Story Magazine

Third Quarter, 2007

Scholarships Ease Financial Worries

Rob (M.Div. Sr.) and Emily (M.A. Sr.) Myallis [standing] and William ('04) and Chue ('07) Siong [seated] have all been able to ease the financial burden of seminary  due to scholarship gifts.

Less Debt Allows Graduates to Focus on Ministry

Rob Myallis had finished college and was working in New York when he applied to Luther. He had felt the call to ministry for some time. Even so, deciding to enter seminary was not easy. "It's difficult to give up your financial independence," he says. "It's like trading a weekly paycheck for a weekly bill."

Financial aid in the form of a Presidential Scholarship and an ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission Scholarship relieved the stress Rob felt about going into debt. The support also helped in another way. "It affirmed that I was gifted and making the right decision," says Rob, who is completing a Master of Divinity degree.

For Rob's wife, Emily, financial support was also a crucial factor in her decision to begin a Master of Arts degree in Cross Cultural Ministries at Luther. She was already carrying a moderate amount of debt from her undergraduate education. A full-tuition scholarship from the ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission made it possible to come to seminary without running up more debt. Receiving the scholarship was also an affirmation of her call.

Rob and Emily, who married just before Rob's internship year, also received support from their home congregations, and Rob received synodical support. "So many people have invested in us, and we want to give back by serving in a congregation," Rob says. "Having less debt at graduation means we can be more open in our choice of call."

Scholarship aid also eased the financial burden of seminary education for recent graduates William and Chue Siong. Although the couple does carry some educational debt, their payments are manageable. As a result, William can focus on his ministry as senior pastor at Hmong Central Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

The congregation pays only a very modest salary and can't afford the standard ELCA benefits package. "Without the scholarship, we would owe at least $60,000, and I couldn't afford to serve," says William, who completed his Master of Divinity degree in 2004.

Both William and Chue, who earned a Master of Arts degree in Mission and World Christianity in 2007, received Spectrum Scholarships, which are awarded to students of color. Without this help, many people can't consider going to seminary, Chue says. The scholarship encourages them to take the leap.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has donated to Luther for their financial support and their prayers," William says. "Without them, we wouldn't be here."

Rob echoes this sentiment. "God has blessed us," he says. "We are grateful for all the resources we've been given, and we hope and pray for the day when no student will leave seminary with massive debt."