Story Magazine

Second Quarter, 2002

In loving memory

by Todd Hawkins, M.Div. senior

Nora Rosvold saw the breadth and length, height and the depth of the love of Jesus Christ. She experienced it herself and shared that love with others. Nora was a missionary.

Her mission ended suddenly with a diagnosis of cancer. Or did it? Nora died in 1941, yet more than 60 years later, 14 of her nephews and nieces took it upon themselves to carry on her mission work by establishing an endowed scholarship at Luther Seminary in her name.

Seeds were planted for the scholarship when Nora died. She made provisions in her will that $75 from her estate be given to each of her nieces and nephews so they could attend Bible camp, or some other Christian pursuit.

Moris Hoversten, Nora's eldest nephew, had something special in mind for the gift he received. He commented at the time that a scholarship should be established to honor Nora's name. The $75 each niece and nephew received, he said, could be the foundation of such a scholarship and further Christian education.

"My brother had mentioned it to me just after Nora died, in 1941 or '42," Henry Hoversten recalled. "Nora was such a Christ-like figure to us, and we all admired her."

Although none of the family members acted on his idea at the time, it is no surprise that Moris would suggest a Christian education scholarship to honor Nora. Her ministry was deeply rooted in education. A trained teacher, she began teaching in a country school but found the job unrewarding. She later found a more satisfying setting in which to teach: China.

Nora was born on a prairie farm near Fort Ransom, N.D., in 1893. Her family relocated near Fergus Falls, Minn., while she was still a young girl. After attending rural schools, Nora studied to be a teacher.

"Very early in my school life I decided that teaching was my future work," she wrote in 1938. Her writings from that time shed light on much of her life, and her calling from God. "My first year of teaching in a country school found me very disillusioned. I found no pleasure in it whatsoever!"

God had other things in mind for Nora.

"That summer, a friend and I decided we wanted to attend the Annual Convention of our church," she wrote. "At that convention I made the acquaintance of a young woman representing the Lutheran Welfare Society of Minneapolis (then called the Lutheran Inner Mission). I inquired about the work and it appealed to me."

At the age of 23 Nora resigned from teaching, and moved to Minneapolis to enroll in the Lutheran Inner Mission Society. "A few weeks later I was daily walking the streets of Minneapolis ߚ I was happy as a lark in a green meadow! I had certainly found my peace, for no amount of poverty, sickness, or sordid sights could depress my spirits."

The five years Nora spent in the streets of Minneapolis were among her most satisfying. Yet she sensed God calling her to another place. "Secretly I hoped it would be Madagascar, but my application stated a willingness to serve anywhere," she wrote. "I was asked to go to China."

Though her time there was filled with turbulence (the late '20s and '30s were very difficult in China) she grew to love the country and the people she met. She spent a total of 12 years teaching at schools in Peking, Sinyangchow, Kwangchow and other cities. She also helped in hospitals, and worked closely with other missionaries and pastors serving in China.

Through it all, she brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to people. Missionaries like Nora often traveled across the country, riding in wheelbarrows, rickshaw, open box cars or in any way possible, she recalled. Nora's travels to and from China inspired her to travel elsewhere, too. She spent time in England, Norway and many places in the United States. She hoped to go back to China, but cancer prevented a return trip. Nora died in 1941 at a Minneapolis hospital.

A friend wrote of her death: "On the evening of July 29, 1941, just as the sun's rays were lengthening in the western sky, she passed away from this life to be with the Lord, whom she loved."

That love of the Lord inspired her family. "She brought back many things from China, and taught us and counseled us," Henry Hoversten said. "After she died, we heard from many people in China who knew her and loved her. She really made a difference in their lives."

Moris and Henry Hoversten, along with 12 other nieces and nephews, supported the scholarship fund in her name. They continue to see God working through Nora's life, even so many years after she died.

"The 14 of us are in our 60s, 70s or 80s," Henry Hoversten reflected. "This seemed a good time to see if they were interested (in starting the scholarship fund). After all these years, it seemed that if we were going to do it, we should do it now." They did.

"She was such a fine lady, and it [the scholarship] means her memory can be extended a little longer," Hoversten said. "What a joy it has been to have an aunt who would dedicate her life to missions."

You are invited to contribute to the Nora A. Rosvold Memorial Scholarship Contact Lloyd Ratkovich, major gifts consultant at at 651-641-3448, toll-free at 888-358-8437, or by mailing your contribution to: Office of Seminary Relations, Luther Seminary, 2481 Como Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108