A flame of peace first lit in Bethlehem will make a timely journey through North Dakota this weekend.
The Peace Light is on its way to Peace Church, a German-speaking United Methodist congregation in Seattle. A number of churches and organizations have assisted in the transportation, including Peace Lutheran Church of Lincoln.
The flame will arrive in south-central North Dakota on Sunday, driven from Fargo by a member of Peace Lutheran. The Lincoln church will hold a ceremony for the light that evening.
Its arrival comes at a tumultuous time domestically and abroad.
"As we know, there are some very unstable parts of the world now where peace would be a relished gift," said the Rev. Kevin Nelson, pastor at Peace Lutheran.
He spoke of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, as well as hardship faced by refugees who have fled Syria amid the country's civil war — particularly with winter weather looming.
"To know those refugees are living in tents and makeshift shelters tears our hearts," he said.
The world's instability has come up recently in discussions at his church, including during Nelson’s sermon delivered Sunday.
The United States isn’t immune, he said. Tension surrounding race relations remains high in this country, for example.
"We want to see peace in those areas, too," he said. "It's not just over there. It's here at home."
Those issues will be on the minds of congregation and community members who gather at the church Sunday for the flame’s arrival.
Since the 1980s, scouting organizations in Europe have organized the flame’s travel across the world. Each year, it’s drawn from the site considered to be Jesus’s birthplace, located at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Peace Church in Seattle became involved, contacting churches and Boy Scouts groups throughout the United States to get the flame to the West Coast.
Its pastors reached out to the church in Lincoln last year because the name “Peace Lutheran” seemed fitting for a mission like this, Nelson said.
Kathy Mauch, president of the Peace Lutheran council, volunteered to drive to Fargo to pick up the flame from the Jon L. Wanzek Center for Scouting.
She took with her a Coleman lantern that runs on odorless paraffin oil. Once lit, she set it inside a 5-gallon pail with rocks on the bottom to prevent it from tipping over in her car.
After the ceremony at Peace Lutheran last year, she, like many others who attended with a candle or lantern, brought the flame home with her. She kept the flame alive until Christmas.
“At our Christmas dinner, we said a special prayer asking God for peace throughout the world,” she said.
This year, Mauch will be returning from vacation Sunday, so she has enlisted her daughter to make the drive.
The church plans to keep the flame going well after Sunday’s ceremony and use it to light candles during its Christmas Eve service, Nelson said.
A local man involved in scouting has agreed to complete the next leg of the trip, transporting the flame to Montana.