Lutherans in the Twin Cities

A whale of an opportunity

Two Lutheran bridge organizations a looking for a million dollars.

A shared-space agree-ment, mutually beneficial to two Luther-an ministries, is coming to an end — creating challenges and opportunity for both.

Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM), an ELCA program at the University of Minnesota, has decided to sell their roomy facility, pictured above, across the street from the St. Paul campus and relocate in Minneapolis. The leadership of LCM is exploring options.

That’s created a problem for a modestly-funded pan-Lutheran ministry to Chi-nese students and families at the U. of M. Hospitality Center for Chinese has been using some of the space in the LCM facility in St. Paul. With the building’s sale, they’ll need a new space.

Now, imagine this conversation between members of the Hospitality Center’s leadership.

“Here’s an idea. Why don’t we just buy the building ourselves? The Chinese students and their families already come here for programs and meals. It would be perfect.”
“Are you crazy? We don’t have a million dollars to buy and renovate the place!”

“But we could invite our friends at China Service Ventures [another Lutheran bridge organization] to go in with us. We’d raise the money together and share the space.”
“But they don’t have any money either!”

“Well, we’ll just tell our supporters, and anybody else who will listen, that we need a lot of money really fast, because the building is already for sale. And, we’ll pray a little.”

“Or maybe pray a whole lot!”

There’s no evidence such a conversation actually took place, but it’s illustrative of the dilemma facing Hospi-tality Center for Chinese right now. And, following their best instincts, the Hospitality leadership did approach the leaders of China Service Ventures (CSV), with positive results.

Luanne Wyssmann, Executive Director for the Hospitality Center, told Metro Lutheran that her group is going out on a limb, along with CSV. “Our work is tied up with this building. The Chinese students and their families have an identity with this place. It would set back our work significantly if we had to train them to find another ‘home away from home.’”

Paul Ofstedal, President of CSV, was realistic about the challenge facing the two groups. “It’s a little scary,” he admitted. “We don’t really have the money. But we have to try. We think when we get the word out, people will respond. It’s important to act now, because the building is going to be sold, and we need to save it for Chinese ministry.”
The two groups have stepped out in faith, agreeing to sign a purchase agreement. Around $875,000 will be required to purchase the building, with another $125,000 for renovations.

Ofstedal explained that there are between 1,800-2,000 Chinese students at the University of Minnesota in any given academic year. “That’s the largest concentration from mainland China at any U.S. campus,” he said.

Wyssmann said purchase of the building will enable her group to expand programs. Currently the center offers classes, friendship meals, and social events. Discussion about faith often ensues.

A display ad elsewhere on this page describes the opportunity to help with the building purchase project.