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The Journal, October 30, 2013

Traveling author returns to Buena Vista
By Jerry Akin

If you listen to David Holmer talk, his Michigan accent will give him away as an outsider. If you are still in doubt, you could always take him to Aunt Mary's where he passes up fried chicken and emphasizes the "UN" in unsweet tea. Different strokes, I guess.

Holmer is a soft-spoken, unimposing traveler. He came through Buena Vista nearly two years ago as he walked from his home in Coloma, Michigan to Lake City, Florida. That's not a misprint. He walked.

As he came through Buena Vista, he stopped to sit on the steps in front of Buena Vista United Methodist Church and read his Bible until the lights went out. He settled in and slept through the night on those steps and then attended the church's worship service the next morning. He is back in town now because he is revisiting all of his previous stops, but this time he is driving.

To someone who didn't know better, they may look at his long blonde hair, see the ponytail, and come to the conclusion that he is a hippie of sorts. Actually, the length of his hair marks the time since his walk, and he is currently writing a book about his experiences during that journey. He has vowed not to cut his hair until his book has been completed.

Holmer lives in a log cabin that he built. It is off the grid and has no electricity. He fixes his coffee by boiling the water over a campfire. When I heard this, I assumed that maybe he had always lived a sheltered life and preferred to keep it that way. Not so. He grew up in both the secular and the Christian world, attending public and private schools throughout his childhood. He is an ordained minister, but he has not yet committed himself to pastor-by-occupation status.

"I was scared to do my first wedding," he says, "because I wanted to be able to say that the couples I married had a zero percent divorce rate. But then I realized that was my own pride getting in the way, and the wedding was about them, not me. That was a big, humbling experience for me."

After coming to that realization, Holmer officiated the wedding ceremony for his cousin and her fiance'. Since then, he has been easing into the ministry, still trying to see where God wants him.

"Now, I'm just listening," he said. "I would like to work with those who have mental illness...I've been looking for an opportunity to go into prisons and minister as well."

His activity while here in the region affirms those interests as he has visited the Perry Wellness Center and has also asked church members about the Kairos prison ministry. He hopes to come back through the area next year so that he can participate in Kairos.

When I asked Holmer what made Buena Vista different from all the other towns he had visited, his response was immediate,

"Mulkey," he said.

Mulkey McMichael, the choir director at Buena Vista United Methodist, has kept in close contact with Holmer over the past two years. He has anticipated Holmer's return and has put Holmer up in his cabin.

"Mulkey was the most persistent contact out of everyone I've kept in touch with. He has really stayed on me about writing this book, which has been good."

Finally, Holmer discussed the future of the church in America, and specifically the future of the church in a diverse culture climate such as Buena Vista. I asked him how he saw the small-town church evolving over the next few decades.

"Some people are very set in their ways. They know what they want, what they want to change, and what they don't want to change," he said. "My view as an outsider is, I can see that point of view." At this point, Holmer interrupts himself to relate a story about Indian burial customs. It's the sort of thing you would be interested to hear in person, but not in this article.

"You have to maintain the church because it's the House of the Lord," he continues. "But you don't want to go overboard with it. You want to maintain it, not necessarily change it. You just have to ask God what He wants done, and follow what God tells you."

Holmer plans to finish his book by December. Once he finishes, he plans to cut his hair and donate it to Pantene Beautiful lengths, a program that designs wigs for women with cancer. Holmer will return to Buena Vista on November 24th to observe the Hanging of the Greens at Buena Vista United Methodist. The annual ceremony was observed the weekend he passed through town the first time in 2011.

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