A Russian priest visiting the Ozarks, stands next to a cow pasture and stares at a quaint, Orthodox country church. This is when, with incredulity in his voice (which a Russian man speaking English masters so well), he asks, “How comes this in Hill Billy?” To answer his question, I have to back up a bit.
The story of our little church starts when young Karl Berry ran and played in these fields as a child. His family roots are here in the Ozarks and although circumstances took him away for many years, he returned. In 1998, the now Fr. Moses Berry, inherited the family farm from his uncle Lawrence. Included were a house, 40 acres and a small cemetery on the property. This cemetery was the thing that drew Fr. Moses back. It needed tending.
So, the Berry family moved from the bustle of St. Louis city life to tiny Ash Grove. At first, Fr Moses didn’t know how or where he would next serve the church. He set about the task of settling the family and caring for the farm and the cemetery. With boxes yet to be unpacked, the Berry’s started getting visitors. Friends, priests, monastics and even acquaintances that knew of Fr. Moses’ new home came to see him. They prayed together in the icon corner which had been fashioned amidst the unpacking. And the visitors kept coming…and bringing their friends! It was soon evident that this was the place for an Orthodox Church. Through the Grace of God, Theotokos Unexpected Joy Church has grown from a group worshiping in a tiny metal building to our present church which holds up to 100 people on Pascha.
So, in answer to the priest’s question “How comes this in Hill Billy?”, I would say, by way of the Holy Spirit, of course.