Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2008

Recent Graduate Puts Cross-Cultural Program to the Test

by Meta Herrick, '08, M.Div.

Linda Webster, left, with a group of cross-cultural learners in Juarez, Mexico.

Students are often drawn to Luther Seminary because they hear about a program that connects with their deepest callings as servants of Christ. When Linda Webster, '08, compared seminaries, she noted the abundant potential for cross-cultural education flourishing at Luther.

Webster ended up taking full advantage of that potential after deciding to attend Luther. In May 2008, she received a certificate of achievement "in recognition of the completion of the most cross-cultural learning opportunities of any student in the history of Luther Seminary's cross-cultural program."

"All I can say is that when God puts something into your heart, into your being, you need to follow it, though you may not understand anything about it at the time," she said.

The right place

Webster was eager to meet Rod Maeker, recently-retired director of the cross-cultural program, when she arrived on campus for her junior year. He confirmed her impressions about Luther Seminary, a school that has encouraged her to connect her biblical and theological learning to contextual and multicultural experiences. This initial conversation introduced Webster to several opportunities, including Luther's affiliation with Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The pastor at her teaching parish was extremely supportive of the call Webster was discerning. One of her first courses at Luther was an introductory cross-cultural seminar.

"We tackled hard issues in that class, like racism," Webster said. "This class helped prepare me and inspire me to seek out so many cross-cultural opportunities at Luther."

The log church in Rocky Boy, Mont.

Webster spent time at Pine Ridge twice during seminary, and learned about border and immigration issues in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. She traveled to South Africa to encounter people stricken by HIV/AIDS, still recovering after the formal end of apartheid. Webster has been inspired by the saints of El Salvador and Guatemala, standing where they stood firmly for the poor and oppressed. She cried for Israel as walls were being built instead of torn down.

A new perspective

"I think I have been a champion of the underdog most of my life, but Luther called me to see things with new eyes and to look at the world with a sense of justice. I continue to be challenged to ask the age-old Lutheran question, 'What does this mean?' in new contexts."

Webster has been called to serve Our Savior's Lutheran Church on the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana.

"I have come full circle since my first experience at Pine Ridge. It was there I started to learn what it means to walk with and accompany people instead of trying to fix a problem. It was there I started to learn what it means to listen to other people's stories instead of having to talk myself."

At Our Savior's she will develop a deeper sense of call, borne out of the opportunities for study and experience she found at Luther Seminary.

"Each of my experiences has enriched me in some way and filled me with faith, hope and love. This growth is not just for me, but for the sake of the church."