LETTER: Looking back on the Bluegrass hippies
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Seeing the “Jesus Revolution” movie brought back memories of the hippie colony that sprang up about five miles southeast of Bluegrass in the late 1960s.
It consisted of about 25 young people (more on weekends), mostly from the Twin Cities area and mostly on drugs. Rumors were rampant about exactly what was going on there. We locals greeted it with a combination of curiosity and trepidation.
Their preferred form of shelter was a geodesic dome constructed from the cheapest materials available. They purchased their cars from Ray Ward’s junkyard in Wadena. They did not leave much of a carbon footprint. Some of them were dabbling in Eastern religions.
Then the Jesus Revolution that started in California came to Wadena County, and the catalyst was Ruby Rupp, wife of Pastor Arthur Rupp of the Sebeka Pentecostal Church. Mrs. Rupp made regular trips to the colony, uninvited and unwelcome, to preach the gospel. She was told that she might be risking her life. Her response was, “What better way is there to die?”
One by one, they accepted her invitation to become born again. It was my privilege to witness the joy that these people had as new Christians. They had gone from a life of total desperation with no hope for the future, either here or hereafter, to one of deliverance from their addictions, hope for the future and a promise of eternal life. And yes, I have had a long-haired, bearded, guitar-playing “Jesus freak” leading worship in my own living room.
They took their Christian commitment seriously. Many of them went into ministry of one sort or another. One member of the colony was Colin Murphy, son of Minneapolis Star columnist Bob Murphy. Colin met Dee Johnson of Sebeka at the Pentecostal Church. They married and felt called to become Wycliff missionaries. After their training, they moved to a remote mountain village, 7,000 feet above sea level and accessible only by foot or helicopter, in Papua New Guinea.
Unlike Ruby Rupp at the Hippie colony, the Murphys were welcome guests in this village. They and their three children spent the next decade in this remote setting. During that time they learned the language spoken in that area and created an alphabet so that the language could be read as well as spoken. This laid the groundwork for the Wycliffe team to translate the New Testament to that language and have it printed.
It was a joy for me to see these young people turn their lives around and become productive and respected citizens. During my six decades in education I have seen this story play out countless times, and I have learned never to give up on anyone.