John Andrist: Finding God In Western North Dakota

It was only 5:30 when I awoke for the day Friday Morning. But that was Mountain Time, and my internal clock was probably still on Central Time.

I was in Medora, ready to attend a foundation board meeting and an annual gathering called Roughrider Roundup.

A day in Medora simply has to begin with a morning walk, and it was a perfect, sunny western North Dakota day.

At 5:30 Medora is still a pretty sleepy little place, even in the busy tourist season. A stroll around town revealed only two other moving folks — a man sweeping streets and a woman watering potted flower plants.

Inevitably I was drawn to Elaine’s Wind Garden, where I rested on my favorite bench, from where seven of those mesmerizing wind sculptures were framed by that majestic bluff which is Medora’s hallmark.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]…one of the reasons I long to return again and again to the beauty of western North Dakota is that at least for the few short hours I am in these Badlands I am without doubt that there most certainly is a God and I am in his presence.[/mks_pullquote]

The sculptures seemed to be struggling for enough early morning breath of air to propel their loveliness.

Forgive the small tear. This is my own personal cemetery.

In the next 48-hours it would be repetition of the so oft repeated pilgrimage that keeps bringing so many of us back, time and again, year after year.

The warmth, the beauty, the high energy musical in that incredible outdoor theatre, and the inspiration of an outdoor Sunday morning worship service with the sunny backdrop of those same gorgeous bluffs which make the North Dakota Badlands such a special tabernacle for those of us lucky enough to spend our lives here in the west.

I’ve been what you would call churched for my entire life. And yet honesty would compel me to admit I’ve never been able to boast that I have possessed that kind of certainty many of you may have enjoyed.

My life has been filled with more than my share of anxiety, doubts, and fears. I’ve longed for the kind of experience Paul had when he experienced that sudden conversion on the road to Damascus which instantly wiped away his doubts and fears forever.

I call my own personal theology as a journey of hope more than one of unflagging confidence.

But it occurred to me as I sat in this majestic cathedral that one of the reasons I long to return again and again to the beauty of western North Dakota is that at least for the few short hours I am in these Badlands I am without doubt that there most certainly is a God and I am in his presence.

As the words of a most popular hymn declare, “Surely the Lord is present in this place”!

So what is a Roughrider?

It was an idea given birth a few short years ago with 100 some Medora devotees who coughed up $250 each for a one year membership in what was to be the Roughrider Club.

The best thing you get in return is the opportunity to spend this one early summer weekend together with other like devotees from all over the state — a few even from other states.

Today there are more than 900 members, and more than a third of them participate in this event called Roughrider Weekend. Call it a brotherhood, or a sisterhood, or a personhood.

Whatever you call it, it is unmatched food, fellowship, and fun, packed into a weekend that is more of an experience than an event.

Medora and it’s Teddy Roosevelt environs is now firing on all cylinders. This summer it’s famed outdoor musical is celebrating its 50th year.

Most important, there is a special spirit moving through this place. Come see for yourself.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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