up!

RoxAnn Karkhoff-Schweizer has been Saint John's gardener for the last few years. She generously volunteers her time to tend many of the flower beds around the church and the the interior plants (those that aren't artificial, of course).

Seeking Newsletter Covers

You may have noticed that the beautiful cover of this month's Eagle is a photo by member Les Smith. Les has been taking photos for Saint John's for several years, now, and we thought it was about time we featured one of his pieces here!

In fact, we'd love to showcase the work of all of Saint John's hobbyist photographers on newsletter covers. If you have an image (or images) that you think would fit well for a particular month, please send it to Tom for potential inclusion in that month's newsletter, or a future edition. The photo needs to be high resolution (or a large print image that we can scan) and be something that was shot or can be cropped to the upright (tall and narrow rather than short and wide) format of the front cover.

Think along the following month themes when looking through your photography collection:

  • January: New Year
  • February: Love
  • March: Lent
  • April: Easter
  • May: Pentecost
  • June: Missions
  • July: Independence Day
  • August: Summer
  • September: Christian Education
  • October: Reformation
  • November: Thanksgiving
  • December: Christmas

Get out that camera and start shooting! We're looking forward to seeing more stunning works from our members. If you have any questions, please contact Tom in the church office!

Tom Miles is the Parish Administrator at Saint John’s. You can reach him at the church office Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to Noon and 1:00 to 4:00 pm, at 482-5316 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Carl Jorgensen, Longtime Resident and City’s First Arborist, Turns 99”

Reprinted (with permission) from the January 27 Fort Collins Coloradoan

If you ask Carl Jorgensen what year he moved his family to Fort Collins, his answer will be quick—and right. Want to know about his time as a professor of horticulture at CSU? Oh, he hasn’t forgotten a thing. What about the homes he raised his family in? He can give you the exact addresses. Sitting in his apartment’s living room on the eve of his January 17 birthday, it was hard to believe Jorgensen was just one day away from turning 99.

Jorgenson was the city’s first arborist, and he was key to introducing irises to the community through a number of gardens. Jim Klett, a current horticulture professor who started at CSU the year after Jorgensen retired in 1979, said Jorgensen is known to have been instrumental in the planting of trees along College Avenue and also was active in the International Society of Arboriculture.

His second legacy to the Fort Collins community was in the form of irises. After developing an interest in irises around 1963, Jorgensen started hybridizing them and ended up introducing about forty varieties, some of which he named for his daughters and granddaughters. The university’s iris gardens, where most of Jorgensen’s breeds were planted, have either been wiped out by floods or just discontinued, though some can still be found in the Denver Botanic Gardens or CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden.

When asked about hobbies or his active lifestyle at The Winslow, the independent living community he’s been at since 2005, Jorgensen responded with humor. “I don’t have much of a hobby now,” he said, laughing. “My hobby’s getting up in the morning and realizing I’m still alive.” He added, “I don’t get around much anymore.” “Oh, yeah, you do,” his son Sonny, who was sitting opposite him, playfully interjected. “He goes to bible study every Wednesday and teaches bible study here [at the Winslow] every Thursday.”

And even though he doesn’t get to enjoy many of the things he used to—fishing, cluding his 66 years in Fort Collins, has been characterized by his constant activity and commitment to his family, job, church and city.

Jorgensen grew up in Michigan, where he met his wife, Margaret, at a dance in 1935. After graduating from Michigan State University and teaching horticulture for a few years in high schools, Jorgensen received his first college job offer from Colorado State University. In 1947, he moved his wife and children to Fort Collins. “We actually found his first offer letter for his first contractual year at CSU,” Sonny said. “His year’s salary was $3,100.” “$3,400,” Carl corrected. From 1947 to 1967, Jorgensen worked as a professor of horticulture before taking a two-year assignment in Colombia, where he worked on an agricultural mission for the University of Nebraska.

Coming back to CSU in 1969, he taught for another decade while also raising seven children with Margaret and freelancing for Fort Collins as the city’s first arborist. “While I was city arborist, we planted 2,000 trees in Fort Collins,” Jorgensen said. “We had a plant unit development program, which means you can’t build without being within a certain code and so we managed to keep all the residential areas residential and all the commercial areas commercial.”

After retiring, Klett said Carl and Margaret could still be found attending annual horticulture department events. They also regularly cheered on the rams at CSU football games until Margaret’s death in 2007. Sonny said his father still had season tickets until last year.

Now, Jorgensen dedicates most of his free time to his family, which includes seventeen grandchildren and 26 greatgrandchildren. Looking at a note pad with lines and lines of names and birthdays, he can tell you how old each one is. The oldest great grandchild is grown and out of college. The youngest just got baptized at Saint John’s Lutheran Church, where Carl has been a member since 1947.

After the baptism, Jorgensen said he and his family—a total of 39 people who traveled from across the county to celebrate his birthday—were planning a big lunch outing. “I feel good about it (turning 99) and I’ll tell you why,” Jorgensen said. “I’ll have all of my children and their spouses here and some of my grandkids and great-grandkids.”

“My family is my first love,” he added. “That’s my hobby: my family.”

Get to know your family at Saint John’s! Each month we interview another of our long-time members to find out about their life, their Christian journey and their history at Saint John’s Lutheran.

Pat Hu asks, “Why Me, Lord?”

Pat Hu (Hu Pei Chwen) was born into a subsistence farmer family, in the year of the Dragon, 1916, in rural China. His family suffered through droughts and floods, and travelled 400 miles on foot to find a way to survive. Pei Chwen experienced homelessness and poverty, even begging for food. He took responsibility for himself and his younger brother while he was still just a child. American medical missionaries rescued him by giving him an opportunity to work. He became educated, served as an interpreter for the American OSS in World War II, and was given the opportunity to come to the USA, where he soon became a refugee. he had many low times, but God led him through all of his hardships, giving him wonderful opportunities to become educated and to use that education to serve others.

Patrick Pei Chwen Hu repeatedly asked, “Why me, Lord?” not as often to ask why did he suffer, but why did he survive? He came to understand that his life was preserved so he could dedicate it back in the Lord’s service.

The following is excerpted from Pat Hu’s autobiography, “Why Me, Lord? A Journey of Life,” which was pieced together from Pat’s writings over the years and from his telling of various events to his children, Lou Anne, Mark and Larry.

“Why Me, Lord?” 1
by Pat Hu

One Sunday in the morning about 9:00 AM, my younger brother and I carried a basket with a rice bowl in it and left home to beg. At that time, we lived on the south side of the famous American missionary hospital at Yijishan. It was operated by the American Methodist Mission. We heard a lot of good things that the Americans had done for the poor Chinese people. I thought if we were lucky, we might be able to meet some Americans that morning. I hoped they were as kind as I had heard, and willing to listen to two Chinese boys’ story. Certainly after they heard our true stories, they would do something to help us.

We were walking near the front entrance of the hospital and suddenly I saw an elderly American lady standing outside the front entrance of the hospital waving her right hand at us. With a smiling face she walked toward us and said Chinese words: “Lai lai lai, xiao hai ze men, qing ni men dao wo jiali lai. Wo yao jiang gushr gei nimen ting.” In English, this meant, “Come, come, come, little children. come to my home, I will tell you stories.” We were so surprised that an old American woman wanted to invite us to her home and tell us stories. But we were very happy to be invited. So without hesitation we followed her and entered her home.

I was surprised to see there were quite a number of children already sitting there waiting for the American lady to tell them the story. After we found some seats and sat down, the American lady started to talk to us. First, she told us her name was Kuo Jiau Shr (In English: Missionary Kuo). After she told us what to call her, she asked all the children to tell their names, one-by-one, to the group. She said she wanted us all to learn each other’s names. She wanted us to know each other, and to become friends from that time on. She expected all of us to come back to her home again because the story she was going to tell us was a very, very long story. It would take many weeks, maybe many months or even years to tell the story.

She asked all of us in the group to close our eyes and bow our heads and she said a prayer. After the prayer, she started to tell us the story as she promised. After the story-telling was done, she taught us to sing a song. She put up a board with four legs that supported the board. On that board was the song written in Chinese. The title of the song was: “YeSu Ai Wo”—”Jesus Loves Me.” Missionary Kuo spoke very good Chinese. She taught us the whole song in Chinese without any difficulty.

I didn’t know if other children in the group understood the meaning of the song or not. Honestly, my brother and I couldn’t understand anything about that song. It was the first time we heard the song “Jesus Loves Me.” We still didn’t understand the song even though she had given us an explanation during story time. She explained Jesus was the Son of God and Jesus came down from heaven to earth. She told us Jesus loves us even though we people on earth are sinners and need Jesus to help us clean our sinful behavior in order to enter heaven after death. We honestly didn’t understand any of the things the missionary lady told us.

While she was talking, my empty stomach was hurting. The whole time she was talking I kept looking at her hoping she would stop talking and give us something to eat. I guess none of the other children were from poor homes like me. They had food in their stomach so none of them had the miserable feeling I had at that time.

Finally, the children of the group all were treated to a cup of hot tea and some home baked sweet cookies. That was my first time tasting such good cookies. They were especially good because I was so hungry. My brother and I didn’t have anything to eat at home that morning. My brother and I were on a mission to get some food. But Missionary Kuo’s mission was to tell the children the good story of “Jesus loves me.”

That was the first time I heard the name “Jesus.” I wondered, how could Jesus love me? I never met him before. I didn’t know him, how could he love poor Chinese boys like my brother and me? After all the questions and answers, she changed subjects to ask me about my family. Who were my parents? What did my parents do to make a living? I told her my mom had died recently and my dad had a broken back from the accident at work, but because we were poor we had no money to take him to a doctor for treatment. He was enduring all the pain just laying there suffering. My dad could not do anything to earn money to buy food for the family. Because we had no food we were so hungry, and our stomachs hurt. That was the reason my brother and I were outside begging for food each day. After I talked to this point, I felt so hurt inside. I cried aloud, as did my brother. The American missionary also cried. She put her arms around the shoulders of my brother and me. The Missionary stood in the middle, my brother and I stood on each side. That was the first time I experienced human love like that. I never experienced that at home. After all the talking and crying, the Missionary asked me what I wanted to do after this. I told her I wanted to find work and earn money to feed my family. The Missionary was somewhat surprised about my answer. She asked me, “What can you do as a little boy?” I said to her, “I can clean the floor and clean the kitchen and things like that.” She took me seriously and told me, “Be sure to come here next Sunday morning, at the same time. I may have an answer for you.” My brother and I went home happily. Until now, I didn’t know anything about the love of Jesus Christ, but I prayed to Jesus to help me find some work to do.

  1. There is a copy of Pat’s autobiography in the church library (Room 301). You may also purchase a copy from the family. The soft-cover, wire-bound book, full of fantastic details and color photos, is $20. Contact the church office for details.

Get to know your family at Saint John’s! Each month we interview another of our long-time members to find out about their life, their Christian journey and their history at Saint John’s Lutheran.