A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2012

View more articles in the Spring 2012 issue.

GMI Member Profile

Duane Olson and Connie Beck share a lifelong commitment to Lutheran missions

by Susan Gangsei, Consultant

Speaking to the question, "What is the GMI's role at Luther Seminary?" Duane Olson says, "The Christian faith is by its very nature missionary. If that is true, then the missionary nature of its faith must be highly determinative in shaping the church's theology, life, message, mission and structure."

He goes on to quote German theologian Hans-Werner Gensichen in saying, "In accepting the extensiveness and complexity of that claim, it is imperative for us also to realize that not everything that the church does has a missionary intention, while at the same time insisting that everything that it does has a missionary dimension."

Olson, one of the GMI founders and its first director, can speak with great accountability to the historical and present importance of the Global Mission Institute at Luther Seminary,

"The GMI was founded to support Luther Seminary in all of its disciplines and institutional responsibilities for giving serious thought and appropriate expression to both the intentional and dimensional aspects of the church's missionary calling -- locally, globally and everywhere in between," he said.  

Olson and his wife, Connie Beck, are longtime supporters of the Global Mission Institute. Having each served as missionaries and marrying in retirement after the deaths of their spouses, they both have a long and deep passion for global mission. Because of this, they feel that sustained giving to the GMI is a way they can fulfill their mutual passion to spread the good news of Jesus Christ across the world.

This couple has chosen to support Luther Seminary through separate gifts. Among his gifts, Olson has given to the GMI to support international Ph.D. students seeking to study at Luther. He also has planned a future estate gift for the GMI. Beck also is deeply committed to supporting global mission through annual gifts to Luther and the GMI.

Longtime commitments to global mission

Olson was ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in May 1953. One month later, he and his wife Arda (Ensrud) were commissioned for mission work in Madagascar.

Over the ensuing forty-two years, Olson served together with Arda and their family as a missionary pastor and seminary professor for Madagascar (1953-1970); as The American Lutheran Church mission executive for South Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Australia and the South Pacific generally (1970-1982); in Madagascar (1978-1982); and finally as professor of mission on the faculty of Luther Seminary from 1982 until his retirement in 1995.

Beck was born in Madagascar to missionary parents, David and Emma Lovaas, but grew up in the United States. She later returned to Madagascar as a single woman, where she served for 22 years. During this time she did parish work, developed a complete Sunday School curriculum in the Malagasy language, and was responsible for audience relations and Bible correspondence courses at the Radio Voice of the Gospel recording studio.

Beck says, "You can't just translate English Sunday School materials into something useable in other countries because of cultural differences. Also, in many places resources are meager and the people very poor. A twenty-cent Sunday school book would be a big expense for many families."

When she returned to the United States she continued in ministry by editing the American Lutheran Church women's magazine "Scope" until 1988 (whereupon they merged into the ELCA), and devotional materials until 1990. 

Beck reflected, "You cannot live in a developing country for twenty years without it impacting the way you think and live. It was natural for me to continue my concerns through working in connection with the national church and contributing to Luther Seminary."