Author Annika Bergen | The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City – Discovering the Past to Shape Our Future!

FH Media Press, Kansas City
Christian Creative Services Kansas City, Next Level Thinking Kansas City,


You will get to hear from Annika Bergen one of the authors of The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City: Discovering the Past to Shape Our Future. The book itself is loaded with incredible pictures and stories. It has a discussion guide and timeline at the back. There is also a downloadable online sermon kit to help you guide your church to discover what God has done in Kansas City.

In our conversation one of the things that really stood out to me was the transformational experience Annika went through while writing this book. She spoke about how God changed her heart toward Kansas City, the learning of history, her view of the church and more. We also discussed some of the many stories that make up Kansas City’s spiritual roots.


Nathan Sack  00:13
Thanks for joining us for another Faith Horizons podcast. The purpose of a Faith Horizons podcast is to discover the kingdom of God in Kansas City, one conversation at a time. You’re in for a treat, you’ll get to hear from Annika Bergen, one of the authors of The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City: Discovering the Past to Shape Our Future. The book itself is loaded with incredible pictures and stories. It has a discussion guide and a timeline at the back. There is also a downloadable online sermon kit to help you guide your church to discover what God has done in Kansas City. In our conversation, one of the things that really stood out to me was a transformational experience Annika went through while writing this book. She spoke about how God changed her heart towards Kansas City, the learning of history, her view of the church and more. We also discussed some of the many stories that make up Kansas City’s spiritual roots. Here is my conversation with Annika Bergen. Welcome, Annika to Faith Horizons podcast, it’s so great to have you.

Annika Bergen  01:19
It’s great to be here.

Nathan Sack  01:20
So we’re interviewing today about The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City: Discovering the Past to Shape Our Future, which is a book that was authored by you and Bill High. Can you tell us a little bit of the story about how you got to writing this book?

Annika Bergen  01:35
Yes. So the book is a project from The Signatry. It’s a Christian foundation in Kansas City. And Bill High was the CEO at the time. And so he had wanted to just do a project to bless Kansas City by telling them their spiritual roots. So they started it in 2012, and then hired me in 2015, as a writer to help with the project.

Nathan Sack  01:55
That’s awesome. So tell us a little bit about yourself. What led you to enjoying Kansas City and liking Kansas City and just getting so interested in what God has done in Kansas City.

Annika Bergen  02:05
Yes, so I, my family moved to Lee’s Summit when I was in eighth grade, so kind of grew up here. And then after college, I’d studied writing in college at Southwest Baptist University, and then did mission work in India for a little bit and was planning on being a missionary to Nepal. So I was living in Kansas City, raising support for full time mission work. And as I visited people, I just kept hearing story after story of needs in Kansas City. And I remember praying and saying, Lord, I feel like you’re calling me to Kansas City. But I’m going to Nepal, and then that trip ended up falling through. And then I just posted on LinkedIn that I was a writer looking for an opportunity in Kansas City and Bill HIgh found me and asked if I wanted to help with this project, and then some other writing projects they were doing.

Nathan Sack  02:54
Wow, that’s great. And so you got pulled right into, like you said, you are already starting to have conversations with people about Kansas City. God was already beginning to start that thing inside of you. And then Bill High was already had the project. He already had the like you call it the earlier the brain- the brainchild of this of this project, which was the spiritual roots of Kansas City, and then God’s like He had already had already planted in you.

Annika Bergen  03:25
I love the verse Ephesians 2:10, it says where His workmanship and God’s created us to do good deeds, which He’s prepared in advance for us to do and it was just so clear that God had already prepared this project and was calling me to serve Kansas City.

Nathan Sack  03:37
That’s so cool. So what got you interested in just being a writer in general? What do you like about writing?

Annika Bergen  03:43
You know, I am a grammar nerd. I love grammar. So even as a kid, I loved the assignments where you have to like find the mistakes in the sentence and add the comma. And I was like, Mom, can I do this full time? She’s like, I guess you can be an editor. So does yeah, from an early age I love language and communicating.

Nathan Sack  04:01
My wife loves editing too. She always like looks at it. Like what how do you think this sounds honey? And she’s like, there’s a period missing here. I’m like, I didn’t ask you to find the period. But she finds the period. Yeah, you know so that’s so interesting.

Annika Bergen  04:15
And it’s funny that, um, I started on a history project. So I, I loved English, I never loved history. And I just thought it was really boring. And so when they first hired me to do this history of churches, it started as a job as like a writer, I needed a job. And then I started researching and God just spoke to my heart, so much of all the things He had done in our city and so, but I kind of viewed that as a blessing that I got bored by history. So I only put the things in the book that I was interested in. And so hopefully, it’ll be an interesting read for people.

Nathan Sack  04:48
So I read the book and I just was absolutely amazed by the amount of stuff. That was one of my questions I want to ask you is are you astounded by the amount of stuff that actually Kansas City has, that is brought Kansas City about the Christian movements?

Annika Bergen  05:01
Yes, I had no idea of the spiritual roots of our city like I had driven Shawnee Mission Parkway 1000 times and never thought, oh mission. So at Shawnee Mission was a mission to the Shawnee tribe by Reverend Johnson in the 1830s. And just things like that all through our history like Holmes Road like Robert, Mary Ann Holmes are church planters. And just so many things we pass by every day and don’t know the stories behind the Christians that got them there.

Nathan Sack  05:30
As Shawnee Mission they like you said, Reverend Johnson, Johnson County. In this book, you guys did a really good, you did a really good job of just laying everything out. And in the back of the book, there’s a timeline, just kind of going through some of the movements and the main, the main features. Also, I noticed in the back of the book, there’s chapter questions. So like, if you wanted to use this in a school kind of as a study guide of learning Kansas City’s Christian history, and then also there was an incredible part in the back of the book, which I’d like to talk about just a little bit, which is God’s plan for cities.

Annika Bergen  06:08
Yeah, a lot of that material was based off of some essays that Tim Keller wrote on God’s heart for cities. One of the things that stuck out to me, well, a couple things. One, I was interviewing Mike King with Youthfront, and he was talking about how there was St. Francis of Assisi and all these different saints were tied to geographical locations, and just how important the actual place where God plants us is part of who we are and how we minister. And then also biblically, Tim Keller brings us up, but there’s cities of refuge in the Bible that God designates, of, if you have killed someone unintentionally, you can flee to a city of refuge, and then that’ll keep you safe from the Avenger coming after you. And we don’t have that anymore in our culture, but it’s still just, it’s still just such a picture of how cities can be a place of safety for people, especially the vulnerable, like you see a lot of refugees coming to cities or the poor or in cities, and it’s just can be a place of safety for people.

Nathan Sack  07:05
And the back part of that God’s plan for cities. There’s cities are under God’s sovereignty. And you even brought up the, you know, God’s the fateful flood in 1844. We’re talking about, you know, the whole reason why Kansas City is the way it is right now. God wanted things to be a different way. So He changed the landscape in which changed the direction of economy, which then grew a city.

Annika Bergen  07:34
Yeah, yeah. The story behind that is so Independence was the main little stop. So there was just the river. The Missouri River connected then with the Kansas River, the Kaw River and then from that point was the pioneer trails for California, Santa Fe, and Oregon started from there. So Westport was just the farthest port to the west. But we were not the main economic base that was Independence. And then in 1844, a flood came and rerouted the Missouri River, and uncovered this rock landing. And then John Calvin McCoy, who’s called the father of  Kansas City. His father, Isaac McCoy was a Baptist missionary, and that’s why they were here. But John Calvin McCoy realized that with this new rock landing, it was a better place for boats to land and unload cargo. And so then that’s what switched Kansas City to be the main economic hub for the area.

Nathan Sack  08:25
So they’re so a lot of what Kansas City is today is because of the businessmen that actually came into Kansas City, the McCoys, you know, the Longs, the Chouteaus. It’s interesting that all these people, they’re the ones that usually started the first churches to like the Chouteaus.

Annika Bergen  08:48
Yeah, yes, the Chouteaus came here in 1821. And they didn’t have a church in the area. And so as for traders, the shows were a Catholic fur trading family. And as more and more fur traders came into the area, Berenice and Francois Chouteau wanted a church to be built here. So they talked with one of the traveling priests and donated a gift to build the first church here.

Nathan Sack  09:13
And then a lot of their a lot of their employees were actually the attending members like you’d reference that a lot of their employees were the were the attending members. So as she ended up be calling Chouteau’s Church.

Annika Bergen  09:25
Yeah, yeah. Just kind of funny, but the official name is St. Francis Regis, but then it was called Chouteau’s Church.

Nathan Sack  09:33
So the business people actually made a way for people to worship God as part of what they’re offering the people not just business they were also offering them a place of worship, which is you know, that’s what you see in cities is you see a you know, what are the first things we need an economy quickly after you need a mission? You need a like a church, you need something.

Annika Bergen  09:52
Or with the McCoys it was reverse. Isaac McCoy came here with the mission and then his son, built Westport and Kansas City is the economy. Yes, go along with it.

Nathan Sack  10:02
And then also the Long’s farm. So the Longs did something different. So Robert Long built, he brought a lumber company here, right. It was a lumber company. But one of the things that he did, which was different, was he actually had all the family members living with their family on his farm.

Annika Bergen  10:20
Yeah, a lot of times, lumber, I guess, lumberjacks, for lack of a better word, they would have to go out to the lumber camps, and they’d have to leave their families while they were working there. And Robert Long was a Christian. And so he was doing very well in the lumber business. And so had lots of lumberyard scattered throughout the US. And so he wanted his men to be able to live with their families. So both whenever he built his own lumber camps, he built family housing. And then he also started Longview Farms out in Lee’s Summit. And he did the same there, he provided housing for the workers to live with their families there so that they didn’t have to be away from their families.

Nathan Sack  10:56
Like one step up from what you had to do.

Annika Bergen  10:58
Yes, yeah, he’s always going further. And he built a Longview Chapel, so that they would have a place to worship together. And he’s also his idea was Liberty Memorial, so he headed up that whole project, too. So he just did a lot of good for the city.

Nathan Sack  11:13
Were there any experiences that come to mind when you think back about writing this book?

Annika Bergen  11:17
Yeah, I had some stories I wanted to, yeah, let’s do that. Um, one of the things you’d mentioned is the Prophetic roots of Kansas City. And it’s interesting, because whenever I, I had written the book, but it wasn’t published yet. And so I was just lying in bed one night, and I was praying, I was like, Lord, is there anything that I’ve missed that you want to be in the book, and there’s a few things that I immediately thought of, as soon as I prayed that, and one of them was that 100 years ago, there was written a book about the history of Kansas City. So 100 years ago, there was a book on the history of Kansas City is called The Early History of Greater Kansas City, The Prophetic City at the Mouth of the Kaw. And I had read that book early on in my research and just skipped over the subtitle, The Prophetic City at the Mouth of the Kaw. But after I prayed that, I was lying in bed. And I was like the prophetic city, why are we called the prophetic city? And so the next morning, I was going to the Kansas City, Missouri Valley Special Collections in the Kansas City Library to look up that book. And I was on my way, and I got rear ended and my car was totaled, and I wasn’t able to go. And it was just a big long process. But finally, like, I don’t know how long later it was, I finally got all that taken care of got the rental car and made my way to the library and looked up why we were the prophetic city. And it was based on something that Senator Benton had said in the 1840s and 50s, that just a few years after Kansas City had been found in it was 15 square miles, not very big, but he said, it’ll become a great commercial center. And so then in the next 75 years, as Kansas City grew, they looked back on that senator’s prophecy is like how they became a magnificent city. But then it was just really cool as I’m looking at the whole, like, 200-year history now with Kansas City, just to see the ways that God fulfilled that the prophetic city that yeah, that Senator had no idea.

Nathan Sack  13:07
Yeah. It’s almost like you are going to like, you know, you’re going in your car to uncover this. And then you get rear ended and all that stuff. It’s almost like the enemy’s like, I don’t want them to know. Right? Right.

Annika Bergen  13:20
Right? Right. Yeah. Spiritual warfare is real.

Nathan Sack  13:21
Do you feel like there was spiritual warfare writing this?

Annika Bergen  13:24
Yes. But also, just God’s abundant blessing.

Nathan Sack  13:29
There’s an encouragement behind it.

Annika Bergen  13:30
Yeah. And can I share a dream that I had around the book? Yeah. Well, so we got close to publishing. And I realized that there is an every, I think every creative person or writer feels this. But as I got closer to publishing, I realized, I was scared to publish, because what if the book didn’t sell? What if nobody bought it. I was just so nervous, and I had a dream one night, and the Lord spoke to me in that and He said, they don’t take the next step because they think it’s their identity. And God just through that phrase, that my heart for you 

that whether this book, tanks, or is a smashing success, either way, it’s not my identity. And so because whatever we do, that’s not where our identity lies.  It lies in God created us and loves us. And so that just set me free to take the next step, publish the book.

Nathan Sack  14:22
And do it. So He actually said, they don’t take the next step because of their identity?

Annika Bergen 14:28
Because they think it’s their identity.

Nathan Sack  14:31
Because they think it’s their identity. Wow. Yeah. Cuz your identity is not the book.  But it is what you were called to publish. I feel like you know, God was calling this book forth. Like, it’s almost like He’s calling hey, let’s do an account of everything that has happened in Kansas City, you know, so that Kansas City can have an account of the things of God. Did you have any other stories?

Annika Bergen  14:57
Well, it’s just was really sweet to see then Scott Stanger read it and then his prayer ministry took off through that. And so it’s just been really sweet to see the things that people have been inspired to start from reading the book and just continuing His work. Another thing that was just on my heart is that my perspective on the church has changed from reading this book, I think I used to want to do the big magnificent things, like, go to Nepal, be a missionary, do the big flashy things. And as I studied the history, I realized that the church is just like, there’s this story of this lady in all of Hoggins history of churches from 100 years ago. And there’s this lady just lying in her hammock with this little baby that was just born. And they’re in this newer subdivision of Kansas City, these new houses have been built, it’s still dirt roads, it’s not paved yet, with this lady is dreaming of a church in her area. And so as soon as she’s recovered from giving birth, she and her friends just walk from house to house through the mud, talking to people about starting a church, and that church starts there. And then through the history, you can watch these churches that last for 100 years and change the city. But I hadn’t realized the impact that the small things have of just gathering your friends together and having a prayer meeting and getting a group of 10,15 people together and starting a new church. And so I just really, my heart is to inspire people that your life can feel like just one brick, and is just one brick. But when you put all those bricks together over time, it builds something magnificent that can be seen for miles around, and just that God has a big story that He uses our little lives to accomplish.

Nathan Sack  16:41
That’s so true. It’s all the little pieces that make the big piece. It’s like a puzzle, you know? Yeah, there’s just a lot of things that God has done to kind of highlight and just, you know, when He’s getting ready to move forward with something in a city, a lot of times what you have to first uncover is the foundations like, what was it built on? I felt like this book did a phenomenal job of just uncovering a lot of the foundational things that have happened in the city so that we can build on that and go forward as the, you know, as the title of the book says, Discovering the Past to Shape Our Future, really felt like there’s a lot of truth to that.

Annika Bergen  17:23
Yeah. And that’s the heart behind it. As I was reading that book, the early history of Greater Kansas City, it started out with the author, quoting his pastor and his sermon, and then it talks about how we stand on the shoulders of the people that came before us. And so that is my heart as we realize where we’ve come from just to realize we stand on their shoulders, and we can reach higher than they can, because of them in the foundation that they lay for us in the past.

Nathan Sack  17:49
That’s so true. So what is your heart behind this? Like, what do you want people to get from this?

Annika Bergen  17:53
Yeah, I think one thing that Bill and I really tried to do, as we wrote it, was to make sure that we gave an honest picture of the church in Kansas City, because they’ve done a lot of really good things, but also, lots of not so great things.

Nathan Sack  18:10
So you wanted to make sure you include it.

Annika Bergen  18:12
Yeah, so we wanted to be honest of learning from the past, both the good and the bad. Like, for example, the mob in Kansas City, was the mob boss was Irish Catholic. And so I, when I was I visited with the historian from the Catholic Diocese in Kansas City. And we were just talking about the Catholic Church in Kansas City. And he just gave a really interesting perspective that the mob the Pendergast machine was corrupt, and the church didn’t stand for corruption, but also the machine was the one caring for the poor in this day, and immigrants. And so that’s just really interesting to think about that balance of when do we jump on board with something we don’t agree with, because we agree with the fruit versus standing for integrity and finding different ways because then it was a Jewish rabbi, that stood up against the machine and then encouraged pastors to also stand against the machine. So it’s just different sides to it. And then the same with segregation in Kansas City. That was another issue. I was shocked as I read the history, I had no idea everything that had happened in our city. But it’s interesting to see, some Christians in some churches were really pro passing segregation and school segregation, and some were really against it, and just how I think it’s important to be honest, historically, Christians have fallen on both sides of issues, and let’s look at that and see what happened and how that turned out in order to make decisions for the future.

Nathan Sack  19:43
Yeah, in Christianity, there’s a lot of things are not black and white, especially when you’re talking about helping people civilly.

Annika Bergen  19:51
Mm hmm. Right. And even the Civil War is a perfect example that churches split.

Nathan Sack  19:56
Yeah, you wrote about that the churches split over the Civil War.

Annika Bergen  19:59
Yeah. And it’s easy 100 years removed to look back and be like, oh, I know what I would have done. But then you have to look at that and be like, okay, well, what are you doing today? And this is another thing I don’t really have any proof for. But it’s just interesting to see that historically. First, the churches split and then the nation split with the Civil War. And so it’s interesting to look at like, okay, what is splitting churches today? And will the nation follow?

Nathan Sack  20:26
That is a really interesting way to think about that.

Annika Bergen  20:30
One story that I always love to tell is Annie Chambers story. And just because it’s close to my heart, because I in 2016, started doing human trafficking ministry in Kansas City. And so we just reach out to women who are being trafficked, and I’m trying to offer them a way out if they’re interested. And so Annie Chambers, she actually owned a brothel in Kansas City back in the early 1900s. And it was so fascinating, because the churches, the mob was rolling, ruling the city at the time and the churches came together. And they formed the Society for the Suppression of Commercialized Vice. And so that Federation from all these churches succeeded in shutting down every brothel in the city, except for the Annie Chamber’s mansion because she took her case to the Missouri Supreme Court, and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that she could keep it open. And so that was the one brothel in the city. But meanwhile, there’s all these other empty brothels that had shut down. And so Reverend David Bulkley with his wife, Beulah, and their one daughter moved into an empty brothel building next door, and they started what became City Union Mission as a ministry to the homeless. And so meanwhile, so you’ve got this brothel next door to the City Union Mission and Annie Chambers. By this time, she’s like in her 80s, and she is sitting in her living room with her window open and over here is David Bulkley preaching a sermon for another woman whose child had passed away and Annie Chambers had lost her own child years earlier.

Nathan Sack  22:06
Yeah, she lost one, then she lost another one.

Annika Bergen  22:09
And her husband passed away and her family disowned her and just this long series of misfortunes that eventually led her into a life of prostitution. And so but she hears a sermon and it resonates with her heart, and then she just keeps watching the Bulkleys live out their faith in front of her. So eventually, there’s a fire in their neighborhood. So both her and the Bulkleys are standing out on the street, watching the fire burn. And Annie Chambers says to them, I’ve been watching you, I want to be your friends. And so she through that she becomes a Christian and on her death, she bequeath the mansion to City Union Mission. Before passing away, she told the Kansas City Star, she said, isn’t it strange that in this house, where so many women have led a life so far from what was right now I, the worst of them all, have turned the place into a mission for the saving of just such women. And I’m preaching to them the gospel of salvation. That old book, the Bible is a great comfort to me. But of all its beautiful texts, the best to me is the promise that your sins be a scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. And that, it does encourage me so much as we continue to minister to people in the women that you don’t know how long God is pursuing people like Annie Chambers didn’t come to Christ till she was in her 80s. And so as we’re doing ministry, it might take God till they’re in their 80s right to come around, but just you don’t know what God’s doing in people’s hearts.

Nathan Sack  23:37
So since writing the book, because you are a part of the Signatry when you were writing the book, and so since then, I don’t know how long it’s been but what are you doing now?

Annika Bergen  23:47
Yeah, I am now a full-time freelance writer for people. And so I help people write their books. You can find me at Annika I just help people get their stories out there and feel called to be God’s storyteller and keep spreading the news for what’s He doing.

Nathan Sack  24:01
Help them edit it, encourage them in the writing process. It’s all it’s a big deal writing a book. It’s a real it’s a big deal writing a book. So are you only in Kansas? Are you working only with others in Kansas City right now? Or just all over the place?

Annika Bergen  24:14
No I have some across the nation. I get to travel for work.

Nathan Sack  24:19
Cool. So do you actually sit down with them and like kind of work with them through like creating a the project?

Annika Bergen  24:25
Yeah, the process is all- and it’s different depending on the author, but I’ll go and I’ll sit down with them and just interview them for hours and get all their stories and record it and then transcribe that. And then from that, figure out how to put it into a form that’s meaningful for readers. So it’s all their content, but I will put it into book form for them.

Nathan Sack  24:44
Wow, that’s crazy. Do you actually physically transcribe it then with typing?

Annika Bergen  24:49
I hire someone to. It is interesting, though, like how much it changes what? Like the inflection changes what people are trying to say. And so sometimes I read the transcription just and then I’ll go back and listen to the recording and realize I had missed what they were trying to say if you just read the flat transcription versus listen to how they say it. So it’s so it’s-

Nathan Sack  25:11
So you’re not just you’re not just transcribing their words, you’re also transcribing like, this is what they said. That’s so cool. So if people wanted to buy the if people wanted to get their hands on the book, The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City, how would they do that what is the best way to do that.

Annika Bergen  25:31
They can go to this roots. There’s links, you can buy the book from there. And then we also, I put together sermon resources if pastors want to do a sermon series on the history of Kansas City.

Nathan Sack  25:44
I didn’t know that you had put together sermon series based off of this. Is it in the book? Or is it-

Annika Bergen  25:50
Um, no, it’s just online. So it’s the roots. And then it’s a there’s a sermon kit you can download, it comes with pictures that you can download to illustrate the topics and then outlines of the stories of what God’s done here.

Nathan Sack  26:03
Wow, that’s so cool that you went, you went as far as you went, as far as you could, and then just kind of gave it to the people said, you know, have fun.

Annika Bergen  26:11
Yeah. And then also, I’ve talked to people that have used the book as a small group a guide to go through and there’s, I put scriptures in the back as part of reflection, because God just taught me so much as I wrote. So I wanted to keep the book to history, but then I included a Bible study at the end. So you can look up scriptures that go along with the different topics that are covered, and then discuss like, Okay, how does this play out today? Where do we see these issues? And then what is God’s word have to say regarding it.

Nathan Sack  26:38
That’s so cool. So if people want to get a hold of you?

Annika Bergen 26:42
Through Annika, there’s a contact, there’s a contact form.

Nathan Sack  26:45
Okay. All right. I’ll include that both links in the in the show notes, so that so that people can easily access those things. So it’s great to have you on the Faith Horizons podcast.

Annika Bergen  26:57
Thank you so much.

Nathan Sack  26:59
What an incredible interview with Annika. Kansas City has such a rich history of God’s people who have prayed for, created jobs in, and press forward to build the incredible city we know today. Purchase the book at www dot the forward slash KC roots. On another note, if you have a book idea, but you’re not sure where to start, you can contact Annika at www dot annika I’ll be sure to include both of those websites in the show notes. God bless. Thank you so much for joining us for another Faith Horizons podcast. We look forward to sharing more conversations from the kingdom of God in Kansas City. If you’d like to partner with the Faith Horizons mission to discover the kingdom of God in Kansas City, one conversation at a time, please go to forward slash faith horizons. Thank you so much.

Show Notes

Purchase The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City:

Do you have a book idea but you’re not sure where to start?
You can contact Annika at  

Listen to the Podcast Here

To subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app you can visit.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Christian Creative Services Kansas City, Next Level Thinking Kansas City,
Recent Post

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Faith Horizons may earn a commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions about these services or products expressed here are our own.