Pastor Tim

Devotions from Tri-City ELCA Pastors – Pastor Tim of Holy Trinity, May 22, 2020

How to Quarantine in a Ghost Town

Cerro Gordo by night.

So I read this wonderful article by Matthew Taub on the April 29, 2020 of Atlas Obscura called “How to Quarantine in a Ghost Town.”

The article opened with the following:

On March 18, 2020, Brent Underwood arrived in the California ghost town of Cerro Gordo (Cerro Gordo has been abandoned since 1957) after driving 22 hours from Austin, Texas. The plan was to stay a few days, maybe a week, pinch hitting while the town’s usual caretaker left to visit his wife.

Then came the snow, as if sent from above to enforce social-distancing guidelines.

Today, some six weeks later, Underwood is still in Cerro Gordo—quarantined, snowed-in, and all by his lonesome. Without running water, he’s getting by on melted snow; without fresh food, a dwindling supply of canned goods and frozen chicken tenders; and without company, visits from a local bobcat and, perhaps, the occasional ghost. It’s not exactly what Underwood had in mind when he purchased the town, with a friend, in 2018 for $1.4 million. 

Later Matthew wrote:

Founded in 1865 by Mexican prospector Pablo Flores, Cerro Gordo enjoyed a brief but fruitful run as a silver-mining powerhouse. Indeed, by the end of 1869, tons of silver bullion had been transported from Cerro Gordo to Los Angeles, about 200 miles south… By its peak in the mid-1870s, the once-tiny village’s population had ballooned to nearly 5,000. But the ore bodies gradually “pinched out,” says Roger Vargo, coauthor (with his wife Cecile) of a book about the town, and the price of silver began to fall in 1877… The town was deserted for good in 1957, when its then-owner passed away… In the town’s old general store, Underwood found a briefcase that makes up a miner’s partial biography, stuffed with bank statements from the 1910s, documents from lawsuits, divorce papers, and love letters, among other personal effects.

It’s the kind of find that can only burnish the town’s already notorious reputation for another commodity: ghosts.

Ghosts. Hmmmm. Thursday May 21 was Ascension of Our Lord.

This is the day when Christians remember how Jesus was taken up into heaven 40 days after his Resurrection. It’s one of the stranger bits in the Gospels — both difficult to understand, given our modern cosmology and most of what we know about it actually comes from the Book of Acts. In Acts 1:1-14 we hear Jesus giving some of his final instructions to disciples before he goes to heaven. He tells them that God’s Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) will soon come to them and fill them with power and inspiration, and they will witness and tell others.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus says:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus tells the followers where they will be going to tell others about the “Goodnews.”. First, Jesus tells them to witness where they are. Jerusalem. 

Then they are to witness a little further away from their homes and their comfort zone, but in a place that’s still kind of close, the area known as Judea. After that they will go a little further away from their comfort zone — Samaria. Finally, Jesus tells them far they will go from their home and their comfort zone, and into the whole world!

Isn’t that interesting, that Jesus calls on us to be his witnesses, to tell others about him, but he also tells us to start where it’s easy, in our own comfort zone, where we know everyone and they know us, and then, as we get more comfortable, to take small steps out of our comfort zone until we’re telling the whole world about Jesus. 

As we go out sharing our story of how Christ is alive in our lives we start with baby steps and we are never alone. We go with the power of the “Holy Ghost” or to use a contemporary term the “Holy Spirit.”

Brent states at the close of the article:

Being alone in Cerro Gordo, at this point in time … he says. “It forces you to think about what’s important and what’s not.”

“What’s important and what’s not.” What we are experiencing now is a time for us to reflect on our priorities, visions and goals. As we continue to live in this time, may we continue to be open to the Holy Spirit as we live, reflect and journey.

Cerro Gordo in November, before snow and COVID-19.

Pastor Tim

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