Story Magazine - Fourth Quarter, 2008

2009 Faithfulness in Ministry Cross Honorees

by Natalie Gessert, M.Div. senior

This year's Faithfulness in Ministry recipients serve God in very different settings: a Guatemalan mission, a college and a Bible camp. What they have in common, however, is much more important. They all serve the Lord faithfully, everyday. Awards will be given to all the recipients during Mid-Winter Convocation, Jan. 14-16.

10 years or fewer
Amanda Olson de Castillo, 2004
Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala


Amanda Olson de Castillo went to Guatemala in 2004 after being awarded Luther Seminary's Graduate Preaching Fellowship, hoping to fine-tune her Spanish language skills and learn more about local culture and preaching. She never left. Today, not only is her Spanish nearly perfected, but she is married to Horacio de Castillo, the son of Guatemala's Lutheran church president, and finds her daily work in ministry with the Guatemalan people.

After nearly 36 years of civil war, many citizens who fled Guatemala to escape the violence are slowly returning home. The Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala was founded to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into what often still looks like a hopeless situation. The church is responsible for the spiritual needs of members, leadership development, education and training.

One of Olson de Castillo's roles involves organizing local congregations and entrusting local leaders to the care and advancement of that community. The Rev. Ralph Baumgartner, former bishop's associate for the Saint Paul Area Synod, wrote in his nomination, "The mission of ILAG is nothing less than heroic. This little church in Guatemala was formed only in 1992 and now has 17 congregations, adding roughly one new congregation per year."

Olson de Castillo's work is situated in the middle of this progress, both for ILAG itself and also in drawing ILAG and the ELCA into relationship with one another. The Rev. Paul Erickson of Augustana Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., wrote of Olson de Castillo, "...She functions as a cultural bridge, and her understanding of both North American and Guatemalan ecclesiastical and cultural contexts is a key component of making this partnership happen."

Olson de Castillo was ordained last year by Padre Horacio Castillo, president of the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala, under the commission of the Saint Paul Area Synod and the ELCA's Global Mission Unit. She lives in Guatemala with her husband and newborn daughter, Abigail.

More than 25 years
Mark Gravrock, 1977
Trinity Lutheran College, Everett, Wash.


While a professor at Trinity Lutheran College, much of the time Gravrock's office door bore the sign "talking," meaning he was discussing classroom ideas or counseling a student. He championed deep relationships with his students and colleagues, believing time and care created disciples of Christ.

Though Gravrock was responsible for his own study and campus life activities, his students attest to the individual attention he provided. Three recent Luther Seminary graduates claim inspiration from Gravrock's teaching and counsel during their time with him at Trinity: John Schraan ('06), Stephanie Johnson ('06) and Kristina Johnson ('06).

Stephanie Johnson said, "One of the most powerful comments I remember him making in class was in talking about the lament Psalms. He said, 'Sometimes there are things in my Bible that just won't smooth out in my blender, and I'm okay with the lumps.' His words have been helpful for me both in my theological studies and in my ministry. I comfort people with his words. We want something the Bible is more complex than that. There are lumps in our Bible and it also conveys there are lumps in our lives."

In his nomination of Gravrock, the Rev. Dr. Lowell Stime, emeritus dean at Trinity Lutheran College, wrote, "As a beloved teacher, he [demonstrated] a unique ability to challenge his students not to settle for easy answers. He [helped] his students live with the questions of life, and to seek answers through study, prayer and good interpretation of Scripture."

Ordained in 1977 by the American Lutheran Church, Gravrock served two thriving parishes, Bethany Lutheran Church in Kelley, Iowa, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in SeaTac, Wash. Gravrock was called to the Biblical Studies Department at Trinity Bible College in 1986 and went on to earn his Ph.D. at Luther Seminary in 1998. Gravrock recently retired from Trinity and moved to Kalispell, Mont.

More than 25 years
Johan Hinderlie, 1973
Mount Carmel Ministries, Alexandria, Minn.


When the Rev. Johan Hinderlie arrived at the site of an aging Bible camp near Alexandria, Minn., he heard God's call. Hinderlie is responsible for breathing life into what is now Mount Carmel, turning the site into a full Bible ministry for all ages and Lutheran denominations.

Mount Carmel Ministries was founded in 1938 and Hinderlie was called to the site in October 1984. Under his leadership with wife Sonja and a full staff, Mount Carmel ministers to spiritual renewal and marriage enrichment, offers Walk Thru the Bible seminars, and uses the Moravian devotional "Daily Texts" for guidance and in prayer and Scripture. Pastor Joel Quie of Prairie Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., points to the vast importance of the practical "Daily Texts" ministry. He said, "Johan has taught thousands to pray and draw closer to the heart of God with this simple tool."

Under Hinderlie's leadership, Mount Carmel continues to grow. A new capital campaign has led to the demolition of Mount Carmel's aging chapel, with a new chapel and program center underway in its place. In the past he has managed building campaigns to completion--debt-free--and his vision for current construction is no different.

However, the greatest gift Hinderlie provides is his personal touch in ministry. For Hinderlie, ministry is more than bricks and mortar. As the Rev. Patricia and the Rev. Timothy Baglien wrote in nominating Hinderlie, "Johan always has an inviting presence for those who need a word of prayer, a listening ear or someone to provide theological reflection--even when he may be tired or overworked." Hinderlie's ministry touches people of all ages and spiritual needs. "Johan has a heart for making Christ known; Jesus is not only the Good News, he is the Best News," wrote Quie.

Is there someone whose ministry has inspired you? Download a nomination form at www.luthersem.edu/fim. Nominations are due May 30. Questions? Contact Mary Steeber at msteeber@luthersem.edu or 651-641-3596.