Garrels finishes book outlining first 125 years of Immanuel Lutheran Church history

ARCHIVES: Mikki Garrels holds a copy of her completed history of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s first 125 years as she stands in front of the cabinet that holds the church’s archives. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

ARCHIVES: Mikki Garrels holds a copy of her completed history of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s first 125 years as she stands in front of the cabinet that holds the church’s archives. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

BIG RAPIDS — When Mikki Garrels does something, she likes to see that it’s done right — even if it takes years.

In 1998, she and Geri Hurt decided to compile the history of Immanuel Lutheran Church for the church’s 125th anniversary, with Garrels writing the history and Hurt procuring ads to support the printing and cover costs. The result was a book approximately a half-inch thick that hit the highlights in church history, but Garrels knew there was a lot of information left out.

Unsatisfied with the history as it was, Garrels decided to keep working on it. Nearly two decades later, she’s finished what she set out to do.

“I thought if I don’t do this, who will?” Garrels said. “I’m a writer, and stories are important to me. This is the story of the people here, the congregation.

“I would go at it every once in a while, but I was doing other writing and things and let it set. In 2012, I got serious and thought I’d better make a commitment to the project.”

The book, “A History of the First 125 Years of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Big Rapids, Michigan (1874-1999),” is printed by the Ferris State University Copy Center. Available for purchase at $40 each by calling the church at (231) 796-8273, it is currently on back order. The cost to purchase a copy is exactly the same as the production costs, Garrels noted.

“I’m not making any profit,” she said. “This is precisely what it costs. I funded a few copies myself and people pay me. I’ve sold out of them already and am going to get more – currently, it’s on back order. I didn’t know how much interest there would be.”

Garrels plans to give one copy of the book to the Mecosta County Historical Society, and Bob and Beth Krueger purchased a copy to donate to the Big Rapids Community Library.

Along the way, Garrels learned more effective ways to research information online and chatted with many area residents to hear the old stories.

“You know what the biggest resource is? Facebook,” she said. “I found former members when I had to identify people in photos, like confirmation photos. It was like pulling teeth, sometimes, to get people.”

RESEARCH: Mikki Garrels looks back at some of the snapshots in Immanuel Lutheran’s archives. She used old photos and family stories to research her book compiling the first 125 years of the church’s history. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

RESEARCH: Mikki Garrels looks back at some of the snapshots in Immanuel Lutheran’s archives. She used old photos and family stories to research her book compiling the first 125 years of the church’s history. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

The other tool Garrels found useful in her quest to document the church’s first 125 years more fully was her cellphone. For example, she and some friends once stopped for lunch at Pappy’s in Rodney, where Garrels noticed a picture on the wall of early church members. She whipped out her phone and photographed the picture as it hung on the wall.

“This was done with God’s help,” Garrels said. “There were always mini-miracles happening. Out of nowhere, somebody would pop up with a photo or information I was seeking or who could help tell the story.”

“A History of the First 125 Years of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Big Rapids, Michigan (1874-1999)” runs about 500 pages long and is roughly an inch thick. The volume begins with the donation of land for the present church by Carly and K.T. Schuberg and then goes back to the beginning, when Carly’s grandfather donated land for an earlier building.

Garrels is quick to point out the book is called “A History” and not “The History” because she knows there is more out there to be discovered. However, she decided she needed to wrap up her efforts.

“I finally got to a point where I said, ‘I’m done. I just need to be done,’” she said. “I just had to get away from my computer.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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