Barn museum near Mapleton holds artifacts from around the world - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Barn museum near Mapleton holds artifacts from around the world

Gary Thies shows some of the hundreds of artifacts on display in the Mission Central barn near Mapleton, Iowa. Thies is director of the organization. Gary Thies shows some of the hundreds of artifacts on display in the Mission Central barn near Mapleton, Iowa. Thies is director of the organization.

It is a collection of artifacts from around the world that is worthy of a big-city museum. But this priceless bounty resides not in New York or Chicago, but in a farm building outside Mapleton, Iowa. It's part of Mission Central, a Midwest headquarters that supports and assigns Christian missionaries throughout the world. Driving past it, you wouldn't give much thought to the big barn just off County Road E-16 in the hills east of Mapleton, Iowa. But take a step inside, and prepare to be dazzled.

"This is a blow-gun from the jungle, and it could propel a poison dart about a hundred and 50 feet," said Mission Central Director Gary Thies as he showed one of the many items on display to KTIV's Al Joens.

"This is a crossbow that's taken from the hill tribe people high in the mountains in Vietnam," Thies said as he showed another item mounted on the wall.

Thies is a missionary for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He's brought the message of The Bible to every corner of the world. And he always brings home some souvenirs.

"These masks come from high in the Andes and they're used in the religious rituals of the Inca," Thies said while pointing to the colorful masks.

"I always made it a point to try to bring something back that I could share with the students and with the people back home," said Thies.

The stranger, the better.

"It's a collection of very unusual things. And people like to come and see things that are unusual," Thies said.

The skin of a giant African python, for example. Or a hat he brought home from Papua New Guinea that is made from human hair.

Thies explains, "When they comb their hair there, they have some of the hair come out and they put that together and they decorated that and they've used that as a part of their culture for years and years."

Thies has been doing missionary work for 30 years. He's visited 75 countries around the world and has brought back many of these artifacts himself. But he's not going it alone. There's a veritable army of missionaries who travel the world and report to Mission Central. They also contribute to the collection.

"Last year we had over a hundred missionaries that came here and a majority of those all brought a little something for the museum," said Thies.

All of the artifacts--literally hundreds and hundreds of them--are arranged by world region. And they attract a lot of attention.

"We've had busloads from Milwaukee and Chicago," said Thies. "From Minnesota, Missouri, the Dakotas and of course, Nebraska has lots of busloads that come here."

All to see the big collection in the big barn. If you'd like to see the collection in person, the staff at Mission Central would be happy to give you a tour. They're located two miles east of Mapleton. Just give them a call ahead of time to make an appointment. The number is (712) 882-1029.

As for Mission Central itself, Gary Thies was president of the local bank and set to become president of the Iowa Bankers Association almost 20 years ago when he says he felt a calling to do this work instead. He and his wife, Maxine, worked out of their basement until the farm place across the road became available and they bought it. KTIV was there in 2003 when the new Mission Central campus was dedicated.

The operation lends support to Christian missionaries around the world who come here to share their experiences. A team of 62 volunteers from across the region do all the work. On this day, folks from Seward, Nebraska drove three hours to clean the museum. Financial donors contribute 100 percent of Mission Central's expenses. Although it is affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, it has the support of many Christian denominations.

One of the newest attractions at Mission Central is also the most easily accessible: The wayside chapel, where you are always welcome to come in and pray. The tiny church just off the highway has pew seating for 12, lighting, air conditioning and heating. Volunteers from Peace Lutheran Church in Rock Rapids spent 2 months building the chapel in 2010. It's been a busy little building ever since, seeing on average, about visitors per day.

"It's a joy to welcome people from all backgrounds and all different denominations and people like to stop and pray and the chapel is open 24 hours a day and in the evening the lights automatically come on to welcome anyone who wants to spend a little quiet time in prayer," said Thies.

The chapel is popular with brides and grooms, too. Four weddings have been held inside it, including one in the last week of April of a couple who drove out from Wisconsin.

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