By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN From Einar Unseth’s first breath, his life has been full of surprises.
“My twin sister, Alice, was robust and healthy while I, instead, was considered dead and was laid aside by the doctor,” Einar noted.
While the doctor focused on saving Einar’s mother from toxemia, Einar’s cousin, who happened to be a nurse in the delivery room, detected a hint of life in the cast-aside baby.
“I was revived and am still alive to tell the story,” said Einar, who currently resides in Lester Prairie with his wife, Luella.
In 91 years, Einar has learned that life doesn’t always follow the path we think it will and that can be a good thing.
“I was going to be a farmer from the time I was old enough to talk,” Einar said. “But God called me off the farm it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”
As he went from “tending crops to tending souls,” prayers were answered, faiths were strengthened, and lasting friendships were formed all over the world.
A life of love
Einar recently wrote about his experiences in an autobiography titled, “In My Father’s Footsteps.” In 95 pages, Einar succinctly takes readers through each stage of his life, sharing stories of threshing grain, milking cows, being drafted into the US Army, studying at seminary, becoming a missionary, and more.
One happy story is how he met Luella his senior year of college. His roommate had invited him to a Valentine’s Day program for singles at a nearby church, and at first, Einar was reluctant to go.
“It was 20 degrees below zero, and I had an exam to study for,” Einar recalled. But, in order to please his roommate, he went.
After walking several blocks in the frigid weather, they made it to the event. Einar forgot all about the cold when he saw Luella Duncomb, who “had a spirit different from all the other young ladies there that night.” He was happy to learn that she was a Christian, a nursing student, and a farm girl.
The couple kept in contact while Luella worked her rotation at the state hospital in Fergus Falls, and they were married a year and a half after they met.
Cows and ministry
After their wedding, Einar and Luella moved to a small apartment a few blocks from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, where Einar continued his studies. Always the farm boy, Einar kept a cow while in seminary, which provided fresh milk, butter, cream, and ice cream.
Einar was taken farther from the farm in 1954, when he and Luella accepted a call to become missionaries in Japan. They stayed in Tokyo for the next nine years, developing friendships that have lasted to this day.
The next place Einar served was a church in Michigan, where a friend gave him a cow as a gift.
“That cow actually helped me to get closer to some of the members,” Einar noted. “I was told that our next-door neighbor rarely came to church before I came there. . . . He and I had many good visits as together we pitched manure into his spreader.”
Later on, while serving at a church in London, MN, Einar’s family had an opportunity to take two trips abroad. The first was to India, to visit pastors and their congregations. Einar remembers the church buildings being small and simple, with “rain and sun finding its way through the roof occasionally.”
The second trip was to Ethiopia in 1992, to visit their son, Peter, and his family.
“They were serving there as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators,” Einar noted.
Peter’s home in Ethiopia had no indoor plumbing, and water had to be carried in from a distance. A solar panel provided electricity part time, and the refrigerator was powered by kerosene.
“Their living conditions reminded us that our expensive dwelling and fancy furniture are not a requirement for a happy life,” Einar noted.
Einar and Luella spent several years in Lyle, a small town near the Iowa border. As they grew older, they kept busy visiting shut-ins, hosting a group of people for Bible study, gardening, and reading.
Three years ago, they moved to Lester Prairie to be near their oldest son, Nathan.
“Well-kept farms and productive farmland surrounds us,” Einar noted. “. . . The friendly people here help us feel welcome.”
Einar keeps in contact with his hometown in Wisconsin, too, by writing a column called “Prairie Ponderings” for the Westby Times.
A year ago, Einar was placed in hospice care for heart failure, with a nurse visiting him at his home. But, just like when he was born, Einar has once again defied the odds.
“Once you’re in hospice care, they assume you have six months to live,” Einar said. “God has given me an extension.”
‘In My Father’s Footsteps’
The idea to write an autobiography came from Luella, who wanted their six sons, 21 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren to learn about Einar’s life. They got started on the project about six years ago during a road trip.
“As I was driving, I would dictate, and Luella would write,” Einar said.
In sharing his story, Einar had two main goals “to give glory to Christ, and to edify the reader.”
The first 100 copies of “In My Father’s Footsteps” were printed in March, with the help of Nathan, who is in the publishing industry.
“The second order will be coming any day,” Einar said.
To purchase a book ($12), call Einar at (320) 395-2094 or stop by Einar’s home at 74 Third Ave. Dr. SW in Lester Prairie.