Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2008

Alum Spotlight: Letha Wilson-Barnard

by Brandy Gerjets, '08, M.Div.

Letha Wilson-Barnard, '07, poses with one of her parishioners.

Five years ago, Letha Wilson-Barnard would never have guessed that she might one day introduce herself as Niam Plig Hli Nra Her. Now, as the associate vicar at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles in St. Paul, Letha has not only acquired a new name, but is practicing faith and doing ministry in a whole new culture.

A 2007 graduate of Luther, Letha began serving alongside the Rev.William Bulson at the first Hmong-majority Anglican congregation in the United States. The following February she had learned enough "liturgical Hmong" to read and chant the leader's part at the Hmong-language worship service. Her dedication to serving and communicating with her parishioners will be further formalized this fall when she begins Hmong language classes at the University of Minnesota.

"I've always had a passion for cross-cultural ministry," Rev.Wilson-Barnard says. Coming from a background in non-profit work, her life and field experience involve a diversity of cultures. When she happened to hear about the exciting faith community taking shape at Church of the Holy Apostles, she knew she was a good fit for their mission development needs.

What part of your seminary education most prepared you for ministry?

I constantly refer to my Bible classes. Actually, many Old Testament stories really resonate well with Hmong culture and experience. The mission classes were so exciting for me. I also took electives relating to cross-cultural pastoral care, which has been really helpful. I was fortunate to know my passion when I started seminary, so I could tailor my education to that.

What was it like being an ecumenical student at Luther?

I got a great education here, without exception. Luther has a great faculty, and I always felt that everyone was hospitable and respectful.

What advice do you have for current students?

You may have no idea what your future will look like, but don't lose heart. God does not give us the whole itinerary -- it's more like freeway exit to freeway exit. You can only see the place where the lamp is shining. Just know that there is ministry to be done and God will use you.