Through my personal story on my roadrunner blog, I described how "godly" gems or valuable items might be mixed into the dumpster trash. I've thought for quite some time about how to describe this in a geographic ["spiritual mapping"] manner and North Platte has been on my mind.
Overall, N.P. has a pretty mixed background that goes back centuries: layers of battle and bloodshed and bossism. Conflicts between the various groups that lived or passed through the area -- Native Americans crisscrossing, conflicting over hunting and territorial demands; N.A.s and Anglos confronting each other as the Westward Movements came through --California, Oregon, Mormon trails; Union Pacific RR construction with the vices attached to that "job" -- gambling, drinking, prostitution, fighting; "bossism"--mobster control-- in the 1930s, the town known as "Little Chicago". And, as in normal life, murders continue.
OH, and an unusual UFO experience in November, 2008.
But thrown into the mix of all of this is what North Platte is most known for in our present time. A Gem. Big Time.
One of the most amazing God-focused activities I've ever heard of occurred in North Platte -- even if they didn't know it was their "God job". I have seen the story on PBS and have heard more about it from others. And read a book and articles. And the Internet. Tried to get a pretty clear focus.
I was sharing this with my ministry partner Gary N. recently and he said the thought he would describe this town's Redemptive Gift [God's plan/infusion when the city was founded] as "unselfish." I agree with that, but also with the thought that there is a true history of "hospitality."
Right after the beginning of our involvement in WWII, the Pearl Harbor attack, the troops were being sent across the country from coast to coast and from station to station and military base to base. Flooding our railroad system. The people in North Platte, in those days a population of approximately 12,000, decided to greet each train that came through town. They began this "ministry" on Christmas, 1941. They stayed on their schedule from 5AM to midnight until the end of the war. A total of approximately 6.5 million service personnel were greeted, fed, given a chance to dance, take a break. Whether it was ten minutes or a couple hours, they were provided with all the food and friendship they could have imagined, including birthday cakes. The North Platte Canteen was a welcome center beyond belief.
One of the aspects I've thought of often is that this was during the war. There was no federal financial input. The people surrounding North Platte were farmers or folks in much smaller towns. Their own finances were limited and their food, gas, and other basics were either controlled by the seasons or were rationed by the government. And, yet, committed to this act, they continued faithfully for those years. Between their input and the contributions by others they received nearly $138,000. Beyond the family budget, I'm not a financially-oriented person, but I have a hunch that it would be equal to some millions today.
The canteen did not close until April 1, 1946. Even though the vast majority of the WWII service personnel have died by now, their stories are still surfacing. They were blessed beyond anything they could imagine at the time.
When we look at a town, a neighborhood, a region, a nation... often we see nothing but what is the result of sin or simply not turning to our Father for His purposes. YET, one of the tasks we have is to dig through history to determine God's plan for that location.
This is a very good example of a community "living for God" and being a blessing to many, many others.