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Story Magazine

Third Quarter 2003

Planting Trees

by David L.Tiede, Luther Seminary President

One of the church's great stewardship teachers was an economist named Jim Braulick. His expertise was numbers. His heart was thankful, and his passion was helping every Christian become a steward. "Stewardship," he would say, "is everything I do after I say, 'I believe.'" Even as he lay dying, his gratitude was unshaken. The Stewardship Council at Luther Seminary sustains his commitment to equip our graduates to lead as stewards.

As you will read in this issue of Story, Luther Seminary continues to be blessed by a cadre of lay leaders and pastors who have a calling in stewardship education. Their stories are alive with the personal witness and example of mothers, grandfathers, pastors and school teachers. Stewardship is both "caught" when we see the joy of generosity in people and "taught" by faithful believers who make the effort to tell us why they give.

God's grateful people are a surprise in a society that fuels our appetite for self-gratification and acquisition. Think about the saints who taught you an attitude of gratitude. Where did they learn it? How did they convey it to you? How could you help others catch the contagion of thankfulness?

The stories are all around us because God has touched so many lives. Let me tell you about Galen and Peter, two saints whose stories gave me heart in the past few months.

Galen was a classmate in elementary school. Several of us town boys stayed overnight at his farm. The animals were fascinating and fearsome for us. The darkness of a winter night was deep between the barn and the house. Galen's dad had the huge hands of a man who still plowed with horses, and his mother surrounded us with care and home cooking. Galen was a mechanical wizard. He has farmed the home place for almost 50 years.

We sat on his front porch in early July. The well water was as cool as I remembered it. The summer breeze was warm. The crops good. Galen's grandchildren dashed in and out. "You don't get rich farming," he said. "But when I ride the tractor up and down the field, I have time to be thankful. My prayer is that all this food we are growing will reach the people who need it most." He sat quiet while I caught my breath at his vision of abundance. The farmer's prayer was the witness of a steward.

Peter came to Luther Seminary as a student from China in the early 1960s, then left to complete a doctorate in nuclear physics at the University of Minnesota. A decade ago,he left his academic post at the University of Washington to complete his ministry studies through the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) program. Both Peter and his wife Jane were ordained and serving a congregation in Eastern Washington when he was elected to the Luther Seminary board. Now they are ELCA missionaries in Hong Kong, fulfilling their life-long vocation.

Last year Peter led the devotions when our board members were making their financial commitments in support of the seminary's mission. He told about the practice in the villages of China that when a girl was born, the family would bury casks of wine to be uncovered at the time of her wedding. And when the baby was a boy, the family would plant two trees. One tree would eventually be harvested for the wood for his funeral pyre and the other would be a community legacy, bearing fruit for generations to follow.

"Jane and I are deeply grateful for the ministry of the gospel that has come from this place and its graduates in China and throughout the world." said Dr.Peter Shen, "We have decided to plant a tree at Luther Seminary through our legacy gift. We hope and pray that it will bear the fruit of the gospel for generations to follow us."

Thanks be to God for the lives and witness of grateful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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