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At their godchild's baptism in Mexico, a Vergas couple was shocked to learn the baptismal font was made in Perham, 1894

Myron and Sonya Gunderson were asked to attend a baptism in Anapra, Mexico, and be godparents to the child. At the ceremony, they thought the baptism font looked familiar and found out that it was made in Perham. "It was a God thing," Myron said.

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Myron (left) and Sonya Gunderson, holding a crying Moises Jimenez, pastors for Iglesia Luterana de la Biblica's service, Martha Jimenez (Moises' mother) and Eduardo Lira (Moises' father). (Submitted photo)

For 15 years, Myron and Sonya Gunderson have taken a trip every other year to Mexico. Originally, the trips were mission trips with St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Loon Lake and Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care to help build homes in the poor community of Anapra, Mexico.

"People at our church always ask us 'why do we keep going down to that church?'" Sonya said.

In their most recent trip down there, Myron and Sonya found a reason why. They attended the baptism of their godson at Iglesia Luterana de la Santa Biblica (The Church of the Holy Bible) and thought the church's baptismal font looked oddly similar to their church's in Vergas.

"We went over to it," and removed the sheets and covers, Myron said, "and found out it was built in 1894 by Louis H.D. Schmidt" -- in Perham.

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"Perham Minn. 1894," is clearly visible inside of the baptismal font that was used at the baptism that Myron and Sonya Gunderson attended in Anapra, Mexico. Above that, the name of the font builder is partially visible -- "Louis." (Submitted photo)

It all tied together

The baptism that Myron and Sonya attended was for their godson; the son of their close family friend from their very first mission trip to Mexico.

They met Martha Jimenez when she was 3 years old. Myron and Sonya instantly connected with her, giving her some special attention and extra gifts, which Jimenez still has. Every year that they returned after that, Jimenez was always there.

"When she was 11, her mom let her go to the worksite with us every day," Myron said. "That's when it really started to come together."

Shortly after that, Myron and Sonya found out that Jimenez wouldn't be continuing with school after she finished eighth grade. It would cost more than their family could afford, Myron said.

They helped start a scholarship fund for Jimenez and two other students in Anapra. Because of Jimenez's good grades, she got a full-ride to Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas, Myron said.

As Myron and Sonya became a cemented part of Jimenez's family, they were invited into their home for more personal events.

"We went down for her quinceanera," Myron said. "Her mom asked me 'when she graduates from high school, would you consider coming down?'"

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Jimenez graduated in May and Myron and Sonya were there to see her earn her diploma.

"We went to her graduation party, found out shortly after that she was pregnant," Myron said. "When the little guy was born, they asked us to be godparents."

'This is meant to be'

Jimenez's son, Moisės, was born in Texas in August. They waited to do the baptism until Myron and Sonya could be there.

"The godparents are to bring the baptismal gown or outfits. And the godparents are to dress the child before the service," Myron said, explaining what it was like.

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Sonya Gunderson sits with her godson, Moises Jimenez, before he is baptized. (Submitted photo)

As Sonya dressed Moisės in his outfit, Myron stood by letting her handle it. But, Jimenez's mother quickly came over and handed Myron Moisės' socks, making sure that he participated in some way. One of the women in their church had crocheted Moisės a blanket, which he had for the ceremony.

The service was held outdoors with the shipping container holding up the sheets and decorations for the service. Although the liturgy was the same as what they were used to, it was in Spanish, so they didn't understand most of it.

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"When it came to the vows, (the pastor) gave it in English so we could understand what we were committing to," Myron said.

"We feel so honored and blessed to be a part of that, that she even asked us," both Myron and Sonya said, filling in each other's sentences.

'It's all so intertwined'

When they saw the inscribed "Perham, MN," Sonya said that "it was a suck air" moment. "We really took that as God saying 'this is where you belong. This is what I want you doing,'" she said.

"It all of a sudden linked us to home. It was a God thing. I don't know how else to explain it," Myron said. "And the other thing is, what's the odds?"

Once they got back to Minnesota, Myron and Sonya dug into how this baptismal font ended up there. they did much of the research themselves, looking at church records and online pages. After some time, Myron pieced together the full explanation.

Louis H.D. Schmidt built the baptismal font, that's currently in Mexico, for the St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Vergas in 1894. When St. Paul's built their new church in Perham in the early 1900s, they didn't move over all of the altars and old furnishings. Instead, they donated them. It was transferred by horse and buggy through about four locations and eventually landed at the Iglesia Luterana de la Santa Biblica.

"So quite a tangled web," Myron said.

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"The thing's really beat up, the font, it needs paint," Myron Gunderson said about the baptismal font that they used in Anapra, Mexico (Submitted photo).

After 125 years, travel, a church ceiling caving in, and being used either outside for the church ceremonies or in a shipping container, the baptismal font is not in the shape it once was. The white paint is very chipped and you can barely see the gold on it anymore. Myron and Sonya would like to help repair the baptismal font and hope they can get their mission group to do that this summer.

In between that and building houses, they will soak up as much time as they can with Jimenez and Moisės.

Related Topics: FAITHVERGAS
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