Donna Ostry: Farmer Herman’s Bride Shines Brightly

Farmer Herman and the Flooding Barn is new children’s book about 344 people working together to solve a big problem and is illustrated by 344 different people who are counting on the power of unity to bring hope to over 400,000 kids in foster care. This is the 3rd in a series of posts about just a few of those illustrators.

I happened to be speaking at a conference in Nebraska about an hour south of the Ostry farm. I had been telling the story of 344 people who had moved a barn back in 1988 and had written the text for a possible children’s book. However, I wanted to meet the Ostrys in person and get their blessing.  At that point, we didn’t yet have any of the 344 drawings we needed and I knew that I wanted the Ostrys to do one.

When I use the flooding barn story as a metaphor for foster care and our involvement in it, I always share the “Four Principles of Moving Barns (and building foster care movements)”.  They go like this:

If you’re going to move a barn . . .

  1. Know where you’re going
  2. Get some extra folks
  3. Put the steel grid in place first
  4. Listen to the guy with the loudspeaker

While I won’t take the time to explain them all, that fourth one is a reference to the fact that the whole barn-moving operation was dependent on 344 people listening carefully to the instructions of Herman Ostry, and then following those instructions in unity. We as Christians also have someone with a loudspeaker and He’s given us His Word to instruct us how we are to live and work in unity.  If we ever want to move any barns in this world, we’re going to need to listen to Him.

Because of this connection in the story, I had been thinking it would be cool if the Ostrys could draw something that would be on every single page – something to represent the constant presence of God as we seek to solve big problems together. The thought of having them draw the sun came to mind.

So I had called ahead and Herman and Donna had agreed to meet. I set off from Lincoln and drove through the beautiful countryside on the way to their house, arriving about an hour later. They were very warm and we sat down in their living room to chat. I told them about the children’s book and about the somewhat crazy idea to have 344 people illustrate it. I read the text of the book for them and they were more than happy to give their blessing to the project.  They were especially excited that it would be used to help kids in foster care.

Then came the part where I had to ask them for a drawing. I explained how I wanted them to draw something that could be used on every page. As was true with most everyone we asked to draw, they looked a little unsure. I then mentioned that a sun might be a good option if they were willing.

All of a sudden, Donna Ostry’s face lit up, “Oh, you’ve seen my sun!”

Now, I was the one who was puzzled, “Umm, no?”

“Here, let me show you!”

She then led me into an adjoining room that contained a section of wall complete with numerous pictures, mementos, and articles all from the 1988 barn moving.   And then I saw it. Plastered everywhere was this cute little smiling sun that had become the mascot for the barn moving. I had never seen it in the pictures and video footage online, but it was everywhere. They put it on all of the promotional materials, on a float in the centennial parade and even painted it on the side of the barn shortly after they moved it!

This little sun represented everything about that amazing day. And Donna Ostry had drawn it.

I handed her a pad of paper and a pen and asked if she’d be willing to give it a go. It had been a long time (the barn-moving was over 25 years ago). She retreated to the kitchen to draw while Herman gave me a tour of the area. When we returned some time later, Donna was finishing up in the kitchen. When I looked at the drawing pad, I was amazed. Not only had she drawn the sun but she’d also drawn a second version that was peeking out from behind a cloud and a third version that was winking. They were all fantastic.

According to plan, there is, in fact, one of her suns on every page of the book. However, if you have seen the book, you’ll notice right away that there are several pages where you can’t see the sun at all – like the page where it’s storming or pages where the scene is inside. However, we made sure the sun is still there. We put it in the computer file layered below the other drawings. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Just like God.

You can’t always see Him, but He is always there. Orchestrating everything. Calling His people to unity. And He is there allowing us to work together to participate in bigger things than we will ever do on our own.

To learn more about Farmer Herman and the Flooding Barn, the accompanying classroom kit materials, and how to find your fit in foster care, go to