The hardships of others has brought Pastor Norm Omodt (retired) of Chatfield, Minn., to many places around the world where he and others have helped to change people’s lives. These mission trips have also changed Omodt’s life.
While he and his wife Anita were farming near Spring Grove, Minn., Omodt was called by the Holy Spirit to serve as a missionary.
Omodt shares with us pieces of the story of one of his missionary experiences which took place in the Andes Mountains beginning in the 1960s.
Omodt explains he and Anita served as missionaries in the “beautiful rugged mountains” in that part of Columbia.
“Arriving in our remote village of Socota, Colombia, I observed that life was much like in the Old Testament about 3,000 years ago: farming with oxen, the hoe, pounding out the grain on a threshing floor, leading the flocks of sheep, all MUD HOUSES, no electricity, no telephone service, no doctors for hours away,” states Omodt, adding, “and most important to me, no hearing of the Good News Gospel for the vast majority” of the people.
“We rented one of the few brick houses at the entrance to the village, and all too often we observed a father carrying a small cardboard box past our home down to the nearby cemetery. We knew what was in the box. I had gained some medical knowledge, plus common sense, so whenever I came upon an infant who was suffering from unclean food or water, filling up with parasites, and bacteria, it would cause vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, and of course would die,” states Omodt.
“There were 16,000 people on the vast mountainsides, where all my ministry was on horseback on the many trails,” states Omodt, saying, “I carried medicine in my saddlebags to save them” from sickness whenever possible. He also carried copies of the New Testament to give to those who could read.
There was more to fear than sickness alone, as the missionaries soon found out. “When we first arrived, we were the first Protestants to live in the village, and the priest saw to it that we were not well received,” notes Omodt, explaining that at the time they were “just coming out of the Persecution of Protestants in the 1940s and 50s,” so it was a tense situation when the Omodts arrived.
“Padre Nunez got on his battery-operated speaker to the village of less than a thousand, saying they must keep away from Protestants who teach the Bible,” telling listeners that “if some would cause us harm, it is no sin,” states Omodt.
The Omodts experienced some violence and vandalism as “someone cut the tires on our mission jeep, broke the mirrors, damaged the canvas top, and a few threw rocks at Anita,” states Omodts, but adds, “we knew they didn’t want to actually hit her, just obeying the priest” and his suggestions.
The priest “threatened to bomb our home with dynamite, but could get no takers, though he did bomb our chapel in one part of the mountains,” states Omodt, and the “Lutherans rebuilt it,” he says.
The threat of violence was everywhere as, “One time someone threatened to shoot me as I rode in the mountains,” states Omodt, and after two weeks of deliberation he decided, “I was not turning my back on Christ’s mission, even if it cost me my life,” he says.
“After that I had even more courage to preach in risky places,” states Omodt.
Omodt would preach in their home on Sunday morning and then, “I’d mount my marvelous horse in the afternoon, for a two-and-a-half hour ride on the rugged trail for service in the largest chapel, then go from home to home with ministry until returning home Tuesday or Wednesday in the evening,” explains Omodt.
Omodt would venture to different parts of the mountains to preach, with four preaching places total.
“The longest ride was 11 hours on horseback one way, up over the mountain, across the tundra, then down the other side through the jungle and across the river,” states Omodt. And once he reached the river he hoped it would not be too deep for his horse to cross.
After arriving to this remote place in the mountain he would stay for five days “giving medical care in the daytime and preaching at night in someone’s mud house,” he states. Omodt notes that “no one knew what I was reading from,” as most had never heard of the Bible, but nonetheless they were “very interested in hearing the Gospel, and some believed,” says Omodt.
Omodt learned to shoe his own horse by watching another person do it and he says, “My good horse saved my life twice and I saved his life once” while performing missionary work in Columbia.
“The one time was when we were coming down from high in the mountains and a great rain storm came suddenly sweeping down from the paramo, so neither my horse nor I could see anything. And it became dark. So, knowing the wise thing to do, I loosened the reins and let the horse choose any of the many trails,” says Omodt. “Suddenly, I heard the roaring of rushing water, and we were sliding down a steep bank, then a big jolt that almost put me out of the saddle,” he says.
After staying the night with a man he knew named Pablo Fernandez, Omodt soon learned how his horse had saved him. “The next day, before heading further down the mountain towards home, I had to retrace the night before, and then discovered that trail bridge had been washed out, and my marvelous horse sensed it and leaped across the six-foot deep rushing water, where otherwise both of us could have drowned,” says Omodt.
These interesting and enlightening stories are only a small portion of the missionary life that the Omodts have lived. In their world travels they have seen and done a lot while answering their calling to be missionaries.
There are so many stories and memories that Omodt has written a book titled From Log House to Mud Houses. There are approximately 100 short stories and many photographs in the 400-page book. To purchase your copy today phone Omodt at (507) 867-1686.