Coon Prairie, the first church built in southwest Wisconsin, was built by industrious and faithful Norwegian immigrants, arriving just as Wisconsin became a state. After their long sea-journey, they crossed the prairie with high hopes of finding land on which to build a home and a new life of plenty. Most of all, they brought their faith in God, and their desire for freedom to worship as they understood God.
One of the first things I see when I walk into that Coon Prairie church in Westby, Wisconsin, is the photograph of my mother on the day she affirmed her Christian baptism and became a member of the church. Entering the library, I find the records telling of her dad, my Grandfather Martin Bakke, who was involved with the church a generation earlier when they built the “new” building. If I look a bit farther, I will find that my Great-Grandfather Knud Olsen Hjelstuen was one of the earliest members, helping to construct the first building of worship. A walk through the cemetery brings me to stones commemorating the lives of generations of ancestors, who laid a strong foundation of faith.
I enter the sanctuary, the place of worship. As I walk past the baptismal font, I touch the water in remembrance of my baptism, when, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I was marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever.