National Lutheran News

Mexican Lutheran ministry continues

Project has been going for around 50 years.

There’s a growing Lutheran presence in Mexico — and it has a distinctly Minnesota flavor.

Latin American Lutheran Mission (LALM) pioneers planted the first congregations of what is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mexico more than 50 years ago, and LALM remains a partner today. Eight of the 12 members of the LALM board are Minnesotans. And, the Rev. Richard Erickson, Director of LALM, came to his Laredo, Texas, mission station from Minnesota. Also, each year several hundred people — many of them Minnesotans — participate in short-term missions to Mexico under the direction of LALM.

Erickson had served at Brooklyn Park Lutheran Church and North Heights Lutheran Church in the Twin Cities prior to going to Laredo.

He observed, “In 1986 I made my first visit to the churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mexico through a short-term trip I participated in while on staff at the Lay Ministry Training Center in St. Paul. For consecutive years I guided groups into Mexico through the LALM. Even after going into the parish ministry I continued to take groups into Mexico. The mission continued to invite me back on a yearly basis to teach the pastors; so, I developed a personal interest in their ministry and the future of the Lutheran Church of Mexico. Then, [my wife and I] were called as directors in 2004. At the time I was serving at a multi-staff mega-church but we sensed God was calling us to do this, though we turned 62 recently.

“There was still a fire for Hispanic missions burning in our hearts,” he said. (Early in their careers the Ericksons served as mission educators in Ecuador. Pastor Erickson also used his Spanish in visits to the Federal Prison in Sandstone, Minnesota, while serving in the Twin Cities.)
Asked about how tightened border security might affect the ministry, Erickson replied, “I doubt it will affect our ministry here. [During] the last year Nuevo Laredo, our sister city, has had a lot of bad press because of border violence due to changes in the drug cartels within Mexico. This itself has caused us a lot of grief because many of the short-term groups who had planned to do volunteer work in Mexico cancelled their trips for security reasons. Nevertheless, none of the over 40 groups that braved the challenge have either seen or experienced anything violent or risky. Maybe the border security situation will improve with additional support from the National Guard and the U.S. authorities.”

LALM traces its beginnings to 1936 and is an independent Lutheran mission, not funded by any Lutheran denomination. LALM pioneer missionaries planted the first congregations of what is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mexico. There are currently over 20 churches in northeastern Mexico within a 180-mile radius of Mon-terrey. Several of these churches now have their own missions and outreach programs. Included are clinics, youth centers, meals for the needy, prison ministries, a radio ministry and trips to more remote areas to serve the poor and share the Gospel.

Minnesotans on the LALM board include: Rev. Terrance Stratton, Hoyt Lakes, President; Dr. Herb Nygren, Bloomington, First Vice President; Rose Marie Anderson, Minnetonka, Secretary; Marjorie Erickson, Minneapolis; Robert Myller, Apple Valley, Treasurer; Rev. Dan Sollie, Maple Grove; Philip Spaulding, Andover; and Doris Toddie, Rochester. John Sirjord of Amery, Wisconsin, is another board member.

Erickson said most of the property that the mission in Laredo uses is due to the generosity of the late blind musician Claire Hobart, who received a music degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. He was well-known in congregations throughout the upper Midwest.

LALM’s strategy has always been to train Mexican nationals as pastors and missionaries. It conducts Bible institute training and extension classes. The Laredo mission station has outposts in Nuevo Laredo, across the border in Mexico — a total of seven outposts from the base station. “Our mission continues to be to increase the capacity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mexico to reach its world for Christ and to stimulate mission vision in the lives of over 700 people who visit Mexico through this mission annually,” Erickson explained.

Short-term missions perform a valuable function for LALM. Some participants are youth groups but there are also adults and retirees with specific skills who help with construction of church buildings, parsonages and education buildings. Other activities include helping with Bible school, maintenance, street ministry, music, puppetry, clowning and health care.

Among the most active Minnesota congregations in support of the ministry are Trinity Lutheran of Minn-ehaha Falls, Minneapolis, and Bethel Lutheran, Rochester.

General information on LALM is available at the Web site, www.lalm-elcm.org. Inquiries regarding short-term mission opportunities should be directed to Pastor Erickson at 956/722-4047 or via e-mail to lalmelcm@sbcglobal.net. Contributions in support of the ministry may be sent to: LALM Treasurer, P.O. Box 17385, Minneapolis, MN 55417-7385.