The History & Dream

The proposed home of The Fields Retreat and Learning Center was originally built in the 1860s in the Swedish Lutheran village of Vasa, Minnesota. The local pastor, Reverend Eric Norelius and his wife,adopted more orphans than the church basement could hold. The local community built a 5,000 square foot house and all the necessary outbuildings to run a 300 acre farm and opened the Vasa Lutheran Children's Home. Additional houses were added and at its peak, the Vasa Childrens' Home cared for 80 children and youth. In the late 1920s, the Home, now under the auspices of Lutheran Social Services, changed its mission and moved to a new building ten miles away, becoming a residential facility for mentally handicapped young adults. The farm sat empty and deteriorated over the next 40 years.

In 1969, when Reverend Laurie Bushbaum was a teenage girl, her parents bought the original farm and spent four years renovating the orphanage building into a home for their family. They created huge vegetable and flower gardens, raised horses, and nurtured back the old orchard. Laurie, along with her brothers and sisters, helped tear down rotting outbuildings nail by nail to salvage some of the beautiful weathered wood

 

The Bushbaums held a reunion every summer for all the living orphans and their families. Laurie loved the house but it was the surrounding land that spoke to her soul, instilling in her a deep respect for the inspirational power and healing that sacred space offers. Although her family moved away when she was 16, Laurie's profound connection with this piece of land continued to inspire her into her adult years. Laurie became an ordained minister, married and had children of her own. She dreamed of the farm often and vividly.

In 2008, one of Reverend Bushbaum's friends from Junior High found her through the Internet and they met to catch up. A few days later Laurie received an email from this friend with a real estate listing for the old orphanage - her childhood home. She knew immediately that the land that had nurtured children and fed townspeople was again inspiring action and this time it was calling her. It was the call, she realized, for which she had been patiently preparing for her whole life.

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