Church Mouse: Swedish cemetery at Vasa, Minnesota

This little Swedish cemetery is across Highway 19 from the Vasa townsite, established in 1860. Kate Josephson / Contributor

The first time I heard about the book “Three Cups of Tea” was at a church in a college town. There were slides involved. As I recall, the author, who was rescued by locals in Afghanistan after losing his way in the terrain, was a big guy, standing tall in a picture with others. It all seemed fascinating and very important — very personal and very global at the same time.

The title was based on an expression about first being a stranger, then a guest, then a family member as you spend more time over tea.

The first time I heard much about Afghanistan was at a restaurant called the Khyber Pass where I went with some other college students before we headed to Oklahoma to participate in a Model United Nations. (I don’t recall any tea.) Our delegation would be representing the Soviet Union; they’d just invaded Afghanistan.

I admit I was mostly interested because the invitation that showed up in my little campus mailbox had my name spelled right and we’d be heading away from winter. Lucky for me, the “puppets” could ably discuss policy and I could act characteristically aloof in the sessions.

Two main people of our little group who were both well informed would occasionally spar verbally, but ended up getting married, and one if not both of them became pastors. (She could drive a stick shift and borrowed my little car to go out for the fancy dinner where they got engaged.)

One of my aunts collected tea cups. I sent her a postcard from Oklahoma. She probably displayed it tucked under the edge of the plastic electrical outlet cover used for the toaster — with its doll-like cover, a big gingham skirt fully spanning the small shiny metal appliance, which sat on the little Formica kitchen table.

This would’ve been about the time a couple little boys with dark straight hair did homework there — refugees taken in among local churches. I recall my aunt saying, “I’m real proud of that family.”

I was proud of my sister-in-law years later when she gave their tearful mom a one-armed hug around the shoulders at my aunt’s funeral — pulling her into the family procession.

Kate Josephson worked as a church secretary in Red Wing. She seeks out religious experiences wherever she goes.

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