By Jennie Zeitler
Rud and Susan Wasson of rural Osakis focus on living their lives in tune with nature. That includes not only their life at home with 4-year-old daughter Sarah, but also raising sheep, pastoring two small country congregations and doctoring.
“Stewardship is a big part of what we do,” said Rud.
He is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Henning and Folden Lutheran Church south of Vining. He also raises sheep, an interest rooted in his childhood when both his grandpa and his dad raised sheep.
Susan is a physician with an office in Osakis. Her office hours and house calls were scaled back following Sarah’s birth, but flexible schedules allow for more quality time as a family.
Rud graduated from North Dakota State University. While still in school, he maintained a few head of sheep on a relative’s farm south of Moorhead. He managed the sheep unit at South Dakota State University for a few years. While working on his doctorate at the University of Minnesota, he felt called to attend seminary.
“A friend of mine just out of the blue asked if I’d ever considered the ministry,” said Rud. “I visited the Lutheran Brethren seminary in Fergus Falls and never really looked anywhere else.”
While in seminary, Rud met Susan Rutten at a birthday party. “We were set up,” they agreed with smiles.
Rud moved to Susan’s home near Osakis, and soon after they moved into an old farm house just up the road. It continues to be a work in progress.
Rud started as pastor of Grace the first Sunday after graduating from seminary, in May 2007. He was invited to pastor Folden in 2009. Being part of both congregations has blessed the whole family.
“Susan mentioned to me once, ‘I didn’t expect to love these people so much,’” Rud said.
Though the churches are about 50 miles from home, the arrangement works. With Bible studies two evenings a week, Rud does visitations then. Both congregations are on Facebook, which helps keep people up-to-date.
Susan’s journey to being a country doctor started after two and a half years with Allina in the Twin Cities. She started to wonder about where the high medical fees were going.
“I looked at what I was paid versus what the patients were being charged,” she said. “Most of the rest was going to the middleman.”
Susan left the third-party rat race of the health care industry and opened her practice in 2002. She said she charges about one-third of what patients are quoted by other doctors, and usually spends about 30 minutes with each patient. People often drive from larger cities to see her. She does not accept insurance.
“There is more than one way to do a lot of things,” she said. “Rather than spending $400 a month on a toenail fungus prescription, patients can soak their feet in vinegar.”
The Wassons’ farming began with a donkey Rud gave Susan on their first wedding anniversary.
“I did ask her first if she would be OK with that,” he said.
They got a couple of sheep from a neighbor, and the number has kept growing to include 40 Columbia, Hampshire and Rambouillet ewes, all purebred (though not all are registered.)
They also have three Scottish Highland heifers, which are very low-maintenance.
They practice holistic resource management on their 20 acres.
“We use high-intensity grazing,” Rud said. “We want to be in tune with nature, with what the plants and the land are doing.”
“The land here was overgrazed probably 30 years ago,” Susan said. “It needs to be grazed the right way so the land has the chance to come back.”
“People are realizing that just letting land stand is not good for it,” said Rud. “We’re still on the front end of that learning curve; we’ve made our share of mistakes.”
The Wassons believe that stewardship is lived out in every aspect of their lives.
“We are all in ministry no matter what we do,” Rud said.
“We answer to Jesus,” Susan said. “Medicine is ministry, not industry.”
“Living our lives (the way we do) gives us the freedom to live out what we believe,” said Rud.
For more information, contact Dr. Wasson’s office at (320) 859-2366.