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January 26, 2013

Pondering the Oregon Trail pioneers to tackle life’s biggest questions

by Dave Malnes

Tucked among the hills off I-84 freeway close to the border of Oregon and Idaho, you can see white posts sticking out of the ground. These posts mark the Oregon Trail as pioneers rode their wagon trains west toward Baker City. You can still see the ruts left from the wagon wheels plus a striking shade of green from the massive amounts of fertilize laid down on its path.

It takes three and a half hours to drive from Boise to Baker City, Oregon — a distance that would take a week of pain-staking toil for ox-driven wagons. From the comfort of my driver’s seat, I pondered the pioneer life and all the difficulties they must have faced.

When you look at old pioneer photographs of families who not only successfully crossed on covered wagons, but forged a life in log-cabin or sod homes. In most every picture, you rarely see a pioneer family smiling.

Perhaps it was the culture of the day to not smile. Perhaps it may have been considered unlucky to look happy in the 19th century. When looking at those pictures of stern, hardened faces, it’s hard to get a good read.

Life of a pioneer was difficult. Hard work was necessary for their survival. Life was busy from sunup to sundown and they dare not stop to feel. Thousands of miles away from family, with little to no contact, feelings of sentiment could be overwhelming.

I can’t imagine a lonesome mother tucked away in a cabin miles away from anybody and not being able to talk with her neighbor, friend, or family member. Both husband and wife couldn’t stop and think of happiness because it would interfere with their work. The standards for success was survival. Teamwork was essential. And in that hard work in the midst of a simple life, perhaps they did find freedom and peace that seems so unattainable in today’s stressed out, hyper-busy world.

The pioneers may have been on to something. They pursued opportunity, took a great risk, and were willing to make a great sacrifice to make it happen.

I wonder how I would survive as a pioneer on the Oregon Trail.

Unless placed in a challenging circumstance which requires great strength and courage, none of us can really know. Yet, in many ways, living in the early 21st century may be even more difficult.

We are in a transforming society that is ushering in the age of convenience and information. It’s easy to get sucked into it without giving much thought to the more important questions in life. What is my purpose? What about my eternal life?  Will God judge be worthy enough to be in heaven?  What am I doing right now that answers those big questions.

In this present age with distractions galore, it would be wise to find those answers. There is one source you can trust and those are the words of Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. We can be assured right now that we will be in heaven. Not by what we have done, but by placing our trust on what he has already done for us.

That is something to consider, because the consequences are severe for those who place their trust in their own works instead of the completed work of Christ.

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