xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: The Top Ten Things I'll Miss About Cherokee

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Top Ten Things I'll Miss About Cherokee

June 2, 2015

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

It really is hard to believe that after eight years of serving as your pastor, I am now in the last month of my time with you.  My last Sunday will be on June 21, after which I will take vacation days until the end of the month to prepare for moving day on June 30. On June 28, our District Superintendent Tom Carver will be preaching, with your new pastor Cris Decious and his wife Jennifer in attendance.  He will take over on July 1, with his first Sunday on July 5. I know all of us appreciate your continued prayers and care during this important season of transition.

Since my last Mid-Week Message over a month ago, I have had a chance to reflect quite a bit on my time here in Cherokee.  I will continue to wrestle with the words to express how appreciative I am for this town, this church, and for all of you, but I know that much of what I feel is both irrepressible and inexpressible. 

So for now, let me take a stab at it by sharing with you…

“The Top Ten Things I Will Miss About Cherokee”

10. Springtime in Iowa – The long Iowa winters have been bearable only through the promise of a glorious Iowa springtime. The grass becomes a vibrant shade of green, brighter than any I see in Florida. The May rainstorms wash away the salt on the roads and the pollen in the air, as if God was resetting the land like a giant shake of an Etch-a-Sketch.  Add to that sunshine, blue skies, cool breezes, blooming flowers, low humidity, crisp air, sandaled feet, evening fires on the patio, the smell of barbecue, and open windows: springtime in Iowa is what resurrection feels like.

9. Main Street – Comedian Steven Wright once quipped, “Everything is in walking distance if you just have the time.” And whenever I have walked down Main Street in downtown Cherokee, I have felt like I have stepped back in time, when the world was a simpler, safer, and more friendly place. I’ll miss lunch at the Gasthaus, ice cream at the Main Street Pharmacy, endless hours of browsing at the Bookvine, first-run, digital movies at the American Theater, and a game of pool at the Pool & Pub. I’ll miss homecoming parades and Christmas parades, which are about as nostalgic a slice of Americana as I’ve ever experienced.  I’ll miss our annual Pancake Race, teeming with fearless women, curious crowds, and local media. Most of all, I’ll just miss walking down that street and being reminded that time is a precious gift not to be wasted.

8. Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches – I stopped eating them a few years after I arrived, for fear of what they were doing to my waistline.  But my goodness, what’s a Filipino living in Iowa to do, but eat pork? At one point I counted no fewer than five restaurants in town that sold these deep-fried, perfectly seasoned, juicy bites from heaven.  And while I can’t wait to dig back into Tampa’s Cuban sandwiches and grouper sandwiches, I will miss this quintessential taste of Iowa.  Big time. 

7. KCHE and the Cherokee Chronicle – Here’s what I have come to believe about local, small-town media outlets: they are just as vital a part of the fabric of a well-ordered, decent community as any big-time newspaper in a major city. I visited long-time church member Phyllis Miller down in Council Bluffs a few weeks ago, and though she hasn’t lived in Cherokee for the last several years, she still has the Cherokee paper delivered to her every day. And doggone it, she was more informed and more connected to what was happening in this town than I was. I’ll miss doing those weekly 15-minute radio broadcasts on KCHE, and the girls and I will miss seeing our photos in the paper for one reason or another. But I suspect there will be many times down the road that I will catch a listen or read the headlines online.

6. Racquetball – In case you ever worry about this preacher getting too big a head from any accolades or praise he might get, stop worrying. I have gotten a healthy dose of humility every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for the past few years. It’s there that I have played about an hour of racquetball with about eight guys who, despite being nearly twice my age, have twice my skill, double my energy, and about three times my sense of humor. Losing to guys like this (quite consistently) has never been so much fun. And I’m pretty sure I’ve learned a few trash-talking zingers that might come in handy for future opponents in Tampa. 

5. Cherokee Parks and Rec – When we first arrived eight years ago, the Bacon Aquatic Center had just opened, and I could not believe that a town like this had such an elaborate, well-maintained facility that was more like a water park than a pool. And then, over time, Dave Ellis and his team lured my family into participating in rec league soccer (where I had the privilege of coaching both girls to undefeated seasons two years in a row), adult basketball (which did not go as well), and adult volleyball (let’s not talk about it.) Add to that the lovely public parks (including Spring Lake Park, sight of countless Sabbath lunches over my office noon hour) and new walking/biking trails, it’s safe to say that the Parks and Rec department has won this fan for life. 

4. The Local Businesses – I once called a local plumber because my hot water heater started gushing water, and he was there in fifteen minutes. The car I purchased at Cherokee Auto Sales is the best car I’ve ever owned. My car mechanic is efficient, trustworthy, reasonably priced, and always has time for my latest car problem. I purchased a new stove hood from Wilson’s, and it was installed at my house a few hours later. The furniture I purchased from Carey’s is one of the highest quality, least expensive pieces I’ve ever purchased. I’ve never had to wait longer than 20 minutes to see my doctor, and my family has consistently received excellent emergency and surgical care from the Cherokee Regional Medical Center. Time and again, this lovely little town of fewer than 5,000 people has proven to have every service that I’ve needed.  Sure, like the rest of you, I’ve also been to the big box stores that are miles away from town, but I am now a firm believer in these two words:  Shop Local. 

3. The Travel Time – This is not a joke: I can go almost an entire week of errand running with my fuel light blinking empty. There is nothing in town that is more than five minutes away from any one location, which makes it very easy to go grocery shopping, pick up the kids at school, attend a meeting at the church, drop off books at the library, and make a pastoral visit, all in less time than it takes to negotiate bumper-to-bumper interstate traffic in a metropolitan city.

2. Cherokee Community Theater – This one may be the hardest to write. I can’t express what this town’s community theater has meant to me, Grace, and Madelyn. When we first arrived, Grace was given a part in South Pacific as a little Pacific Islander girl (a role for which she did not need to audition : )  Years later, shy and reserved Madelyn got the theater bug by participating in a summer theater camp sponsored by CCT, Jr., and she has been in every kids’ performance and major musical since then. I never dreamed that I would be on stage myself, since my only previous acting stint was a small role in a high school production of The Music Man. But in 2012, there I was, flying across the stage in ghostly white makeup in A Christmas Carol: The Musical, followed by the King of Siam in The King and I (a role for which I did not have to audition : ).  To say that CCT has been a gift to me and my family would be a severe understatement. It has been life-giving. It has been a place of healing. It has forged lifetime friendships with people outside the church. It has set a standard of excellence and quality far exceeding theaters in towns multiple times our size. Thank you, CCT. 

1. The People – When I first left Tampa eight years ago, many people down there told me, “I’m from Iowa. You’ll love the people there.” At the time I thought those words were merely quaint and lovely. But I didn’t know how true it was until living among you. Iowans are true salt-of-the earth people.  You don’t exude pretention, you are earnest in your actions and words, and you are deeply caring about the things that matter most: your family, your kids, your church, and your community. Maybe it has something to do with how implicitly dependent you are on the land for your livelihood, but I am amazed at how grounded, humble, and unassuming Iowans are. You’ve taught me how to keep a level head and a patient hand through the turmoil of life, and you have reinforced the importance of putting family first in everything I do. And most of all, you’ve encouraged my laughter, elicited my humor, and forged connections that are filled with joy. From now on, there is a part of me that will always be able to say, “I’m from Iowa. I love the people there.” 

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955

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