July 3rd……….“WHEN YOUR DAD WAS YOUNG, WHAT WAS IT LIKE GOING TO CHURCH ON SUNDAYS FOR YOUR FATHER, RUSSELL, AND FAMILY”?
Being a family of the Christian faith, it was a wonderfully natural, extra blessing that most of the progeny of Edwin and Marie (Tollefson) Noorlun were born into the world near the small hamlet of Faith, Minnesota.
There, amongst the White Birch forests of the North Star State came the third-born child of this full-blood Norwegian couple. Russell Conrad Noorlun took his first breath of life’s fresh air inside the farm home of his parents on September 1st, 1918. Three more handsome boys and two more gorgeous Norwegian princess sisters came after Russ’ birth. Sadly, two little Noorlun babies were either still-born or died shortly after birth. In all though, God was praised for a total of eight robust, living young legacies which made up this Scandinavian family unit.
Family (pronounced: fam-EEL-ya in Norwegian) meant more than just your immediate clan that lived within your own farm house walls. It was the Christian spirit of all your neighboring farmers around you who came together to help out, celebrate seasons of life and expressed deep appreciation when your reciprocal love was shown back to them.
When God’s appointed time came for Marie to need help in this most recent birth, a fine, fellow Norwegian neighbor lady by the last name of Slette (usually pronounced: SLET-tee) was destined to show grace and kindness to assist Marie in the birth of her son, Russell. Ever the family humorist, Russell’s mother, Marie, would later tease little Russ by saying that he wasn’t actually born but was “laid on a rock by a crow”!!!! 😉
Russell’s father, Edwin, was the first generation of their family from Norway to be born in America. Therefore, it was the normal paradigm of existence for the Norwegian language to still be a vital part of everyday life in this farming household. Many a meal began with the Norwegian table prayer that went like this [wording may be different in some versions depending on the source]: “In Jesus’ name we go to the table”, (Norwegian = I Jesu navn gar vi til bords”,) “To eat and drink in Thy Word”; (Norwegian = A spise og drikke paa dit ord;“) “To God the honor, To us the gain,” (Norwegian = “Deg, Gud til aere, oss till gavn”) “So we receive this food in Jesus’ name” (Norwegian = “Sa far vi mat, I Jesu navn.”).
Regarding their Norwegian heritage, our father, and all of his siblings, were literally bi-lingual in English and Norwegian during their growing up years. Russell could easily be speaking to his father, at the Dining Room table, in Norwegian, then spin on his heels and report in clear English to his mother in the Kitchen how his day in school went.
Since there were so many first generation Norwegians in those surrounding Minnesota counties, it was a given that most of them greatly preferred to hear their native tongue of Norwegian spoken during Sunday morning worship at their local Norwegian Lutheran Church. That may have been all fine and good for the old-timers, but, what happened next laid a burden on the youngsters of Russ’ peers of what was now the second generation of Norwegians there in northern Minnesota.
With the snap of his suspenders over his white Sunday shirt and tie, Russ and his brothers were herded out to the corner of their farm home for a photograph before going to church that day. The Noorlun’s camera didn’t lie as it revealed the evident sad scowls and frowns upon those boy’s faces on that Lord’s Day. It was because they knew, from past experiences, that they would shortly have to suffer and sit through not just one worship service, but TWO worship hours plus Sunday School.
Pastor A. O. B. Molldrem prepared only one sermon for his Norwegian Lutheran congregation each week there in Twin Valley, Minnesota. Yet, the twist was this, for the older Norwegian farmers (who likely came from Norway in their youth), the first sermon was delivered in the ancestral tongue of Norwegian. Upon conclusion of singing the last worship hymn of that service, Pastor Molldrem then began a second worship hour that was now in English for the younger generation that sat before him in those hard, wooden pews.
Without a doubt, Russ and his entire family loved our Lord Jesus!! And, they knew that it was wonderful for them to fulfill the Scripture in the New Testament book of Hebrews Chapter 10 and verse 25 that says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”. It’s just that when you’re young and bursting with energy, it was very trying for these young boys to sit still for hours to hear all the “thee’s and thou’s” of the stoic pastor in that elevated pulpit who had the responsibility of sharing God’s Word with them each week.
Eventually, on August 28th of 1932, after all those sourpuss faces in church, and at the age of almost 14 years, Russell had learned enough patience and Biblical training to have the honor of receiving his Certificate of Confirmation from his pastor who was the spiritual leader of the father of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.