Matthew 18:19 with legs on
Gordon Olson’s son, Tim, was tragically slain. His death became a legacy.
The senseless murder of the son of a Minneapolis music teacher has led to the creation of a remarkable mission ministry. Now 10 years old, Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry (LPGM), a world mission advocacy group, is thriving.
Headquartered at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis, LPGM helps individuals and congregations join with people and projects in far corners of the world by putting legs on a familiar Bible verse, Jesus’ command, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
“We’re a resource for congregations,” says Gordon Ol-son, president of LPGM. “We’re trying to heighten awareness and increase Lutherans’ involvement in global mission in response to the call of Christ. We try to network with other organizations involved in global ministry, for example Youth Encounter.”
In October 2002, Olson traveled to the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to reestablish the group’s relationship with St. Timothy congregation. Global Partners traces its beginnings to a relationship with this congregation. Gor-don and Betty Olson’s son, Tim, died tragically in 1991. Bandits murdered him when he was in the C.A.R. as a volunteer church builder.
“When we started out we were not sure of our direction,” Olson says. “We put it in the hands of God, saying ‘Open doors, and we will follow.’ We’re still evolving.”
Lutheran Partners is a bridge organization. It has a formal relationship with the ELCA Division for Global Ministry, LCMS World Mis-sion, IELC (India Evangelical Lutheran Church), and with several synods and congregations.
In January 2003, Gordon and Betty Olson and eight others will travel to India, an opportunity for Lutherans from the Midwest to meet school children they are supporting through LPGM. The American volunteers will sing, pray and play with the children, help in classrooms, and visit families in their villages. They may also assist with such projects as painting buildings, building playgrounds or landscaping.
After an initial two-week stay, four volunteers will remain for one to three months. Carol Pfleiderer, Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis; Judy Tonolli, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church (ELCA), Excelsior; and former ALC bishop Wesley and LuAnn Haugen, Fargo, will volunteer in classrooms, teaching English. “The schools are incredible in both program and architecture,” Gordon says.Poul Bertelsen, a Wayzata architect, has been instrumental in their design and construction.
“This is a Lutheran-to-Lutheran opportunity with a personal touch that does not exist in larger organizations,” Gordon Olson says. “For Betty and me, this will be our fifth trip to India.” Gordon, a retired choral music instructor, taught at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis. Betty was a school nurse in St. Paul. They are grandparents of triplets, Marcus, Signe and Tatum, born May 12, 2002, and of two-year-old Cullen.
The opportunity in India, in Tamil Nadu State near Madras, came to Lutheran Partners through the IELC and through Arcot Lutheran Church of South India. In 1996, 217 Indian children in Lutheran boarding homes needed sponsors. Through Lutheran Partners, 1,420 children have found sponsors and the organization continues to seek individuals and congregations to join the effort.
As in previous years, this fall Lutheran Partners is selling items woven in India, for use in the home or as Christmas gifts. The towels, washcloths, napkins, place mats, tablecloths, table runners and shoulder bags are made on the looms of the Lebanon Home for Women in Tiruvannamalai, by women who have been widowed or abandoned. Purchase of these items helps with the women’s support. They are available at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 41st & Lyndale, and also will be sold at the Third World Jubilee Sale at Colonial Church of Edina in early November.
“We are not limited to work in India or in Central Africa,” Gordon Olson says. “Our broader goals and objectives are to connect people with the global church in as many ways as possible. Our work ranges from education to hands-on experiences and relationships. At one end of this spectrum we offer adult forums or worship participation in congregations, workshops at mission conferences or Synod assemblies and through a mission curriculum for children.
“Our direct relationships include child sponsorship, mission travel, and building projects in developing countries. We send Bibles and hymnals to Argentina and support educational materials in Tanzania and Slovakia. We plan to take a group of 23 people from two Bloomington congregations to Argentina in March.”
The group, members of St. Luke Lutheran Church and St. Stephen Lutheran (both ELCA), will spend 10 days working in a child care program in Azul, central Argen-tina. With Youth Encounter, Lutheran Partners is involved in building group homes for AIDS orphans in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In summer 2003, high school youth volunteers will travel to the site to assist.
Lutheran Partners encourages congregations to share a tithe (of funds raised in capital campaigns) with churches in need in developing nations. St. Philip the Deacon (ELCA), Plymouth, has contributed $65,000 to Mananjary Luther-an Church in Madagascar and is raising $100,000 to fund a hospital and clinic in Orkesumet, Tanzania. Bethlehem Lutheran of Minne-apolis has given $300,000 to missions and is undertaking a new capital campaign to raise another $150,000 to contribute globally.