My Family’s Story
Updated: May 4
... tell the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD,
and his might and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers to teach their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.
My Grandpa (Dad’s dad) grew up on a farm in North Dakota. Though he moved to Michigan after getting married, he continued to farm the land from afar, traveling to plant and harvest. Growing up, my dad spent long stretches of time working and playing on the farm.
We had the opportunity to travel to North Dakota this week to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa in the place where it all began. I haven’t been up there since 2000, and it’s always so special to get to go. We walked through enormous crop fields, ready for planting. We worked on irrigation towers and tractors. We walked through the house that Grandpa grew up in, even though the house belongs to someone else now. We saw the place where the house Grandpa was born in used to stand, just a mile or so from the farmhouse.
We heard stories of the Jacob Leppke family moving from Kansas to North Dakota for the promise of enough land to provide an inheritance to each of the sons. They moved into an existing farmhouse and began to work the land. Two years later, Jacob Leppke died unexpectedly, leaving his sons to continue farming. One of those sons was my great-grandfather Albert. During that time, the one-room schoolhouse down the road got a new teacher. She boarded at the Leppke farm while she taught. Her name was Emma and she fell in love with Albert. The two of them eventually married and inherited the farmhouse and about 1,000 acres of the land. Together, they raised my Grandpa.
The farm grew wheat, soybeans, and sunflowers. But what was most memorable during that season of life were the chickens. 6,000 chickens in the barn next to the house laid 5,000 eggs a day. Albert and Emma supplied the county with eggs! Great-Grandma Emma also had a standing order from the bakery in town for a five-gallon bucket of cracked eggs every morning. My dad remembers watching her crack four eggs at a time, without even one speck of shell in the bucket. Once the hens reached a certain age, they sold them to Campbell’s Soup Company to make chicken noodle soup.
Grandpa designed the conveyor system that collected the eggs each day and designed the flow of the barn. The eggs passed through different stations to be washed, inspected, and counted. It was a family affair! There was even a tunnel from the house to the chicken barn so that the chores could be done even in the middle of a North Dakota winter.
We walked through barns full of old machines and cars. We saw the crop sprayer that Grandpa built out of the Model A that he used to drive to high school. The school he went to had a horse barn instead of a parking lot, since that’s what most of his friends took to school.
The beautiful, vast, windy plains of the Dakotas are so unique. There are strips of trees here and there between the fields, which were given to the farmers by the government after the Dust Bowl to block wind and anchor the soil. We went up onto what Grandpa jokingly calls the “mountains”, which is really just a higher point on the road. But, from there we could see the whole (almost) 1,000 acre plot that Grandpa owns... he jokes that he needs to buy another 40 acres to make it a round 1,000!
Grandpa has been so intentional to make sure that certain things pass down through the generations. Things like a good work ethic, problem solving skills, practical mechanical knowledge... but what matters to Grandpa the most is faith in Jesus Christ and relationships.
Grandma and Grandpa both set an example of following Christ for their children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. I don’t remember a Leppke family get-together that didn’t end with us all sitting in a circle and sharing what God is doing in our lives, followed by praying for each other.
My dad is so much like Grandpa, and I’m so thankful for the calm, consistent, and godly men in my life. And now, of course, my kids and I can add Jack to that list of men!
We all have a story, and none of our stories are complete yet. As I compile the stories from my grandparents, I’m well aware that my story is being written right now. What legacy will I leave behind? How does that affect the decisions I make? What can I be doing today to make sure that in the end, Christ is Who is remembered?
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.