Stewardship Resource

Everything I Do and Everything I Say After I Say I Believe

Happening  Happening
  • Author: Mary Ann Solmonson, Mary Ann was a pastor's wife, who remembers seminary days, happenings in congregations, seminary interns and life after the death of her husband.
  • Updated: 07/15/2013
  • Copyright: Mary Ann Solmonson

This is a thanksgiving devotional.

Mary Ann shares stories on how her connection with the Luther Seminary over a span of many years has brought her many blessings. These blessings were made possible by the generosity of people who give.

Mary Ann was a pastors wife remembers seminary days, happenings in congregations, seminary interns and life after the death of her husband.


Everything I Do and Everything I Say After I Say I Believe

I just participated in the first part of an intentional stewardship emphasis in our church, St. Mark in Lacey, Washington.

We gathered in small groups for two Bible Studies.  The first story that we looked at was the Prodigal Son and the second was the Good Samaritan.  Each time we looked at the various life styles of the people in the stories and how we, as individuals and as St. Mark Church, might see ourselves in the different lives of the people of these two stories.  We shared how we are living out our call to be stewards and servants.  We came up with the definition of stewardship as being,

EVERYTHING I AM AND EVERYTHING I DO AFTER I SAY I BELIEVE.

When I began to think about what I was going to say to you today, these Bible stories kept coming back to me.  How my life and Luther Seminary have been intertwined for the past 37 years.  How has this relationship helped me to live out my call to be a good steward and servant?

I came to the Seminary as a young new bride, new to the Lutheran Church, and soon to be a Lutheran Pastor's wife.  I felt like the poor man by the side of the road.  I hadn't been tossed to the side of the road, but I certainly was on a different road than I had ever been before.  Over the next four years there were many Samaritans who came my way.

There was St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church. Their Pastor Bob Anderson taught me what it meant to be a Lutheran and what Grace is really all about.  The church also helped us financially by paying for my husband's tuition all three years at the Seminary.

There were the Seminary Professors who came back to the Seminary in the evening to teach us Bible classes and classes about Luther.

There were the wives of the professors who met with us once every month to talk about the practical things about being the spouse of the Pastor, about what it is like to live in the Parsonage, and about how to share
with your congregation the gifts that you have been given.

There was Grace Lutheran Church in Washington D.C., our Internship church.  At times during this year, we felt like we were on the side of the road again, but always lifted back on the right path by the Pastor, his wife, and the congregation.  We learned what it was like to be under siege.  Martin Luther King was killed and we had riots in our city.  On Palm Sunday, there was an army tank in front of the church.  We were under curfew.  We took the food that people brought to the church to those in the riot torn areas of town.  We crossed the line protected by the men in uniform with guns, to deliver the bags of food.  We were the Good Samaritan, but were scared to death.  When I think back about this I wonder if the Good Samaritan from Jesus' story was afraid to do what he did.

Stewardship is everything I am or do after I say I believe.
Over the next 26 years we had the privilege to have eight interns from Luther spend their internship year with our congregations.  This past Saturday we celebrated the life of John Briel, a graduate of Luther.  He had been a good and faithful Pastor for about 50 years.  One of our interns, Arnie Bergland, was the pastor of his church and preached the sermon at the celebration of John's life.  I felt a sense of pride for my little part and for Luther Seminary's big part, in Arnie's being the kind of pastor that he is today.  He has it right--as John had it right too.  He began the sermon by having us join him in singing,

"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to him belong,
We are weak, but he is strong."

After 26 years of being a pastor's wife, my life fell apart and I found myself back on the side of the road.  My husband had died and I had to try to pick up the pieces of my life and put it together again.  Luther Seminary actively entered my life again as the Good Samaritan.  My Bishop called me and asked if I would consider representing SWW Synod on the board of the Seminary.  You have helped me to become the person that I am today.

I have said that I believe.  Now I must be a good steward and servant.  How do I do that in partnership with Luther Seminary?

We need to bring the Luther Seminary Story to the local congregations.  Let me share with you my story from St. Mark Lutheran Church.
Friday night we had a dinner as a part of the stewardship emphasis.  As I sat there, I looked around and this is what I saw:
Connie was sitting with his wife Elizabeth.  We spent several evenings in their home discussing with a small group from the church, who we were as St. Mark, our church, what our community's needs were, and what we thought our church's focus should be in the future.  I can't remember what we were talking about, but I shared a story I had read in a devotional.  It was a story about a young couple.  The man had just entered the Seminary.  They had very little money and just didn't know how they were going to pay their personal bills, buy food, and pay the tuition for school.  The student went to the post office that day and found a letter from someone from his home congregation and a check for $7,000.  This changed their lives.  Two weeks later Connie stopped me after church and said that he had been thinking a lot about that man.  He shared that at one point in his life he had been in that same situation and there was no one to help him.  He said I want to help a seminary student.  Jenny Peterson was coming to Olympia in a few weeks, so I asked Jenny if she would do a seminary presentation at our home for a few people from our congregation.  I invited Connie, Rhys, a former board member at PLTS, Margit , a woman that made me feel welcome when we first came to St. Mark, Si, a retired pastor wanting to do some work in visitation at St. Mark, and David, a young man that had just joined the church with us.  David had graduated from Iowa State with a degree in computer science, and was now living in Olympia, because his wife was attending college.  He was looking for a job and not having any success.  We had learned that he also like to read theology.  I asked Jenny, to please just talk about the seminary and not ask for money.  When the evening ended and all had left, Jenny asked why we had invited David.  All I could say was that he was lonely and I thought that he needed a friend.

I see David scurrying around the dinner table taking pictures of all in attendance.  He is now our youth worker.  When asked by my husband just last week, "David, have you thought about going to the seminary?"  His answer was, "Yes I have been thinking about it lately".  The seed had been planted and was now beginning to grow.

I see Trish and Mike.  Their first Sunday at St. Mark was the Sunday that Gerry Rafftery preached and lead the Adult forum.  They had been looking for a new church for several years.  They felt so welcome that Sunday that they have been in church every Sunday since.  A couple of weeks after their first Sunday, we had our Missionaries from Tanzania in church with us.  They are working at the Massai Girl's school.  They shared about their life at the school and told us about the lives of the girls at the school.  They said that they had four girls who had just graduated and that all four should continue their studies at the seminary in Tanzania.  There was enough money for only one of the girls to enter the seminary.  It cost $1,200 a year for three years for them to attend the seminary.  At the end of the service we had a thank offering as they do in Tanzania.  Several people brought gifts of kind to be auctioned off after the service and.  The money was given to Jean and Marv to share with the girls at the school.  Mike brought a small piece of paper up and laid it on the altar during the offering.  During the auction, we found out that he had offered a recovering of any piece of furniture.  They had heard the words from Gerry, Jean, and Marv and were moved.

I see Joe sitting with her friend Vicky.  They were moved after hearing Gerry, Jean, and Marv also.  They gave Jean and Marv a check for $1,200 for the tuition for another Massai girl, so that she could enter the seminary too.  This check came with a promise of two more checks, just like the first one.

I see Margit sitting with her husband Harry.  Harry is meeting with Connie and several others in the church to look at our benevolence giving, to see if maybe we can as a church help support  another girl from the Massai  Girls' school go to the seminary, to help Pastor Laroya of Arusha, Tanzania to attend Makamura Seminary for further study, and possibility a seminary student at Luther.

Members of St. Mark are learning what it means to be stewards and servants.
I was privileged to be a part of Paul Berge and Mary Steeber's focus on leadership that they held at a church in Tacoma.  What a wonderful evening I had.  I listened as they visited with members of this congregation about what it means to lift up leaders for our church.  This congregation had just ordained one of their own into the ministry of the church.  I was surprised how little these members knew about the seminary.  At the end of the evening, Paul asked them, "If you could say one thing to the seminary President, what would you say?"  The first man that spoke said, "Where can I send my money?"

The future of our church depends on our being intentional stewards and servants.  Being a steward and servant doesn't speak directly to money, but has everything to do with how we share the gifts that God has given us. This includes how we share the gift of money.

I thank God, the stewards, and servants in my life for bringing me to this day, so that I can say,
Through Grace I have been saved and even faith is not my own.  It is the gift of God for us and not the works that we have done.  Don't let anybody boast of this, it's God's great gift.

For this grace of God is surely all sufficient for me, for the strength of God is always perfect in weakness.  When I'm weak, then I am strong, for this is God's great gift.

So this weakness with contentment I'll accept now in myself, all my hardships pains and griefs that still lie deep within my self.  When I'm weak, then I am strong, for this is God's great gift.  Amen.

Mary Ann Solmonson
Olympia, Washington
Luther Seminary Board of Directors
October 2002

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