A spiritual pilgrimage

Ron Burtz

The new owners of Rose Haven Senior Living south of Custer along Hwy. 385 have quite a story to tell about their two-year process of moving from western New Jersey to the Black Hills. In fact, Joseph and Amanda Merkle describe the transition as a spiritual journey, likening it to the travels of Old Testament Abraham to the Promised Land.
The Merkles purchased the expansive home and business from Tiffany Cuny several weeks ago and moved their young family of four girls into the lower level of the facility in late April.
Rose Haven currently has four residents and a staff of five caregivers which the Merkles plan to supplement through their presence in the home.
“It was a leading from the Lord,” said Amanda in describing the beginnings of the couple’s inner desire to relocate from their native Hunterdon County, N.J. in the fall of 2020.
She said the couple had been spending a great deal of time studying the Bible and praying for an understanding of God’s will for them. During that time, independent of one another, the thought of moving to South Dakota kept coming up to both of them over and over.
Near the end of a several-year process of fixing up their home Joseph remarked one day “You know, we’re fixing up our house to sell it.” Then in a conversation with friends he mentioned he was thinking about a move to South Dakota, to which Amanda said she had been thinking the same thing. That was their confirmation, even though they weren’t really sure where it was.
“We didn’t even know where South Dakota was,” said Joseph, noting they had to look at a map of the U.S. to find it.
Their wedding anniversary in April of 2021 found them on an exploratory trip to Lead. They say South Dakota was so different from what they were used to, they thought they might have been mistaken about the prompting.
However, after returning home they listed their house in August and it sold in just three days. After closing in early November they moved to Hill City where they lived in a rental for the next six months and started attending the Little White Church.
Joseph took a job in Rapid City and the couple began mulling over the idea of opening a bed and breakfast, but then they saw the listing for Rose Haven. Both felt like this was where they were supposed to be even though they didn’t know what Rose Haven was all about at that point. The resolution came in meeting with the previous owner.
“The Lord really just gave us confirmation that this was where we were supposed to be,” said Amanda, explaining that they decided they would take on the mission of meeting the growing need for senior care in the area.
She said moving her young family into the facility has already brought a change to atmosphere.
“We’ve already seen the light and the joy in the ladies as the kids have passed by,” she said. “They (the residents) really enjoying having them around.”
Rose Haven is licensed as a residential living center, not a healthcare facility so there are no medical staff. However, staff members provide the residents with three meals a day, light housekeeping and assistance in daily living tasks such as making clothing selections and bathing.
“They’re caring, compassionate, kind, hard workers and they just love on these residents so well,” said Amanda of the staff.
The Merkles said there are open rooms in the facility currently and they plan to make more room available if needed. They also plan to offer respite care for caregivers of elderly family members as well.


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