Stewardship Resource

“Mange Takk” (many thanks)

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  • Author: Joe Hognander was a career Naval Officer, a recent Trustee at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis and is a personal financial coach for Luther seminarians.
  • Updated: 12/03/2009
  • Copyright: Joe Hognander

The following talk by Joe Hogander is a compelling story about generous giving out that is rooted in deep gratitude.

Joe tells about his Grandfather "Lars", his life, his ministry and the reason why the family has been moved to give a gift in thanksgiving for him.

"Mange Takk" (many thanks)

I've been asked to "tell the story" of how my mother came to create a scholarship here at Luther in the name of her father, Reverend Lars R. Lund.  My only regret is that she is no longer with us to tell you about it herself.

The story begins over a century ago, in 1900, to be exact, when my grandfather, Lars, left Norway at the age of 18 to travel to the United States to join his sister in Calumet, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula.  At that time, copper mining was the primary industry and, as my grandfather told me, he went from mine to mine seeking work only to be told, "There's no job here for you, sonny."  I can still hear the joy in his voice when he recalled how he was finally hired just before Christmas after months of searching.

As you can imagine, work in the mines was dangerous, with miners frequently injured or killed in accidents.  Although he never said exactly what it was, something happened while he was working that caused him to dedicate the rest of his life to the service of God and spreading the Gospel.  Despite this epiphany, he continued to work until he could repay the cost of his passage and set aside money for his studies at Augsburg Seminary, which subsequently merged into Luther Seminary.

While going through his papers, I came across a receipt for his first semester tuition at Augsburg Seminary, dated October 3, 1906.  Anyone care to guess the amount? $15.00!  Although paying for his pre-seminary courses, his three years of seminary study were paid by the Lutheran Free Church.  In essence, he received a full tuition scholarship.  Times have certainly changed.

He graduated from the seminary in 1912, was ordained, became a US citizen and answered his first Call as a "circuit rider" minister traveling by horse and buggy (sleigh in the winter) between seven rural churches in the vicinity of Marinette, WI, about 50 miles north of Green Bay.

His last Call was to Ebenezer Home in Minneapolis from which he retired after 48 years of service at the age of 76.  Many of the tributes received at the time of his death referred to him as "our beloved pastor" who "served the Lord with gladness." What a fitting description for this man of God.

Seven years ago, my mother and I made a return trip to his family farm, located in a remote mountain farming village about 160 miles northwest of Oslo.  One of the treasures of our trip was visiting the 250 year old church where my grandfather had been baptized and confirmed.  A cousin carefully led us through the surrounding cemetery where many generations of our ancestors are buried, pointing out the graves of our relatives.

As we walked among the headstones, I was struck by the large number of grave markers that had "Takk," (thanks) "Mange Takk," (many thanks) or "Takk for Alt" (thanks for everything) engraved on them.  In this very poor, hard-scrabble area where sunlight reaches the valley floor for less than 6 months a year, where everyone depends on each other for survival, I could understand why they would want to "thank" those who had gone before them for the contribution they had made to the lives of those in the community.

The image of those headstones inscribed with "thanks" made a profound and lasting impression on me.  During the following years, my mother and I frequently talked about it and eventually came to the question of whether there was something that we could do to "thank" my grandfather for all he had done for us, as well as for the many to whom he brought the word of God and the comfort of a strong faith.

We concluded that it was not something that we should do to "thank" him, but rather we should do something that he would have done if he were able. As we thought back on his life, it became clear that he would have wanted to give others who were following in his footsteps the same opportunity for seminary education as he had received.

Fortunately, Pastor Gerry Rafftery as most helpful in setting up a scholarship, at Luther, that we felt reflected my grandfather's wishes.  Since that time, this scholarship has assisted three students.  My mother had the joy of meeting the first recipient before passing away.

So that is our story.

I'm sure each of you donors also has a compelling story that led you to make your much needed donation to Luther.  It would be wonderful if we could offer free enrollment to all seminary students, and we can to some extent, by creating endowed scholarships that will continue to make a Luther education available to those who have heard their Call and are answering it.

Finally let me leave you with this Greek proverb:  "A civilization flourishes when its people plant trees under which they will never sit."

I encourage all of you to plant the trees that will enable Luther Seminary to flourish and continue to educate outstanding men and women for God's service long after those of us who are here tonight are gone.

Thank you and God bless you all.

Joe Hognander

Joe Hognander feels at home around Luther Seminary.  Both of his grandfathers were ministers, Norwegian Lutheran and Swedish Covenant, and he lived in a seminary for three years during college.  Born and raised in Minneapolis, he left the area after high school for college, graduate school and employment.  In 1990, he returned to care for his ailing parents following a career as a Naval Officer.  Prior to his parents' passing, the majority of his effort was devoted to care giving, but he also found time to volunteer for a number of organizations, especially Westminster Presbyterian Church where he recently completed six years of service as a Trustee. During the past three years he has enjoyed his contact with Luther students as a financial mentor. Joe is a private investor and president of the Hognander Foundation.

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