It may sound like a line from a 1980s movie script.
But when Reverend Brian Oestreich and Evan Sandstede boarded a U-Haul truck on December 28 and set off on a 26-hour trip to Texas, it was real life.
And they were truly “on a mission from God” – despite the “Blues Brothers” reference.
The two Litchfield High School graduates arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas at the end of December 29 to deliver the contents of the crowded truckload of blankets, clothing, shoes and other items to the Caridad de Corazon ministry, which provides first-aid care and supplies. need for people deprived of their rights. living in the area on the border between Texas and Mexico.
“I am so happy that I was able to contribute to this effort,” Sandstede, a 1985 LHS graduate who now works as a field representative for Education Minnesota and lives in Hibbing.
“It was really upsetting,” said Oestreich, a 1984 LHS graduate and former clergyman at Holy Family Catholic Church in Silver Lake. “It’s amazing how God works through all of these things. We will have a lot of stories to tell in the New Year.
Stories like how the “mission of God” began in the first place.
And for that, it suffices to know a little more about Oestreich – Father Brian, as he is known to parishioners of the Spirit of Life Area religious community of Madison, Ortonville, Rosen and Graceville in western Minnesota.
Oestreich was ordained a priest in 1993 and over the past 30 years he has founded and actively worked in numerous charitable efforts including a mantle drive which he started early in his ministry and which has now distributed over 5,000 coats to those in need. Oestreich also traveled with others from the Diocese of New Ulm to the San Lucas Toliman Mission in Guatemala several times over a 20-year period to assist needy residents in the area.
He pastored the religious community in the Spirit of Life area 11 years ago, and after seeing a need, he helped establish a food distribution program that provided thousands of pounds of food to the needy in western Minnesota, and in 2019, Oestreich worked with parishes to open the Works of Mercy Center in Graceville where people can pick up clothes, baby supplies, hygiene products, beds and mattresses, furniture and other items.
Word of this resume spread to Eagle Pass, Texas, when a nun serving in western Minnesota traveled there to volunteer at the mission. She spoke to Sister Ursula Herrera, director of the Caridad ministry, about Oestreich’s efforts and suggested that he might be able to help obtain donated items for the mission.
When Sister Thérèse returned to Minnesota at the end of November, she said to Oestreich, “Oh, father, I was talking about you,” Oestreich recalls. “She told me the story (of the mission), then Sister Ursula called.
Oestreich told Herrera he would do what he could, unsure of the ability of the region’s religious community to do more than they were already doing in terms of charitable efforts. He also admitted that he apprehends border politics, that some might view donations to immigrants arriving in South Texas as unworthy of support. But the congregations responded.
“It was really overwhelming,” Oestreich said. “The three churches… the piles of donations I had in my garages. Of all the people I spoke to, I only had two negative people. Everyone was so excited to be able to help people at the border.
Over a three-week period, parishioners donated enough items to fill the U-Haul truck, and about 15 of them showed up on a very cold day to pack the items.
As the donations increased, Oestreich began to plan how to deliver them. In particular, he wondered who could accompany him on the trip.
He turned to Sandstede, an old high school friend he had reconnected with over the past two years. The two had spoken during Sandstede’s time joining Oestreich and others on a missionary trip to Guatemala.
“All of a sudden it happened,” Sandstede said. “He called me one day and he asked me if I had seen the movie Blue Brothers. He asked me if I wanted to come with him on God’s mission.
The ‘Mission from God’ line, straight out of the 1980 film starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, has piqued Sandstede’s interest – and has had a lot of laughs between him and Oestreich since their ‘Mission’ began.
“God’s timing is always right,” Sandstede explained in a phone conversation the morning after arriving at Eagle Pass that he had several days off between Christmas and the start of the New Year, a time perfectly suited to the mission. “To be a part of this effort, I feel very humbled and honored that Brian has asked me to do so. Sister Ursula informed me of the realities these immigrants face, and it is just heartbreaking. Knowing that there is help and hope for them is a very good thing.
The couple crossed straight, leaving Litchfield around 6:15 p.m. on December 28 and arriving at Eagle Pass 26 hours later.
“The truck didn’t have cruise control or comfortable seats,” said Sandstede, who drove the entire trip. “But we succeeded.”
The reactions to both mission volunteers and immigrant families who visited the mission after their arrival were worth it, said Sandstede.
“It’s reassuring for us that we have people who can help us,” Herrera said. “When we get a truck full of supplies, it’s fantastic. Our coats are running out, our blankets are running out. For us, it is a blessing.
“A lot (of immigrants) come in with nothing,” Herrera added. “To see the surprise of these people, just to see the joy in their faces, it’s amazing. We are so blessed with all the (supply) trucks arriving. “
Although their stay was brief – Oestreich and Sandstede left the U-Haul at Eagle Pass and proceeded to the San Antonio airport the day after their arrival, where they boarded a flight to Minnesota – the memories of their mission will live for a while. a long time, Oestreich said.
“It was truly a gift from God,” Oestreich said of the road trip with his old friend. “We have reconciled over the past 25 years. When a friendship is based on God and kindness, it is always there. It’s there when your crazy friend says, “How about a road trip to Texas?” Evan and I have been talking about faith and religion most of the time here, and about family. In 40 years, Evan and I will be able to talk about “Do you remember this time …”
And, he said, remembering “that time” is a sentiment that will also be shared with the members of the congregations he serves.
“I am so proud of the parishioners,” Oestreich said. “Literally just a few weeks ago, we decided to do it. I never imagined we would have a truck loaded side to side, top to bottom. Even though our nation is divided… we respond to the sincere needs of the needy. “