An Unforgetable Christmas

An Unforgettable Christmas

1952 was a banner year for me. In June I graduated from Milwaukee Vocational and Adult High School. My mentor, Wimpy Mertz, offered me a job as his farmhand at my graduation party. The idea of working out home on the farm was actually a dream for me up until that period of my life. I accepted his offer with glee.

While living there, I attended Salem Evangelical and Reformed Church, a small country church located in Wayne, seven miles west of Kewaskum. Most of my relatives who lived in the area were members. That summer a young man who recently graduated from Mission House College Seminary was called to be the pastor of the congregation. Reverend Donald Koehn and his wife Joyce took on the call with great exuberance. The leaders of the congregation, older members, Young People’s group, and the Sunday school children were very pleased with the way they became involved in all of the activities in the church. Rev. Koehn encouraged them to be active in the congregation.

That winter a young family moved into the area. They took up residence in an old farmhouse. Neighbors who were members of our congregation reported to Reverend Koehn that the family was destitute. The father had been informed that the job which he thought he had secured before they moved into the area would not be available for him. The family did not even have the basic items they needed to merely survive. When the congregation heard about their plight it was decided to take up a collection of food and other necessities to give the family.

Reverend Koehn decided for a reason unknown to me that I would make a good Santa Claus. He and Joyce helped me dress for the part, whiskers and all. We delivered the items to the family, consisting of several young children in addition to the father and mother. We also took up a collection of small toys and kid’s items for them. On a freezing cold and snowy night Reverend Koehn and I loaded his car with all of the items we had gathered. We were excited about helping a family who was really in need. We arrived at the house and looked at the snow covered driveway. Will we make it through all that snow? God was watching over us and made sure we reached our destiny.

We loaded up a sack of the food items and trudged through the snow to the door. When the young father answered the door we wished a hearty Santa’s “ho-ho-ho” and a Merry Christmas to him and his family. He was shocked and surprised by our unexpected visit but invited us into the stark, bare house. The children were huddled around the table with their mother, each one of them holding a potato in their hands. The parents were happy and thankful for the food and other items that we brought and they thanked us profusely.

We told them there was more. We returned to the car to get the rest of the items. We placed the toys and other things we had collected just for the children in my bag. When we went back into the house, Rev. Koehn informed them that Santa just might have some special things for each of the children. As we handed them out, their joyful faces are something I’ll never forget.

When we got into the car, we wondered whether we would make it back through the snow filled driveway. We did, and we were glad to be on the road heading back to church. We talked about the possibility that those few potatoes they were holding may have been the only food they had in the house. We were very pleased that we had the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful Christmas surprise for a family who was in desperate need of assistance. I believe the congregation continued to help them to get back on their feet.

I’ve often thought about that wonderful night and wondered how they made it through their misfortune. Rev. Koehn recently informed me that he met them later at church. The father found a job working on an area farm. He was thankful and said that his family was doing very well.

From Proverbs 14 and 28 blessed is he who is kind to the needy……

Whoever is kind to the needy honors God…… He who gives to the poor

will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

Salem Church, at Wayne “Peace”


Just a little country church and it meant so much to me,

established by ancestors who came from Germany.

My grandma, my mother’s mom heard God’s Word from there;

lessons she would not forget, the verses and the prayers.


When “out home” this lovely church was a home to me.

Sitting in those pews, just like sitting at grandmas knees.

As a child those stained glass windows fostered many dreams;

a sunray touching Salem’s glass, was a glimpse of heaven, it seemed.


Instead of listening my mind would fly to that resting place out side;

where bodies lay, survivors pray their souls rest high in the sky.

The tombstones standing row by row mark relatives and friends;

who chose to worship in the church, and a lot out back, in the end.


Wonderful memories trace back to this place;

learning of Jesus’ love and God’s amazing grace.

Law and Gospel were the fare so many years ago.

The very things, still today, each Christian needs to know!


November 26, 2008

D.F. Cooper


John 3:16-17For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (KJV)

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