Story Magazine - Winter, 2011

2011 Faithfulness in Ministry Cross honorees

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

Since 1991, the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross awards have acknowledged and celebrated the commitment of individuals to keep ministry alive. These awards lift up and honor the ministry of not only individual recipients, but of all graduates of Luther Seminary and its antecedent seminaries. The Council awards three Faithfulness in Ministry crosses each year to individuals who graduated:

*  Within 10 years
*  Within the past 25 years (No 2010 recipient)
*  More than 25 years ago

Within the last 10 years
Justin Grimm, '05
Advent Lutheran Church, Lake Ann, Mich.

As a mission developer, Justin Grimm knew he'd be building a church from the ground up when he arrived at Advent Lutheran Church in Lake Ann, Mich., five years ago. For any newly ordained pastor, the idea of entering a community with no sanctuary, no staff and an uncertain future seems quite daunting.

"Starting a worshipping community is an immense calling," said nominator Kendra Mohn, '05, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Worth, Texas. "But he truly felt that God had called him to that place and that the Holy Spirit was already present."

Today, the Advent community has grown to include a variety of ministries at a newly built sanctuary. Mohn credits much of this growth to Grimm's ability to encourage people to realize how their own gifts and talents can further God's work.

John Schleicher, bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod, agrees that Grimm's encouragement has had a remarkable impact on the small community.

"Justin has done well in the primary task of a pastor—to equip the saints for the work of ministry," Schleicher said.

Under Grimm's leadership, Advent has grown from an idea to a thriving congregation, one that serves as a sanctuary for the whole community.

"Advent has become known as a beacon in the community, not only for Spirit-filled worship but also as a shelter for those struggling in these challenging economic times," said Mary Frances, assistant director for the development of new congregations with the ELCA.

But Grimm is the first to note that he hasn't done it alone.

"Justin will be the first to marvel at who God has called to form this community," Mohn said. "In fact, it is his awareness of and witness to God's presence that has encouraged so many in his community to become leaders."

Within the last 25 years
Jan Ruud, '85
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Tacoma, Wash.

Born in Madagascar to missionaries, Jan Ruud has embodied the life of a missionary both in Africa and in the United States.

After graduating from Luther Seminary, Ruud and his wife traveled to Cameroon to work as missionaries. Eight years later, Ruud was called to Washington state, taking on the role of pastor at Saron Lutheran Church in Hoquiam. From there, Ruud was called to St. Mark's Lutheran Church by the Narrows in Tacoma, where he has served as pastor for the past nine years. In both settings, Ruud found innovative ways to apply his global and missional experience.

Ruud leads St. Mark's to embrace diversity and work together to discover each other's vocation. His Faith Journey gatherings pair new members with faith companions from the congregation that move through much of the 12-week process together. By the end, everyone involved has a greater understanding of the church's mission and their place in it.

"They learn to know each other, have an opportunity to ask questions, to share their gifts and express their desires for service," said member Elaine Rodning, who nominated Ruud for the award.

Thanks to inclusive programs like these, St. Mark's membership has nearly doubled since Ruud's arrival. These programs have also encouraged current members to get involved in the leadership and the future of the church.

But Ruud's ministry goes beyond the church's doors. From mission trips to Mexico and Montana to supporting the nearby community, Ruud has empowered church members to use their talents for the benefit of the local and worldwide church.

"Ministry is not strictly linked to the structure of the church, but rather linked to the gifts of those serving," said Kimberly Meade, who serves on the church council at St. Mark's.

And, according to member James L. Pence, Ruud's gift is his confidence in his call to serve God.

"Faithfulness in ministry means more than showing up for work," said Pence. "It means living authentically as a follower of Jesus and leading confidently with a servant's heart."

More than 25 years
Wendell J. Brown, '66
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Salinas, Calif.

When Wendell Brown accepted the call to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Salinas, Calif., in 1973, worship attendance was declining and the community around the church was experiencing troubled times. Despite the obstacles in front of him, Brown looked to the future of the church and its surroundings, which he felt included ministry to a growing Hispanic population in the Salinas area.

"A pastor faces many difficult times in ministry—this was just one of them," said Bill Tibbetts, a former member of Good Shepherd. "And Pastor Brown rose to the challenge."

Though it wasn't always easy, Brown spent 34 years not only developing a Lutheran Hispanic presence in east Salinas, but also planting a Hispanic mission church in north Salinas.

"Pastor Brown is one of those special people who sees the glass as half full," Tibbetts said. "His positive outlook and demeanor inspires and rubs off on others, making them better people."

Brown's willingness to adapt to new ideas and put his service to God first also led to a strong core of dedicated members in both churches.

"His love for the Lord is contagious," said the Rev. Steven G. Blair, '01, who nominated Brown for the award and also entered the ministry 10 years ago thanks to Brown's encouragement.

And, even in the midst of trying times at the church, Brown has continued his and the church's commitment to receiving everyone at Good Shepherd.

"He preaches love and tolerance," Tibbetts said. "Good Shepherd's mission statement begins, 'Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd is a diverse congregation where all are welcome.'"