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

Global Vision - Fall 2012

View more articles in the Fall 2012 issue.

GMI Member Congregation Profile

Mount Olive Lutheran Church celebrates a world of voices

by Andrea Matthews Clark, Consultant

Ibrahim Bitrus, Ph.D. student, with Mount Olive Lutheran Church member Bradley Holt

Open the doors to Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and you're likely to be greeted by a passionate chorus of voices. "The whole congregation sings like they're a choir," said Kate Sterner, who's been part of Mount Olive's congregation for more than 10 years and is on staff at Luther Seminary.

"We love to reach out and share God's love with other people," Sterner said, an idea reflected in Mount Olive's deep musical tradition—which finds the whole congregation singing and harmonizing during services—as well as in its commitment to opening its doors to everyone, serving its neighborhood in as many ways as it can, and supporting a global exchange of hospitality and learning.

Sterner plays a role in this global involvement as a member of Mount Olive's mission committee, a group of congregation members who plan and budget for the church's worldwide projects. For the past 12 years, this committee has chosen to express Mount Olive's commitment to international outreach in part by supporting Luther Seminary's Global Mission Institute.

Receiving the Gifts International Students Bring

Through the GMI, Mount Olive can invite Luther Seminary international students and visiting scholars to speak or serve as guest preachers, or to participate in the church's adult education program and mission fests. "It's important for us to learn how to practice hospitality and also to receive gifts," said Paul Schadewald, Mount Olive's mission committee chair. "We welcome students and scholars from the GMI and receive the gifts they're offering—their global perspectives."

This academic year, Luther Seminary hosts 71 international students from 28 different countries in addition to a Schiotz Visiting Professor in the spring semester. The Schiotz Professorship provides an opportunity for a scholar to visit the United States and spend five to nine months at Luther Seminary for research, writing, teaching and interacting with Luther Seminary faculty and students, as well as serving as a resource to the community through congregations like Mount Olive.

Schadewald believes global outreach is crucial to how we understand ourselves and our community. "Thinking of ourselves in an international context encourages us to become more humble and gracious in our interactions with the world," he said. "It can't be about only what we're bringing. We have to recognize everyone's inherent value and strengths and what they have to offer. It's about knowing that another country's values and culture equals our own. That's what the GMI can provide and can be to Mount Olive in its mission."

Mount Olive leaders believe so strongly in the GMI that they recently moved support for this initiative from their discretionary funding to their general funding, cementing their ongoing commitment to the GMI long into the future.

Helping Students to Thrive

Elizabeth Flomo, project coordinator for the GMI, said, "Mount Olive's vibrant global mission engagement is a testimony to the fire that catches when the Word of God dwells richly in a community, drawing them into relationship with others, across borders of land and sea. The GMI deeply values the support of Mount Olive and other donor congregations, which helps us to cultivate an environment at Luther Seminary in which international students and scholars can thrive, and to provide opportunities for all to engage the voices of the global church."

In addition to supporting the GMI, Mount Olive is involved in many other international projects, all of which share the GMI's philosophies—awareness, hospitality, networking and understanding.

"These projects are borne of respect for mutual learning and teaching," Schadewald said. "We don't have all the answers or perspectives. What we have can be complemented by other voices." And this collection of world voices contributes to a larger choir—one that transcends geographical borders to share and spread the joy of God's love.