Sunday, July 22, 2012

Haigler's Methodist Church Has Open Door Policy

Haigler Blog Editor's Note: This article  appeared in the Summer 2012 Nebraska United Methodist Messenger ( and is used with permission from Karen Harford the editor.  Karen interviewed George Peterson, Carole Coates and Laura Pearl Wall, who shared the historical background and stories for this article.

HAIGLER, Nebraska -- Circuit riders went to country schools on a monthly basis to provide the message of God and the love Jesus to framers and ranchers and their families. Schools and homes were always open then -- why change? We must remember the Bible verses in Matthew 7:7-8 where Jesus said, "knock and door shall open, seek and you shall find." What better place to find a place of comfort, a place of rest, or a place of community than a church?

The year was 1888 and the town of Haigler, Neb., had a Methodist Church. Doors were open and the community was welcome. Our doors were open then and have remained that way -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone from any walk of life, from anywhere in the world. Strangers and friends may stop to use the restroom, cook a meal or spend the night. Often times friends just want to meet and it's too chilly or windy (yes, we live in Nebraska) to be in the park.  The church is always open.

Often times the owner of the local grocery store, LaVonne Jeager, or the owner of Jake's Place, Craig Kamla, will give the president of the Haigler UMC board, George Peterson, a call and tell him that someone needs a place to stay for the night. Most of those seeking shelter are men who are "down on their luck" or destitute. Many have family problems and have no money for a motel. George's wife, Carol, will usually cook up some soup or hamburgers and George will take the meal back to the church to feed them.

On one occasion, a man came to the church seeking shelter. George didn't think he looked like he was in good shape, so he stopped by the next morning to check on him.
"He still wasn't looking very good, so I loaded him in my pickup and took him to the hospital," George said.  The hospital needed $35 in order to see him, so George paid it.

One of the most interesting over-nighters was a 77-year-old gentleman from France who spoke very little English. He wa traveling across the United States on a bicycle. His wife had passed away six months earlier; they had always talked about driving across the U.S. This gentleman did not have enough money to drive, but he could afford to bike and was doing just that, in memory of his wife, and to help fulfill their dream. He had come all the way from France to pedal his way across America, with his 30-pound pack on his back, which held a tent and his clothing.

There was a family of five that stayed at the church for several days. They were traveling in a tiny pickup with a baby and sleeping bags and were on their way to Missouri to seek family and jobs.
Because of our open door policy, we are also a designated storm shelter for the village of Haigler.

Did the congregation ever consider locking the doors? Yes. Once a couple of children from the community decided to come in to the sanctuary and light the candles with matches. The candles were melted away and several matches had been lit. No real damage had been done, but there could have been serious damage. The church board held a meeting. The congregation was split as to whether the doors should remain open or locked. Most of the "old timers" felt that the doors should be left open and stressed strong opinions on the subject. The "old timers" won and the doors are still open.

The Christian message is not without sacrifice. The sacrifice of the risk of vandalism is small compared to the sacrifices that Jesus made on the cross.

By leaving the doors open, people can visit with God in a church. They might lose their courage if they had to ask. Open doors give them a chance to talk or be with God. We've had bicyclists, cowboys, and wanderers just stop by to pray. The church is not just a building or something that only takes place one day a week. We are all children of God -- we are the church with our open door policy.


  1. Really enjoyed this posting. I wonder if you have a list of the pastors for the church and where their lives led them after pastoring at Haigler (and also Parks). Rev. Taplin, Rev. Birdsey, Rev. Ropp are names I recall for when I was growing up in Parks. Hope someone will reply to this comment. Thanks.

  2. Please leave contact information so we can reply to your question.

    Sherri Gregory
    The Editor


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