I visited on of my heroes last Thursday. I had heard that Ken Peterson, from NE Minnesota, was being moved to hospice care, so I decided to make a pastoral call.
If you don’t know Ken, let me tell you a few things. He has been working for social justice since the mid-60’s. He once said that he felt the tug of the Spirit when he took a bus ride through the south and heard a young Black man talk about freedom and dreams. I will always think of Ken as a red (flannel shirt) liberal. Who would think you would find one in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Ken loves Jesus, the Bible, and the church, probably in that order. He has farmed his entire life on land that his grandfather homesteaded and that has never been tainted by human concocted chemicals. He is loved by his family, friends and nearly anyone who has ever met him. He is the salt of the earth.
Ken told me the best time he had working to end hunger was in the 1980’s touring Minnesota, city by city, in nearly revival style. His small group told the stories and encouraged stodgy Minnesotans to remember Jesus’ call to care for the poor. In that trip they met over 800 people who committed to helping the cause.
I spent about an hour with Ken laughing (he has not lost his humor), crying, telling stories and, for me, gaining more wisdom. I asked him what advice he might have for the rest of us, especially for someone who might be just entering justice oriented ministry. He thought for a moment and then said, “work for peace”. He went on to say that unless we can achieve peace we will never be able to fully conquer hunger. With his signature smile he said, “you know the peace I mean, the peace that passes all understanding!” I sense he was talking about peace within the minister (lay or ordained) as well as in the world.
He complained that his eyes keep watering alot, as where mine, and we prayed. I wish I had been able to spend more time with this hero of mine, both last week and through life. I cherish what I was given. I am now thinking that I need to find other heroes and be intentional in sitting in their presence. Keep Ken and his family in your prayers.