Rural Resilience Requires Community

In the toughest times, we can't go it alone


Lives of faith are full of changes that challenge us and test our resilience. 

I serve as a deacon in the Northwest Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. My call to serve is extended through the synod to run the Knight Pack Program, a weekend food program for students at the school where I teach full-time. 

My call to fight against food insufficiency and my teaching career have been a study in resilience. Time and time again I have had to adjust to change in order to keep serving my students. I believe that my faith feeds my resilience, holding me fast in my call to serve those around me.

I serve in a small, rural town of about 300 people. It is the same community in which I grew up, where I learned how to be resilient. 

My parents farmed and my mom was a teacher. I was a child during the 1980s farm crisis. This was a devastating time for small farmers, but my parents rolled with the punches and were able to keep farming. Their faith and resilience during tough times laid the groundwork for my own faith and resilience.

I learned how to serve from my parents and from our small community. When someone was sick or in need, the community gathered around them, offering support and comfort.

My family has been on the giving and receiving end of this support and comfort. When a neighbor suddenly died before harvest, my parents helped organize a community effort to get his crop in for his grieving widow and sons. When my family’s home was threatened and ultimately destroyed by floodwaters, neighbors helped sandbag, took my family in, brought meals, and helped clean up.

In my own service as a special education teacher and a deacon, faith and resilience are woven together. My first year of full-time contract teaching and the first year of the Knight Pack Program was the 2019-2020 school year–a year that ended in the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there was ever a test of resiliency, that was it. In the first few weeks, when we were figuring out how we were going to teach remotely, when students were learning from home while teachers were still required to be in the school building, I led a short prayer at noon each day with anyone who wished to participate. Our faith was strengthened in that short time together each day. The gathering helped us to keep moving forward through a season of deep uncertainty. Throughout the next year, we were yet again forced to revamp our teaching styles to include hybrid teaching (in person and online at the same time), and our faith fueled our service. We also had to pivot, and change how we delivered the Knight Packs again, faith kept feeding the resiliency I needed to continue to serve as we sought to provide food for families on the edge in our community as well  

In my life of serving, faith feeds resilience. Without faith that I am doing what I am being called to do, and serving others where and how God wants me to, I would not be able to keep moving through adversity and the inevitable changes in life. I learned this faith, this resiliency, and this call to service from the community in which I grew up. 

My Christian faith continues to nourish my resiliency, calling me to serve those around me.

Questions for your own resiliency: 

  • When you are close to hitting the wall because of too much stress, how has God provided support or relief in your life?
  • What readings from the Bible, songs from worship or themes in our Christian tradition empower your resilience? 
  • Who has God used to deepen and sustain your resilience in the midst of life’s challenges?

  • Shana Williams

    Sister Shana Williams (she/her) is a rostered deacon and a member of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. She grew up on an eastern North Dakota sugar beet farm and continues to live in that community. She currently teaches high school special education at her alma mater and runs the district’s weekend food program for students. She lives with her husband, Matt, and daughter, Siri.

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