Symbols of faith are important to John Wiebe, so is having a place to “come home” to, and for a man who has moved around and done a lot through the years, Springfield Park west of Hillsboro is where faith and feelings of home come together.
“I’ve spent a lot of time moving around,” Wiebe said. “When I inherited this acreage from my folks in the 70s, it became our place to come home to.”
Wiebe, 78, is married to Caryl, and they have three grown children, Dorene, Jon, and Colene, plus several grandchildren. Though he currently serves as pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church near Abilene, for 17 years prior, Wiebe was a hospital administrator, and before that worked as a school superintendent for 17 years. Always, the whole family enjoyed “coming home” to their park and sharing faith and fun with others there.
Springfield Park covers 40 acres and includes about a five-acre pond. Camping, fishing, dirt bike riding, and enjoying nature are top considerations for family and friends that frequent the place. Wiebe continues to sell family leases to the park, as he has done for the past 40 years, offering a key to the park to those willing to respect park guidelines and pay the $60 yearly fee.
“Everything west of the drive is for everyone else to enjoy,” Wiebe said. “My hobbies are on the east side.”
Wiebe’s hobbies include raising a variety of animals such as Belted Galloway cattle, South African Boer goats, and spotted and traditional miniature donkeys.
“I got into the belted cattle in the early 90s,” Wiebe said. “I like things that are different and these were not just your everyday cattle.”
Wiebe said he grew his herd to about 20 head before deciding it would be more profitable to just raise the more marketable Black Angus.
“The females sold very well,” he said. “But we had a lot of bull calves and no one ever seemed to want them.”
Wiebe’s next farm experiment came in the way of meat goats and he started off with 40 to 50 South African Boers.
“Those were a lot of fun, but they were a lot of work too,” he said. “They started shelling out three and four babies each and pretty soon we had way too many goats.”
Wiebe and his wife Caryl raised several bottle babies that were extra, taking them to their home in Hillsboro. When that became too much work, they sold the goats and purchased eight donkeys.
“The donkeys really meant a lot to me,” Wiebe said. “I like the cross on their back and I read that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and that is why it’s there.”
The donkey’s cross was not the only visual symbol of Wiebe’s faith at his Springfield farm. A large 20’ cross like the one Jesus was crucified on at Easter many, many years ago, stands tall on the western hill of his land.
“We put that cross up in the 70s and it still stands today,” Wiebe said. “Just last month I replaced the crossbar on it, but the post is still the original one.”
In earlier years, the Wiebe family gave Christian musical concerts for community church groups, neighbors and friends.
“Those were special times,” Wiebe said. “We started out singing on a bale wagon in the 70s and really enjoyed sharing our faith with others.”
Three months ago, Wiebe learned he had lymphoma cancer, so he sold most of the donkeys, except for two.
“The cross, the donkeys, this place, they all mean a lot to me,” he said. “Here at this place I can see how good God has been to me. I am not too worried about the future.”
Though he recently deeded Springfield Park over to his son, Jon, Wiebe said he still comes out to enjoy the “homestead” every day.
“I feed the cats, take care of the donkeys, just make sure that everything is all right,” he said. “This is a good place to be.”
The family hosts a yearly gathering for relatives, and groups can rent the facility for programs, open-air concerts, and weekend campouts.
Caryl Wiebe loves to mow the grass, and grandsons Matt and Josh Wiebe of Hillsboro often help with maintenance around the park.
“This place has always been a haven for us. A real blessing,” Caryl Wiebe said. “We come out here and just feel God’s presence. Our anxieties melt away.”