My trip to North Dakota, A state with friendly people living a life of simplicity

UPDATE: I didn’t mean to offend any of you about your town, I absolutely LOVED it there. In New York, we needlessly pave our parking lots and our roads like every year which is the reason that our state is $30 million dollars in debt. I love the quaintness of North Dakota and the fact that you guys care so much about each other.  You are precious people.  I wish we could have stayed longer, I absolutely loved it in Fessenden!

For any of you that didn’t read my post about my plane ride and trip to North Dakota, you can read it here. Anyway, nine other ladies and I made the trek out to North Dakota last Thursday morning.  We left our houses at 7am to get on an airplane and head to the flats of North Dakota. My dear, sweet friend, and her husband started a church In Fessenden, a small town with a population of 484 people.  (according to google).

The plane ride was a new experience for me, it was all going well until we hit some turbulence during the landing and I had to get my throw up bag ready. After the layover, I closed my eyes out of fear for the entire second part of the flight.  I talked to everyone but kept my eyes closed while talking.  I’m laughing now at how ridiculous I was. Needless to say, I am a high maintenance traveler, the poor girls had to put up with me!  I had to sit in the aisle, drive the car, pick my bed, and every other thing that a high maintenance person could do.

We arrived in North Dakota Thursday afternoon.  One of the first things I noticed was, there was not a tree in sight, other than the few pewney ones in the medians that someone had planted there. We drove from Fargo to Fessenden, a 3 hour drive, and there was not one hill on the trip.  The state is extremely flat.  Flat with no trees, which is probably why as soon as I got out of the car, the wind whipped me in the face.

Fessenden is equal to Mayberry.  It’s filled with the sweetest people I have ever met.  Drive down the road, EVERYONE waves to you.  Go in the store, everyone says hello and asks about your day.  We found ourselves in long conversations with complete strangers who just stopped to ask us how we’re doing.

There are no stop signs in Fessenden.  You just stop at the intersections if someone is coming.  The roads are dirt, so no one is speeding down them.  The parking lots are dirt, the sidewalks are dirt, the school playground is dirt.  North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate, and fastest growing economy than anywhere in the US.  Its the only state with a budget surplus.  When you look around, its very clear that this state functions on a “as needed” basis.  They don’t waste money on anything.  The homes are well kept, but they are small and simple.  This is such a different life than what we have in New York.  If my gardens are getting weeds, I pull them because I don’t want my landscaping to look bad!  They don’t even have flower gardens.   They are living a life that “things” don’t matter, but people are what matter to them! When my friend first moved there, she told me that every day someone would knock on her door with a welcome gift.  We got to our hotel room on Saturday to find a big welcome basket for each of us in our rooms.  The sweetest women I have ever met reside in the little town of Fessenden North Dakota!

Saturday was an all day retreat, it was packed with worship, bible teachings, fellowship, and of course food! Each woman there had a different story, some had lived in North Dakota their whole lives, some moved there for the farming.  Oh, I forgot to mention that EVERYONE in North Dakota is a farmer! You see miles and miles of farm fields everywhere you look.  Most stick with their small communities in which they live.  They shop, go to church, everything right within their little towns.  In fact, one woman looked shocked when I mentioned she should attend my friend’s church in Fessenden, and she responded by saying “Oh no I could never leave my community”.

We spent 3 days in North Dakota, it was one of the best times of my life.  I have 4 boys, so I never stop chasing, cooking, cleaning, teaching, hugging, changing diapers, playing games.  This caused me to slow down. Everyone there operates at such a slower pace than I’m used to, but it taught me that time goes by way too fast, and my kids are growing up way too fast.  I want to enjoy my kids, my friends, my family.  I don’t want to care so much about things because they are all going to fade away.  People are what matter, and the people in North Dakota have figured that out!

As we headed to church the next morning, I can’t tell you how many women told us how touched and moved they were by our teachings at the retreat. Women were crying and telling us they cant wait to do it again.  I went to North Dakota praying that I would in someway be able to bless them and teach them something, but they blessed me.  I walked away being the one who was taught.  I learned what it is to be faithful, to trust God enough to move away from your beloved family, and move to a small town to teach people the Bible who you don’t even know, and to do it all for God’s glory, that is exactly what my friend and her husband did. They are a living example of what it is to be faithful to God.  Thank you all for such a special trip, my stomach still hurts from all of our laughing.



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  1. Todd Bibelheimer says:

    Marissa, I got a kick out of your impressions of North Dakota. When you come back some summer you will discover that it is not quite like your descriptions. Winter can be very blaa and relentless, but the summers make up for it. Yes we may be Mayberry to you but Fessenden does have many stop signs, cement sidewalks, grass playgrounds, and even most of the city streets are paved! So glad you were able to come. We love visitors and especially ones who minister God’s Word. What a great weekend the ladies had. Thank you for extending your comfort zone to bring God’s love to us.

    • Todd, I loved your town! I wish ours was like Mayberry! I’ve never met kinder people in my life than I did in North Dakota. I told my husband that when we get older I’d like to spend our summers there, and my winters in Florida 🙂 I love all of the relationships you have built with each other, its truly something you don’t find most places. I wish we could have stayed longer!