The Hanke Family from Withee, WI

The Sabbath

In February of 2003 I was reading my Bible and I came to the Ten Commandments in Exodus. My husband was a Lutheran pastor, and had been pastoring for fifteen years.  We lived in Withee, Wisconsin, two hours from Hudson. Counting my father-in-law, we were the extra seven people in Withee’s population of 507.

When I read the commandment regarding the Sabbath, I realized the commandment included instructions on how to keep it. I began studying and keeping the Sabbath to the best of my ability.  I didn’t tell my family what I was doing;  I just studied on the Sabbath day and didn’t do any housework.  I then discovered Erev Shabbat dinner and decided I could do that much without getting my husband into trouble with the church. I told my family, “Mom is cooking a fancy dinner on Friday night. You’re going to want to be there.”  My family loved it and asked when we could do it again.  I replied, “Be here next Friday.”

Take Hold

Four months later my husband unexpectedly resigned from the ministry for health reasons. Later that year, he found me in tears, reading a book loaned to me by a friend. My husband asked what was wrong, and I replied, “I found home … it’s a book.  I was hoping for a people. Maybe G-d doesn’t want me to connect with a people … maybe just Him.”  The name of the book was Take Hold (an early First Fruits of Zion book).

Even as a child growing up in a godly family and going to church, I had never really felt like I fit. I wanted to study and couldn’t find a teacher I could relate to. I had so many questions but didn’t have anyone to ask. I was not interested in denominational answers. The book, Take Hold, answered my questions with integrity and clarity.

Beth Immanuel

A few months later, an acquaintance of mine was telling me about her church and her pastor (Pastor Lancaster). I wasn’t interested. I had come to terms with the fact that I would never feel at home anywhere. Then she mentioned that Pastor Lancaster worked for an organization called First Fruits of Zion. I nearly dropped the phone. “Hold on,” I said.  I ran to get the book and turned it over. First Fruits of Zion was the publisher of the book! A seed of hope sprouted. I asked my husband if we could check out Beth Immanuel. He said, “Go ahead but you’ll have to go without me.” I did go and took my two youngest children along. We had a fantastic weekend! How could you not? It was Purim!  I felt like I had “Come Home.” I thought that I’d never be able to come back, but at least I now knew such a place existed, even if it was more than a two hour drive.

My husband asked me about my weekend. “It was great,” I replied, as I left the room.

“Would you want to go again?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied trying not to sound too enthusiastic.

After a couple minutes of thought, he said, “Ok, set it up for the last weekend in April and I’ll come along.” 

He loved the service, the teaching, and how the leadership led the congregation. We began attending weekly and the last weekend in May my two oldest children came too. On the way home my husband asked them what they thought. My son, Jacob, who was seventeen at the time, said, “I have two things to say: One, I think this is a place we can grow spiritually as a family, and, two, do we have to wait a whole week to come back?” (What teenager wants to travel two hours to go to church?) 

The Two Hour Commute

We attended Beth Immanuel for more than five years, driving over two hours one way each weekend.  We started by driving to Beth Immanuel each Shabbat morning and going home in the evening. Then we discovered a Sunday evening Bible Class and came back again. (Yes, it was nuts!) Different families began inviting us to come up for Erev Shabbat and then stay the weekend. By the end of five and a half years we were coming Friday afternoon and staying until Monday morning and our family of six had stayed in many people’s homes. Eventually HaShem opened the door for us to move to Hudson. 

Life in Hudson

We love being part of the community. Some people ask about privacy in the community. While there are activities during the week, there are times I don’t see anyone all week.  It really is up to the individual how much they want to interact. People don’t often just stop over at our house uninvited, although some people in the community have a more open door policy. On the other hand, we choose to have guests for Erev Shabbat almost every week. Nothing like talking over a meal to get to know people! We have encouraged our children to find “jobs” in the community which helped them take ownership it in. They have made true friends with whom they have genuine friendships. Two of our children have found their spouses at Beth Immanuel. 

Difficulties have been that, because we are a close community, it has been really hard when someone leaves the community or when there has been conflict. Thankfully those days seem to be more behind us, and we are really looking forward to what HaShem will do going forward. We are really excited about the future here at BI. 

Come Home to Hudson

If HaShem opens the door for you, come to Hudson. Some people have made efforts but HaShem seems to close the door. Only He knows where you should be and when the time is right. As a community, we make every effort to help those considering coming to check it out, and then we see what HaShem does. We’ve seen a lot of people come and then leave again because Beth Immanuel was something different than what they thought. Many only had experience with us for a holiday or conference, some had no experience at all. I recommend listening to the teachings online and visiting during a non-holiday if possible to “get a feel” for the community to see if this would be right for you.


Will you pray about coming to Hudson?

Beth Immanuel, Hudson, Wisconsin, and even Messianic Judaism are not for everyone. Life in any community takes commitment and sacrifice, and for some, Hashem has simply not opened the door. But please pray and ask God if this is a place where he wants you to be.

Also, join our Come Home to Hudson Facebook group to connect with other families that are considering the move or have already made it.