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Students sitting outside Bockman

Story Magazine

Spring/Summer 2011

Leadership in new ways from the first lady of Amidon, N.D.

by Richard H. Bliese, President, Luther Seminary

Dear Dr. Bliese,

So, how's life in your pasture?

We just returned from our yearly trek to Mid-Winter Convocation.

We have not missed a year since my husband, Jerry's, graduation from Luther Seminary in 1965. Each year we leave thinking, "This one was the best ever," until we get to the next one. We love hearing the great music, the lectures, seeing old friends and hearing the old but new good news of Jesus. This year, we enjoyed the class reunion of 1965. It was great having you stop by, and you asked if anything stood out in our memories about this particular class. Now here's one that all seminarians would love—tuition was only $200 a year!

Even though we both were raised on Minnesota farms, we embraced the very rural areas of the western Dakotas and have chosen to live out our lives here. Jerry received the Faithfulness in Ministry Cross at Luther Seminary in 2002 for rural/small-town ministry, and retired from active duty that same year. Twenty years prior to this, we chose to downsize our lifestyle, part with many possessions (i.e. junk) and move to a very small home where we have lived happily and debt-free for 29 years.

We love tithing and sharing from our abundant life, and we make a special point of encouraging new pastors who move into our area. We plan to give away all our possessions before we die and the last check we will write will be to our mortician. We hope it bounces!

Although our ministry continues in a variety of ways, nothing compares to those faithful who have ministered to us. Parishioners were there for us when our 7-month-old baby was diagnosed with cancer (thankfully, she survived). Most recently, after my husband and I both had surgeries, a steady stream of tator tot hot dishes and bowls of Jell-O arrived at our door. Now who is being faithful to Jesus?

But even after retirement, God wasn't through with us. We became co-chairs of a capital campaign for Badlands Ministries, an ELCA camp located in the beautiful badlands of N.D., just south of Medora. Mr. Fundraiser Guy told us that we could possibly raise $2 million, but the campaign brought in $5 million, and the place is paid for. Nathan Clements, a recent grad of Luther Seminary, has been hired as program director. He is fantastic. Now we senior citizens are co-chairing a capital campaign for Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.

And guess what? Jerry is now the mayor of Amidon, population 22, the nation's smallest county seat. I guess that makes me the First Lady!

We would like to encourage new seminarians who are called to very rural areas. Beware! You might just fall in love with the place.

You may share my epistle with anyone. We're not much into computers—they seem so impersonal (although we have one). We don't own a cell phone, but if you would like to chat some time, give us a call. Better yet, stop by. And thank you to all of you for your faithfulness to Jesus.

Carolyn Erickson

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