Friendship blossoms into rich gospel fellowship

In this winter wonderland, characterized by acres of snow-laden pines, the LDS membership has multiplied in the last 50 years. Myron and Lorraine Nyberg remember when it consisted of just six members attending meetings in 1951 at the Bemidji City Hall upstairs courtroom.

Bemidji Ward, Fargo North Dakota Stake, now has more than 400 members, according to Bishop Allan Habedank.At 6 years old, Lorraine made a close friend, Esther Mizghor, when her family moved to Cass Lake, Minn., on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, 17 miles southwest of Bemidji.

Esther and Lorraine went through school together, then Esther went to Minneapolis to work in order to save money for college. It was there she met the missionaries and was baptized. Esther was one of the first Church members in present-day Bemidji Ward boundaries.

"Her family joined right after," recalled Lorraine. "All the missionaries stopped at the Minzghors."

Before Esther went out to BYU, she taught her friend. "We'd stay awake until 2 a.m. talking about the Church, or we would go on picnics at Little Wolf Lake (just off the road between Cass Lake and Bemidji) and talk about the Church. We never had missionaries

who stayed full timeT. They were mostly just going through town."

Sister Nyberg recounted that she took the train to Minneapolis, where the missionaries baptized her in 1949. "I was able to attend a Church meeting in Minneapolis, then returned to Cass Lake by bus. I only had one discussion from the elders. As I read the Book of Mormon I would write to the missionaries with my questions, and they would answer back. I got the rest of it from Esther."

She has high regard for her friend, now Esther Haderlie of Orem, Utah, who is still busy in the Church.

As a new member, Sister Nyberg could not attend Church as there were no meetings in Cass Lake and she did not drive so she could not make the trip to Bemidji. Still she remained steadfast.

A year after her baptism, she married Myron, whom she had met on a blind date. In 1951, on the first Easter Sunday following the marriage, the newlyweds attended Church meetings at Bemidji City Hall, "upstairs in the courtroom. There were six of us - Myron and me, Esther's sisters, two missionaries and one other lady. The next time we went was nearly 10 years later."

As the children arrived and grew, Myron became concerned that they were not receiving religious Sunday experiences. Lorraine refused to attend anything other than LDS worship services and Myron didn't go to any church.

One Sunday in January 1960, the Nybergs took their five young children to the LDS meetings in Bemidji. "We were late, and they stopped the meeting to greet us," he remembered.

Later that year he was baptized into the Church in Little Wolf Lake, where Esther and Lorraine had so many gospel conversations. The Nybergs have been active ever since, seeing children off on missions and seeing them married in the temple and serving in responsible callings. From their nine children they now have 38 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In the early years, Sunday meetings were held in the Odd Fellows Hall, said Sister Nyberg, adding, "We had to sweep out the cigarette butts first before we could hold a meeting." Baptisms were held in local lakes in the summer and Bemidji State College pool in the winter, until a meetinghouse with a font was erected.

The Nybergs never missed a district or stake conference after Brother Nyberg started attending meetings.

"Even before he was a member, he'd get up at 3:30 a.m. to get the work done," Sister Nyberg said. "For conference (in Fargo, N.D., about 200 miles from Cass Lake) where we'd take a bus, he'd have to get up at 2:30 a.m., then we'd get back and milk

the cowsT again at midnight."

Brother Nyberg added: "Some said, `You'll ruin your milking; you'll dry them up because of the change.' I thought, if the Lord wants me to go to the conference, He'll have to help me with the milking."

Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve presided at Brother Nyberg's first district conference. "I was really impressed," Brother Nyberg said, adding, "He was coming down the hall, and he and I were the only ones in the hall. He stopped and said, `I don't believe I've ever met you before.' He introduced himself and shook my hand and talked to me for a minute."

Elder Hunter spoke that day on the patience of Job. The Nybergs believe they still remember his talk because of the personal experience Myron had with Elder Hunter earlier that morning.

The Nybergs farmed and later, Brother Nyberg took on another job connected with farming. Myron said, "I took over my dad's farm (near Cass Lake) after we were married. I did the dairy farm for 20 years. When I started working out [accepting employment outside of the family farm] and was seeking good employment, I prayed that we could stay here and do the Lord's work. I was Bemidji Branch president.

That day a fellow came up to me at work asking, Are you Myron Nyberg?' I answered yes. He said,I'd like you to come work for me.' Myron reminded the man, who represented the U.S. Forestry Service, that his background didn't give him the experience to pass the civil service test. The man took Myron to his boss, who interviewed him. After the interview, the boss said, `As far as I'm concerned, you have the equivalent of the requirements. You're hired.' "

Brother Nyberg added, "I was instrumental in converting my boss and his wife, Otis and Diane Marsh, into the Church and going with them to the temple. They are still strong members of the Church. Every morning I'd ask in my prayers that I'd come in contact with someone I could impress in the gospel. I had many choice and spiritual experiences. It was a blessing to me. "

Complying with the desire of his employer, he refrained from initiating gospel discussions, but many at work would ask him questions which he would answer. He added, "One of the employees was transferring out and she came and asked me, `Myron, could I get a Book of Mormon from you before I leave?' "

When the Cass Lake Branch opened and a meetinghouse was built, the Nybergs spent hundreds of hours working with the members who were descendants of Lehi, holding activities such as dances at the meetinghouse each week where community youth were also invited. In an effort to build bridges, the Nybergs gave away garden produce each year throughout the neighborhood. When Brother Nyberg mowed his lawn, he also mowed the neighbors' on all sides of his yard.

"Now George [one of Brother and Sister Nyberg's sons] lives on the farm [with his wife, Kathy, and children.] I cut, rake and bale the hay. The boys haul it in. I helped them put in a big garden." The other Nyberg children reside throughout the United States, some living closer to home than others.

Brother Nyberg presently serves on the stake high council and Sister Nyberg is Bemidji Ward public affairs director and a teacher in Relief Society. During his 36 years of membership, he has served as Bemidji branch president, Cass Lake branch president when a branch was open there, ward mission leader, stake mission president's counselor, and other responsibilities. He said, "I couldn't have done it on my own, except for the Spirit." He still takes the missionaries out often. He added, "Right now I'm taking the missionaries to teach the brother of a Cass Lake branch president and tribal chairman."

Brother Nyberg said he has experienced many miracles, including saving his granddaughter's life and another man's life. In 1964, when the branch needed $100 to rent a bus for district conference, "an inactive member said he would pay us $100 to load up 26,000 chickens. Monday I got notice that these chickens needed to be moved out Thursday. I had a bad knee; the doctor said I needed surgery. I had to walk on tiptoes because of this knee. I prayed, `Why couldn't I have the strength to help load those chickens?' I was rocking the baby; dinner was ready, and that afternoon I was walking around on both feet.

"[At the chicken-loading place] the missionaries came with two little Indian youngsters; I had my two kids; Bemidji Branch Pres. Carl Aldock in his 60s came with a load of people; and Brother Smith in his 70s came with a load of people. The owner said, Is this all you got?' We had this prayer. A car pulled up; four 19-year-olds got out, asking,What are you guys doing here? Can we help?'

"I never saw them before. We loaded up 26,000 chickens in two hours. I never saw those four boys since. The owner said he'd never had chickens loaded that fast and that nice before. We got the $100."

Though they have served diligently, the Nybergs maintain a humble perspective. Sister Nyberg said: "Whenever we'd get kind of low on help, we'd pray about it, and it seemed the Lord would send someone to help. There were many who worked hard over the years, then moved to different places and are working there. We didn't do any more in Bemidji and Cass Lake than the others. We've just been here the longest."

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