Prayerfully Consider Visit

PCV participants during the welcome and opening.

The Prayerfully Consider Visit (PCV) is a biannual event at CTSFW; you’ve likely heard us talk about it before. We hold this three-day visit for prospective students in both the fall and the spring, to give these men and women the time and tools they need during the discernment process as they consider whether a vocation as pastor or deaconess is in their future. About 30 PCV participants were with us from October 10-12, most of them pastoral program prospects with a few deaconess program prospects plus a handful of spouses. Spouses are always encouraged to come. They are absolutely a part of any future vocation—not just vital to the success of it, but truly a part of it.

Rev. Matt Wietfeldt

PCV began on Thursday with prayer in Kramer Chapel, then a welcome and orientation breakfast. Rev. Matt Wietfeldt, head of Admissions here at CTSFW, explained the purpose of these three days. “Take the name seriously,” he said. These men and women have taken time out of their busy lives to come to campus to consider these questions: will you become a pastor? A deaconess? Or is it better to remain in your current vocation?

By coming to campus, attendees share in the blessing of the CTSFW community. “We gather together first and foremost in worship,” Rev. Wietfeldt explained, describing the identity of the people who live, work, and study here. “We’re a community that is always in prayer. It is there [at Kramer Chapel] that we are formed and refreshed in the blood of the Lamb.”

He went on. “We are a community that is in study—but learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.” Much of the formation process happens between classes, in the student commons or in the dining hall as classmates talk and debate and pull their professors into the discussion. There is no faculty lounge at CTSFW, so the professors are always with the students and available to them. “We are community about fellowship,” Rev. Wietfedlt finished. “It’s about being together as brothers and sisters, in worship and study but also as we lift each other up in good and bad.”

After his welcome, Rev. Wietfeldt had the participants stand and introduce themselves. Participants came from as close as the Fort Wayne area but also from Virginia, Albuquerque, NM, and Seattle. A handful were seniors at university (there aren’t usually as many college students at PCV during the fall as most of them attend Christ Academy: College at the end of the month) and plenty were second career from a variety of backgrounds. Some of these men and women are lifelong Lutherans, but others have come to us by much longer journeys, like the former charismatic who loves the scriptural doctrine of Lutheranism.

“I’m here to see if this is a fit for my life,” one participant explained. “It’s been in the back of my head for a long time.” Another participant knew he wanted to work for the Kingdom but hadn’t decided whether that would mean as a pastor; he’s here to find that out.

Still others know they’ll be starting in the fall. “I was 15 or 16 when my grandma told me: you should be pastor,” one prospect admitted. “I laughed but haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.”

One deaconess prospect explained that she was a teacher and felt that diaconal work seems very similar to what she was already doing. She simply wants to get stronger in theology. An undergraduate still in college said she had attended the high school program for Christ Academy and wanted to become a deaconess.

One of the attendees who has been thinking about becoming a pastor for the past thirty years recognized his thoughts in the words coming out of his fellow brothers’ and sisters’ mouths. “I wondered: gosh, am I the only one who grapples with these things?” He looked around the group, grinned, and answered it for himself: “Nope.”

The student panel, left to right: Ethan Stoppenhagen, Anna Barger, Katherine and Aaron Schultz, Jeremy McDonald, Haley Kazmierski, Jeffrey Kazmierski (with admission counselor Rev. John Dreyer in the background between the Kazmierskis.)

They would hear much of their thoughts echoed back to them later that evening, during the student panel discussion. The Admission Department had five current students (plus two spouses) answer questions about what their own journey was like. One couple, for example, attended 3 or 4 PCVs before they officially joined the CTSFW community. “We took our time,” he explained. “There was no doubt we were going to come, it was just a matter of when.” It took them about four years to work first through the discernment process and then prepare for the move. They had to uproot their family, and the couples’ own parents were worried. “They thought we’d be on food stamps.” Instead, that Christmas they came home with an abundance—fresh produce, given to them by the Food Co-op that they didn’t want to waste. “In the absence of truth, the imagination takes over,” his wife explained.

The transition was far faster for another couple. A Lutheran school teacher for ten years, the thought of becoming a pastor had always been with seminarian Aaron Schultz. “I felt a restlessness,” he explained, which grew alongside those long-held thoughts of becoming a pastor. He told his wife he finally wanted to go for it in October, and he was attending classes by the next September. She was on board from the first. “It was a quick process for us,” she explained.

Another student was a former Specific Ministry Pastoral program graduate, whose District President encouraged him to go back to Seminary to earn an MDiv so that he could serve full time. “I made a decision and went for it…God finds you and steers you,” he explained. “I had a lot of people praying for me. I’m not a lifelong Lutheran, and this doctrine is important to me.”

Second-year deaconess student, Anna Barger, is the daughter of a deaconess. So naturally: “No way, I thought. Not me.” However, she has long been interested in sign-language and, during a weeklong intensive course about the incredibly specialized vocabulary of signed liturgy, learned that 85-90% of the deaf community had no faith. “No one speaks their language,” she explained. “That didn’t sit well with me. I realized how much I took it for granted that I can go anywhere in the country—even the world—that I can sit in a pew and know what’s going on.” She gave in: she would become a deaconess, continuing to hone her skills in sign language alongside the specialized niche of theological language.

Another second-year seminarian came to us immediately out of college. Ethan Stoppenhagen has known his course for years. In high school, he explained to a teacher that he too wanted to become a teacher. “Why not a pastor?” she asked. His immediate response: “Well I can’t do that!” It stuck with him, though. He attended Christ Academy High School and by the time he was in college he knew exactly where he was going to go.

Rev. Wietfeldt summed it up well: “The discernment process is specific and unique because they’re all specific and unique,” he pointed out. Their ages are different, the length of discernment is different, and the transition process too is shaped by the individuals going through it.

Earlier in the day, Dean of the Chapel, Dr. Grime, had introduced himself to the participants of PCV as they began the three-days of discernment, speaking briefly on bringing Christ to a fallen world. “Into that hopelessness, you have interest in taking a sliver of that hope into a corner of the world. And it is a corner. Thank goodness we haven’t been asked to save the world.” And why are some called to these unique vocations? Or, in the words of the late Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel, “Why would you want to do it? Because it was given us to be done.”

Coffee hour following chapel. PCV participants mingled with both current students and faculty (that’s Dr. David Scaer in the foreground talking to one of the prospective students).
Prospective deaconess student meets and talks with current first-year deaconess students.

2019 Donation Day

Today was Donation Day, which is a tradition nearly as old as the Seminary itself. Donation Day started as a way to feed the student while they were studying for full-time church work. The CTSFW Seminary Guild cares for our students through Donation Day, taking on additional student projects through donations and their membership dues, as well as using their baking and crafting skills throughout the year for birthdays, snacks during final weeks, and gifts for newly born babies.

Phyllis Thieme, the President of the Guild, opened donation day immediately after chapel with a welcome to the visitors. Eighty-one years ago, in 1938 (the year before the Guild came into being), 1,0008 registrants arrived at the Springfield Campus for Donation Day. “Since the founding of CTS in 1846, the ladies of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have always supported CTS, the students, and their families,” Mrs. Thieme said. “Let’s fast forward now to today. We may not have 1,008 registrants bringing their donations as they did back in 1938; however, the donations by the Lutheran Women Missionary League represent thousands of women who have given their donation, their support of the students here at CTS. A lot has changed since 1939, but one thing has not: the faithful giving of the many Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod women to help our future pastors and deaconesses and their families.”

Jonah Domenichelli, 4th-year and president of the Student Government Association, introduced the five LWML District Presidents who were able to make it to Donation Day. He and his wife moved to Fort Wayne with three children and now have five; they know the tension between family needs and the rigors of education very well. “Moving here, like most students and families experience, can be very stressful because you’re trying to figure out where the money’s coming from; how are you going to pay for school? How are you going to take care of your family? How are you going to take care of yourself if you’re a student by yourself?” he said. “However, we were reassured that the Lord would provide for us when we moved here. And indeed he has. We have been supported through countless student adoptions and donors like yourselves, and God is faithful. And we appreciate everything He has provided through you.”

The five LWML District Presidents in attendance were Susan Gruber (Michigan District); Barbara Kaun (Wisconsin South District); Janice Gerzevske (Northern Illinois District); Jeanne Schimmelmann (Ohio District); and Marge Gruber (Indiana District). All five brought greetings from their districts and asked that the students from their districts stand, that they might recognize them. After chapel they met with these seminarians and deaconess students in the student commons for coffee, and later each gave a short report during the afternoon meeting on their work with the Food & Clothing Co-op (generally large grants to help fund the Co-op as well as student aid and scholarships).

Dr. Paul Grime and 4th-year seminarian Jonah Domenichelli stand in the back row; the women, left to right: Marge Gruber, Susan Gruber, Jeanna Schimmelmann, Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Janice Gerzevske, Barb Kaun

“This morning is the very best way to start the day,” Mrs. Schimmelmann said in her greetings to the Seminary, “worshiping our Lord in this beautiful chapel with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As it has been said, ‘It doesn’t get better than this.’”

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op, began her speech with another historical comparison between now and then. In 1949, ten years after the Seminary Guild started, donation day visitors donated 221 dozen eggs, 97 chickens, 5,000 quarts of home-canned goods, and $1,500 in cash donations. “But what a difference 70 years makes!” she exclaimed, before reading another set of numbers. Last year, through the support of donors, the Food Co-op provided over 2,000 dozen eggs, 4,000 pounds of Brakebush Chicken (not to mention over 2,500 pounds of cow plus 12,000 pounds of pork), over 36,000 pounds of produce, and $12,225.06 was spent at local grocery stores. “In this ever-changing world, the focus of the Guild remains the same: to care for their students and families,” she said. “As mentioned, the LWML is a large supporter of us; we can’t do this without you.”

She then had all the students stand, starting with those who hadn’t stood yet and finally asking that all students rise to their feet. “This,” she said of the standing students, “this is who you are caring for. From the students, from the faculty, from the staff—as a former student, former student wife, current staff member—from the bottom of my heart I thank you for what it is that you do for our students and their families. Thank you.”

Donation Day visitors spent time in the student commons after chapel to meet the students and families that they are supporting.

During lunch, as a treat for the ladies Deaconess Rittner had student wives (and at least one student wife who is also a seminary student herself, studying to become a deaconess) and their children held a fashion show. They wore clothes they found at the Co-op. Most of the little girls—when they weren’t feeling shy—were thrilled; the boys less so. You can view photos from the show in the pictures provided here.

Behind the scenes in the dining hall, as the families wait for their cue to come walk the floor in Luther Hall.

Lance Hoffman, Advancement Officer since 2016 and newly appointed Assistant Vice President of Operations, also spoke at the afternoon meeting. He taught at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne for 26 years before joining CTSFW. The high school is his alma mater; when he graduated from college with a teaching degree and was called back to his old school, his father was a colleague and his little brother was one of his students.

As a former history teacher and now an advancement officer serving the financial needs of CTSFW, Mr. Hoffman’s presentation married both: to effectively raise money for CTSFW, the Advancement Department has to understand both where society came from and where it’s going. “Changes in our society require changes in our strategy,” he explained.

He largely bypassed the first 100 years of CTSFW’s history (“Things are so different before that it’s almost useless to consider strategies,” he explained), and focused on the past 80 years. The post-war era from 1945-1975 was the golden age of the middle class in America. Television began replacing radio and print and everyone answered their phone and read their mail. “We’ll get to today when virtually none of this is true,” Mr. Hoffman said briefly, before returning to the post-war period. Planes and cars had replaced trains as interstate highways and airports sprung up everywhere. Synodical support was high.

Because of this, the Seminary operated on a “big net, small fish” strategy; what we would now call the Annual Fund approach. With a robust middle class (and in conjunction with modest educational costs), it worked well. With many small gifts meeting their needs, little attention was given to major gift cultivation or long term planning. “But if there’s one thing you can be sure of,” Mr. Hoffman said, “is things will always change.

“Both seminaries were blindsided by undergraduate debt. No one predicted that we would have pastoral and diaconal students coming in with $100,000 in debt,” he explained. In the 1960s a part-time job could pay for most education costs. In the 70s, the wealth gap between rich and middle class began to expand while educational costs rose almost incomprehensibly fast. “Minimum wage has not gone up 2,000% like education costs,” he said. “Times have changed and the math doesn’t add up anymore.”

“Big net, small fish” no longer works on its own. The top 10% of the nation holds 67% of the wealth and the bottom 90% the remaining 33%. Nor have communication changes been conducive to philanthropy efforts. Land lines and snail mail are fading. There are a dozen new ways to contact people (email, cell phones, social media) but in a sea of noise, that’s made it harder to be heard. There have been no major changes in transportation from 1976-2019, save for access: with private planes and 24/7 travel, people now live seasonally and the wealthy own multiple homes. National trends have affected the LCMS at all levels, especially in the difficult years in the 80s and 90s. Synod still supports her seminaries, but not in the same way financially. Both seminaries have had to become financially independent.

Many middle class donors still continue to give to their seminaries. They provide millions a year—but today that’s millions short. We have thousands of donors who give generously of their means, but we’d need thousands more to make up the difference.

This is where major gift cultivation—particularly through endowments—come into play. An endowment is a gift that can never be spent. Rather, the gift is invested and CTSFW spends a percentage of the earnings. The great advantage is that these gifts last as long as the Seminary does. Since the post-war era, CTSFW has gone from 0 in endowments to millions. “Not bad for a school our size,” Mr. Hoffman said. But: “Bad for a school our age.” Harvard, for example, has endowments in the billions. The difference is that Harvard, established in 1656, has been cultivating major gifts for hundreds of years. CTSFW didn’t start until 100 years into her history.

Chairs are another type of endowment, set up to pay for a specific professorship, as the earnings from the investment pay for that position’s salary and benefits no matter who holds it. CTSFW has five at this point, all still currently held by their original faculty recipients: Dr. James Bushur in The Carl and Erna Weinrich Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Church Studies chair; Dr. Cameron MacKenzie in The Forrest E. and Frances H. Ellis Professor of German Reformation Studies chair; Prof. Robert Roethemeyer in The Wakefield-Kroemer Director of Library and Information Services chair; Dr. David Scaer in The David P. Scaer Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology chair; and Dr. Roland Ziegler in The Robert D. Preus Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Lutheran Studies chair. These will be passed on as these men retire and new faculty take their place.

The Advancement strategy, according to Mr. Hoffman, is clear: “Blending the tried and true with the new.” We need both those who give major gifts and those who give according to their more modest means. And that doesn’t yet take into account the generosity that comes to our students in the form of home congregation gifts, student adoptions, and the Co-ops. There’s also the additional projects, like the recent renovations to W8 and L7 (the campus was only 20 years old when CTS first moved onto the grounds but now the infrastructure is 65 years old and starting to show it), the capital campaign for the library expansion project, and, in 2018, the introduction of the 100% tuition grant for full-time residential pastoral and diaconal students.

“You’ll note,” Mr. Hoffman said. “I didn’t say ‘free.’” A seminarian may no longer be responsible for his tuition (though he’s certainly expected—and is required to promise—that he will help by applying for scholarships and aid), but someone’s certainly paying for it: the Body of Christ. The Church cares for her future pastors and deaconesses.

This is important, not only because it meets the modern challenge of the educational debt crisis, but because we need church workers. Enrollment is down at both seminaries, as is church worker enrollment in the Concordia University System. Take into account that 50% of pastors in the LCMS are over the age of 55, and in the next 10 years we’ll lose 3,000 pastors to retirement. (Though perhaps slightly later, Mr. Hoffman conceded: “Pastors are a weird breed,” he said to laughter, “They don’t often retire at normal retirement age.”). Our two seminaries are currently producing only about 100 new pastors a year; or, 1,000 new pastors over the 10 years.

Mr. Hoffman’s solution: “Give us the students. We’ll figure out the money.”

And we remember this too: the need is urgent, but not desperate. With the Lord of all—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—on our side, we can never be desperate. But we can ask ourselves what we can do where He has placed us. Some of us give financially, some of us choose to go into church work, still others serve as the voice that asks her grandson, or his neighbor, or our friend if he has ever thought of becoming a pastor.

“The seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how,” (Mark 4:27). The Lord of the harvest grows His kingdom and commands that we pray to Him for laborers. May we do so cheerfully and boldly, knowing we can trust His promises.

The Seminary Guild’s 80th Donation Day

In a booklet for the 35th year of the Concordia Seminary Guild, 1974-1975, there is a note that reads:

“Concordia Seminary Guild was organized in February 1939 for the purpose of promoting the annual Donation Day and to further any other projects to materially aid the Seminary that the Synod could not provide.”

Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month from October to May, excluding January, in Selcke Lounge.

The meetings are now held the second Tuesday of each month from September to April (still excluding January), but in Luther Hall at the Fort Wayne campus where the ladies begin with a devotion and a keynote presentation from a staff or faculty member before getting down to business. This month’s business is the same one for which they were formed: Donation Day.

Phyllis Thieme, president of the guild, addresses the 2018 Donation Day visitors.

This year’s Donation Day is coming up on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the 80th year of the Seminary Guild’s existence. Donation Day precedes the formation of the Seminary Guild by many years, but is directly responsible for it. As food and board costs rose for seminarians in the 1930s, the 1938 Donations Day Committee chairman, Mrs. Baepler, floated the idea of forming a new society to meet these needs. They held the first meeting of the Seminary Guild less than four months later, on February 1, 1939. Seventy-five women attended.

In the Guild’s 10th anniversary year, the Donations Day Committee reported record-breaking donations: 5,000 quarts of home-canned goods; 221 dozen eggs; 97 chickens; 57 pounds of lard; 50 pumpkins and squash; 106 bushels of potatoes; and cash donations totaling $1,500.

By the Guild’s 25th year of existence, the stereotypical seminarian had changed from young, single men (not allowed to date nor become engaged until after graduation) to second-career students, many married with children. Plans for a Student Adoption Program began. The Seminary Guild opened the first food and clothing banks for the students.

Their efforts thrived: last year, the CTSFW Food & Clothing Co-op fed 435 students and their family members, boasting even greater numbers of donations given over the 2018-2019 academic year through their generous supporters: 36,296 pounds of fresh produce; 626 pounds of hamburger (plus two and a half butchered cows, yielding an additional 2,159 pounds); 12,398 pounds of pork; 4,000 pounds of Brakebush Brothers Chicken; 6,000 pounds of food from the local food pantry; 500 dozen local farm eggs; 2,741 gallons and 878 pints of milk; and $12,225.06 spent at local grocery stores.

Through the support of local and national donors, many of them backed, encouraged, and promoted by our LWML sisters, the Seminary Guild and the entire wider community of the Church continues to feed, clothe, and care for her students.

All are welcome to join us in this endeavor. To learn more about the items that are in particular need at this time, to view the schedule for Donation Day on October 8, or to register for the annual gathering, CLICK HERE. You can also register by emailing [email protected] and paying the $15 fee (which includes lunch) when you come to campus for the day. RSVPs are due in two weeks, on September 27.

If distance prevents your presence, join us in prayer, in support, or as an associate member of the Guild. You can learn more about their work at

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op.

The historical information referenced in this article was discovered in the archives of the Seminary Guild, from the article “Through the Years…Guild helps students through thick and thin,” by Dorothy Klug. You can read the original article by clicking on the title. Written in 1992 and republished for use in a fundraising project in 1995, a year before the Seminary’s 150th anniversary, today’s article is written a year before the Seminary’s 175th anniversary. “We strive,” wrote Seminary Guild member Bonnie Hazen in September 1995, “to assist the seminary with the training of men for the holy ministry.”

May we strive to do the same. Thanks be to God.

The Seminary Guild and Disruptions in the LCMS

Rev. Fundum leads devotion.

The 2019/2020 academic year marks the 174th year of our existence, but it owns another significant milestone: it is the 80th anniversary year of the Seminary Guild. Yesterday was the first monthly meeting of the academic year for the women who work so tirelessly to support our students. Formed in 1939 in response to rising food and board costs, their support has been ongoing for 80 years.

Rev. Jim Fundum, admission counselor at CTSFW and spiritual advisor to the Guild, opened the meeting with a devotion, using Scripture passages that reference 80 years. Moses came up (he was 80 when God called to him from the burning bush) as did Barzillai from 2 Samuel 19 (verse 32, “Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old,” began the reading, but Rev. Fundum had to stop at this point in the verse as the Seminary Guild women in their 80s had a good laugh over the description). He finished with Psalm 90:10: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

But Psalm 90 does not end there. Verse 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” and at the last, in verse 17: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

“That’s why you’re here, serving the Guild,” Rev. Fundum said. “He establishes the work of the Seminary Guild’s hands.”

President of the Guild, Phyllis Thieme, sits in the foreground of this shot as they study God’s Word.

Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., President of CTSFW, served as yesterday’s keynote speaker. A historian first and foremost, Dr. Rast spoke of the Guild in the context of church history, particularly that of the Lutherans in America, focusing around the three major “disruptions” that rocked the Synod’s history. These are times when all seems to be in flux. “We as a church body, as a seminary, as congregations, find ourselves in situations that are unique,” Dr. Rast explained. “We experience things we have never experienced before, that threaten to derail our work.”

These disruptions are a reality of the fact that we are a member of the church militant. “’Their span is but toil and trouble,’” Dr. Rast quoted, calling back to Psalm 90.

Yet through those disruptions, through the toil and trouble, next academic year CTSFW will celebrate 175 years of existence, grown from a class of 11 students in October of 1846. The following year, our entire church body will celebrate another 175th anniversary: that of the LCMS. “That really is something,” Dr. Rast said. “One hundred and seventy-five years. God continues to bless us.”

Lutheranism in North America officially set foot on the continent 400 years ago this month. A few days into September of 1619, Lutheran Danes attempting to find a route to China got stuck in Hudson Bay. Realizing that winter would soon set in, on September 7 they decided to make camp at what is now Churchill, Manitoba; an area famous (though unknown to the 66 sailors onboard their ship at the time) for polar bears. Their Lutheran pastor, Rasmus Jensen, held the first Lutheran services on the continent. Of the 66, three men survived the winter (Rev. Jensen not among them), most dead of scurvy or lead poisoning. The survivors returned to Denmark.

Nearly 250 years later, the LCMS formed on April 26, 1847, in Chicago. At the time, there were dozens of Lutheran synods. So why begin another?

When the LCMS started in 1847 as Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten, the “Deutsche” (“German”) was inclusive, not exclusive. Germany didn’t exist and wouldn’t until 1871. German speakers hailed from across Europe, from many smaller states and regions that fall under entirely different countries now. The first-generation of Dr. Rast’s family in America spoke German and are listed in the US census as either Prussians or Russians. Though that particular geographic area is now in the middle of Poland, the family remains emphatic: “NEVER Poland,” Dr. Rast insisted, laughing.

In 1847, including all German speakers was an important part of the church’s outreach strategy. Into the early part of the 20th century, Lutherans were the most ethnically diverse denomination in America. It wasn’t just the Saxon church or the Prussian church; it was the church for all German speakers. The language was central to the Lutheran church’s identity.

However, by 1917, that became a liability: WWI had begun. The “German” in “German Lutheran” was suddenly dangerous. For example, Dr. Rast’s vicarage church, Immanuel Lutheran in Terre Haute, Indiana, originally had a school. But in 1918, the school was forcibly closed when the town grabbed the school’s only teacher and threatened to tar and feather him for, as they claimed, “Teaching the children to be German spies.” He escaped tarring and feathering, but was driven from town. Immanuel Lutheran hasn’t had a school since. In Nebraska, new state laws demanded that the German Lutherans stop teaching in German. The Lutheran church fought the law on legal grounds, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. They won. “And then stopped using German a couple of years later,” Dr. Rast finished with a laugh.

Dr. Rast asked the women of the Seminary Guild to imagine how the transition, pressed on them by outside forces out of their control, must have felt to the founders and first generation. Their children were bilingual, many of whom favored English over their parent’s native tongue, but for that first generation of immigrants, German was their heart language.

By 1938, the LCMS had officially stopped using German as the Synod’s official language. “It was almost a non-event,” Dr. Rast said. In 1917, Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten dropped “Deutsche” from their name and thought that would be enough. It was not. In 1921, they officially adopted the English translation: “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.” Seventeen years later, at the 1938 Synod Convention in St. Louis, a delegate got up and suggested they no longer keep minutes in German.

Another delegate seconded, and that was it. “In 20 years,” Dr. Rast pointed out, “they went from a German Church to an American Church.”

The Seminary Guild came into existence in 1939, less than a year after Synod officially dropped German from their minutes and during CTSFW’s Springfield days. The Fort Wayne Seminary had already moved twice at that point, first to St. Louis in 1861 to study alongside their sister seminary (reputedly to keep their students from being drafted into the union army, “But I suspect that was just a smokescreen,” Dr. Rast added as an aside. “The frugal Germans wanted to save money. Two seminaries, one faculty.”), then to Springfield in 1875. Between the two seminaries they had run out of room and Concordia Theological Seminary decided to move to Milwaukee.

It was a practical choice: the area was filled with Lutherans and Lutheran churches, which offered plenty of fieldwork opportunities for their students. However, at almost the last moment they received an unbelievable deal in Springfield instead. The city had only one Lutheran church, but the campus and grounds were basically given to Synod. The frugal Germans were pleased. They taught seminarians in Springfield for 100 years, until Concordia Theological Seminary moved back to Fort Wayne in 1976.

Dr. Rast points out the Seminary Guild sign, recently discovered in the archives of the Seminary–meaning, he explained with a laugh, that it had likely been found and dug out of a closet.

The year that the Seminary Guild formed in 1939, the Wizard of Oz had premiered in Hollywood (asbestos served as the snow in the poppy field scene), the Girls Scouts sold Thin Mints for the first time (then known as Cooky Mints), and on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France would declare war a couple of days later. The longest-serving president of the Synod had recently begun his first term in 1935 (he would remain in office until 1962), just as WWII would bring a second wave of anti-German sentiment to America.

Known as one-eyed Jack (an accident with a baseball had robbed him of an eye when he was a child), the Rev. Dr. John Behnken was the first truly bilingual president. He was American-born and preferred English. Dr. Rast’s connection with Dr. Behnken is even more personal: One-eyed Jack (then serving as a District President) introduced his grandfather to his grandmother. Dr. Behnken asked two sisters to sing a duet at the young Rev. Rast’s ordination service, then gave this sage advice to the new graduate: “Choose one.”

He chose Edith. Then, twenty years later, the former district president found a place for one of their sons at Concordia River Forest. The young music teacher met a Chicago undergraduate. “My mother,” Dr. Rast explained. “I owe Dr. Behnken my life, not just once but twice.”

With these stories always come the “What if?” What if he’d missed the train? What if he’d worked somewhere else? What if Dr. Behnken hadn’t asked two sisters to sing a duet? “You all have stories like these,” Dr. Rast said to the women of the Seminary Guild. “Stories end up fitting together, working together. The Lord has put all these pieces together.” He has done so in the small, personal matters; He has done so through the disruptions that have shaken the LCMS throughout her history; He has done so on the cross, where justice and mercy at last met one dark Friday afternoon.

Dr. Rast’s concluding point: 80 years is something to celebrate, as is the ongoing impact of the Seminary Guild to the Seminary’s mission. “It’s huge!” he declared. The Seminary Guild serves in “small” ways. They provide snacks for the students during finals week, birthday cookies for the single students, homemade t-shirts and booties for the newborns, furniture projects in student services, a book project for the new students during fieldwork assignments, and the annual donation day to support the work of the Food & Clothing Co-op. “We can’t qualify [these tasks] from this side of heaven,” Dr. Rast said. Only when we step back—and perhaps only when we finally step back into eternity—will we see how the puzzle pieces all fit together, according to God’s good will and purpose and promises.

Members of the Guild register for the first meeting of the year. Deaconess Amy Rast (in black), Dr. Rast’s wife, greets the ladies.

From 1932-1962, the LCMS doubled in size from one to two million. This is not the trend we see today; we too are living through significant disruption as the world howls in hostility at the inerrant Word of God. “We remember the really good days, always,” Dr. Rast said. But the reality is that the golden years were probably not as golden as we imagine. “Don’t pine for a past that probably never was.”

Instead, we are simply called to be faithful. And so we pray Psalm 90, the only psalm attributed to Moses, a man of God whose life began, in many ways, at 80:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Back-to-School Appeal

Our Advancement Office wishes you greeting on this, the second day of the 174th academic year at CTSFW, and wanted to pass on an opportunity to serve our future pastors and deaconesses through your financial gifts. For those of you who receive our mailings, this year’s back-to-school appeal was printed on diamond-shaped cards, in honor of the Concordia bricks that make up much of the architecture of campus. You can read a bit about the symbolic significance of the bricks by clicking the picture below.

As King David neared the end of his life, responsibility for the brick-and-mortar work of building God’s house passed to his son, Solomon. We read in 1 Chronicles 29 that God’s people responded generously to support this work with their offerings. Together they built God’s house!

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
1 Chronicles 29:29

Today, the work of servant formation at CTSFW continues for the next generation. This work is firmly rooted in our mission statement: Concordia Theological Seminary exists to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all.

As we open our 174th academic year, we ask for your prayers and for your gifts in support of the brick-and-mortar work of building current students to become future servants.

Your gifts are needed in two area. Please consider a gift to:

  1. The Fund for CTSFW: Your gifts help our students by providing resources for the day-to-day operations of the Seminary as well as meeting the 100% Tuition Grant. This is the area of greatest need.
  1. Tuition Aid: Your gifts specifically provide for the 100% Tuition Grant, now in its second year, for our residential seminarians and deaconess students.

To make a donation, go to The form is automatically set to designate any gifts to the “Fund for CTSFW,” though you can choose “General Student Aid” (for the tuition grant) in the drop-down menu next to “Designation.”

As future servants start a new year of formation at CTSFW, please join us in assisting them as they begin or resume their studies and preparation. We welcome your prayers and financial support. Together we will provide workers to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and care for God’s people for future generations!

Joint Seminary Board Meeting Builds on Collegial Efforts

A couple of weeks ago, we published a number of Facebook posts on the joint booth we ran together with CSL for the Synod Convention in Tampa. The collegiality continued with a joint Board of Regents meeting that took place at the end of last week. BOR chairmen from both CTSFW and CSL met here on our campus. You can read more about our joint efforts here:

The chairmen of the joint BORs. Dr. Rast and Dr. Meyer stand on the bottom right.FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CTSFW)—The Rev. Dr. Ron Garwood and the Rev. Todd Peperkorn, chairmen of the Boards of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW), and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), respectively, celebrated the conclusion of a productive joint meeting of the seminary boards, held August 8–9 in Fort Wayne. They spoke highly of both schools and seminary presidents, the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. of CTSFW and the Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer of CSL.

“I want to commend Dr. Dale Meyer and Dr. Lawrence Rast for their leadership, which has helped the two seminaries work together even more closely over the last triennium,” said Chairman Garwood. “The seminaries collaborated to host a joint reception and a joint welcome booth at the Synod Convention this summer. Our faculties and boards, through ongoing dialogue, jointly submitted a number of overtures this year as well, and we look forward to continuing close cooperation as our seminaries work to prepare faithful and loving pastors for our Synod.”

“As an alum of CTSFW while serving on the CSL board,” continued Chairman Peperkorn, “it is a particular joy for me to be on campus in Fort Wayne, seeing my new friends and colleagues working so closely with the school that formed me as a pastor. We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to shape the Church of the future with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We hear in Proverbs that ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another’ (Prov. 27:17). It is my prayer that our work together will continue to strengthen both schools, and that more men will be formed as pastors in the years to come.”

Among the actions approved, the joint boards agreed to establish a formal process for the leadership of each board to meet regularly, in addition to the bylaw-established annual joint meeting of the full board. This leadership group will help increase dialogue and coordination between the seminaries, and will assist in setting the agenda for the annual joint board meeting.

During the joint board meeting, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Chief Mission Officer, the Rev. Kevin Robson, presented to the boards on matters before the Pastoral Formation Committee, including the comprehensive church worker recruitment initiative being planned by the Synod, seminaries, Concordia University System, and districts. The boards also engaged on cultural changes facing the Church and how they are affecting the work of the seminaries. Additional reports included a presentation by President Rast on “Sustainable Futures: Recognizing and Confronting the Challenges Facing Christian Colleges and Universities” while the Mid-South District President, the Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola, spoke on “The 10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries: How Do we Survive What’s Coming?”

Together, Presidents Rast and Meyer presented on the state of the seminaries. They completed their presentation with frank truth and in the hope we have in Christ: “The challenges facing our seminaries and our Church are many, but our Lord is faithful and He will see us through these current and future challenges just as He has in the past.”

CTSFW at Synod Convention

Synod Convention comes to a close soon as voting ends and the delegates begin to go home. Here are some visual highlights of the week as we worked with our sister seminary from St. Louis. The booth design itself reflected the reality that though we are two distinct seminaries, we exist for the same Church and mission, especially as we hear the cry from our congregations for more pastors, praying that the Lord of the harvest may send more laborers into His harvest. We met with many visitors, from alumni to laypeople to a number of prospects, some of them from the Concordia Universities’ booth that was kitty corner to our location (this year they too decided to share booth space) and others who are considering the ministry as a second career.

One of our giveaways was a T-shirt, printed with “We Are Your Seminaries: For the Gospel” (with the sem logos on each sleeve) in Fort Wayne blue and St. Louis green. Our seminary presidents, Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr. and Dr. Dale Meyer, stopped by and posed with each others’ school colors. It was a joy to work with our brothers and sisters from Concordia Seminary; we shared duties and spent a lot of time laughing and trying to one up each other to see who could hand off the most swag throughout the week. We finished with the alumni reception, which was also held jointly, allowing our pastors and deaconesses to spend the evening together.

One of the smaller giveaways–a prayer card tucked into the tote bags (with both seminary logos on them, one on each side)–encapsulated our purpose and intent this week (and every week), as we worked together in Christ:

Dear God, we ask that You continue to bless both of our seminaries as they seek to prepare men for pastoral ministry, women for service as deaconesses in Your Church and other workers for Your ministry. Be with their students, faculty and staff as they seek to do Your will. We also ask You to raise up and send new laborers into Your harvest so that Your salvation reaches the ends of the earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The two seminaries shared a sign and a tower (we posed with our St. Louis counterparts in front of the tower as we began cleanup yesterday afternoon), and had separate kiosk space, though there was a lot of crossover back and forth as we worked together. Dr. Just joined us for awhile as well.

A snapshot of some of the work we did: one of our IT guys meeting with a deaconess from Bethesda to discuss technology options for the men and women they serve, working together with the St. Louis crew to stuff tote bags, handing out T-shirts, and scooping out the last of the M&Ms. We had candy dispensers at each kiosk with M&Ms special printed in blue and white and green and yellow with sem graphics printed on them. (Hauling 80 pounds of candy through the airports is another story in and of itself, but they were a big hit and well worth it.)

A snapshot of the alumni reception. Dr. Rast and Dr. Meyer are in the first picture, more alumni, including newly ordained graduate of CTSFW, is in the second, and Dr. Gard and Dr. Fickenscher (left to right, respectively, in the last picture) said they were celebrating the nine year anniversary of their mutual defeat: they not only roomed together during the 2010 Synod Convention, they allowed their names to stand as presidential candidates (numbers 4 and 5 they explained, grinning, and only on the list for necessity).

Here are some of the items we handed out to our booth visitors. The totes were the same–the picture here is simply showing the two sides–and you can catch a glimpse of the silhouette of Kramer Chapel on the blue and white M&Ms and the CSL seal on the green and yellow ones.

(Side note: the cup the M&Ms are artfully arranged in is actually a LCEF mug, who were in the booth right next door.)

CTSFW at LWML Convention

It’s quiet on campus leading into the 4th of July, especially with the conclusion of Christ Academy and the Intermediate/Advanced Organist Workshop (about 90 campus guests and visitors in all). That means today is a good time to catch up on some of the events we missed last week. One such event was the LWML Convention in Mobile, Alabama, where the Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op, Katherine Rittner, manned the CTSFW booth. Dr. and Mrs. Rast were also in attendance.

Photo courtesy LWML Iowa East District.

The photos showcase some of the activity around the booth. In this first picture, Katherine Rittner is standing to the right of Diane Torrey from the LWML Iowa East District. The Iowa East District is just one of the many districts that support the Co-op, which helps care for future church workers by providing food and clothing while they’re just students trying to balance seminary with the practical demands of family and finances. The LWML Convention served as an excellent place to show those who care for these men and women how much they’re doing in support of their formation.

“There’s this hum and this buzz going through and everybody’s excited to be there, glad to see what’s coming next; how they can continue to serve the Lord with gladness but always asking what’s coming next,” Katherine said of the atmosphere at the LWML convention. As to “what’s next” for the Co-op, the specifics may change but the foundational answer is always the same: “We help in that preparation [forming servants in Jesus Christ] by taking care of them. We help to grow the harvesters so that we can continue to harvest the harvest field.”

Dr. Rast spent time at the booth as well, greeting people (among them alumni and recent grads) and, at one point, interviewing with the LWML National Office via cell camera. Deaconess Amy Rast was kept busy answering questions about the Deaconess Program at CTSFW, as well as about Christ Academy (which is a great opportunity for young women to find out more about the vocation of deaconess and the role of mercy work in the Church). Both she and Katherine, who just graduated from the Deaconess Program this past May, had many opportunities to talk about the residential and distance programs available at CTSFW for diaconal education.

In this particular picture taken by Katherine, Deaconess Rast is standing to the right of Rev. Thomas Dunseth, who works with Mill Neck Foundation for Deaf Ministry as they talk with two young women. If you recognize this organization’s name, it’s because they run the Church Interpreter Training Institute (more commonly referred to as CITI) that takes place each summer right before Christ Academy. We wouldn’t be able to offer these Deaf Ministry courses for our students without their partnership, as they also provide instructors for Deaf Ministry here at CTSFW.

One of the moments that particularly stuck out to the Director of our Co-op was the opportunity to meet with many of the LCMS District Presidents, even if for less than a minute. “Being able to get just that little 30 second time slot, you tell them, personally, thank you, to let them know how important they are to us—to tell them, in all honesty, without them I can’t do my job and I can’t take care of our future pastors and deaconesses and their families,” Katherine explained. “To tell them what it means to me and to the students, to have their continued prayers and support, makes a huge difference. Not just for them but also for me.”

And she always comes to these conventions armed with thank you letters from students. Though the majority of these LWML women and the future servants they’re supporting will never meet face-to-face in this life, the pen-and-paper notes create a tangible connection. Said one LWML convention attendee, “I read the note and I couldn’t help but cry.”

Thank you. Thank you all for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support. From Thessalonians 1:2-3: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

[With credit to the LWML Iowa East District for the photo of Katherine and Diane next to the CTSFW booth.]

Seminary Guild: Deaconess Presentation

The Seminary Guild held their last meeting of the academic year yesterday, gathering for a luncheon that was preceded by some Guild business and thank yous from Director of the Food and Clothing Co-op, Katherine Rittner (who was once a student wife with six children, and knows their support firsthand—“We made it because of you,” she said to the ladies) and President Rast (“Your support is invaluable. You are truly a blessing”). It was followed by a keynote presentation, Bible Study, and the installation of the new board.

The keynote presentation featured deaconess students who had traveled to the Dominican Republic last May. Second-year deaconess student Kate Phillips began the topic, “God’s Mercy in Mission,” with an audio clip of school children singing “This Is the Day the Lord Has Made” in Spanish, from morning devotions in Santo Domingo. Showing a picture of a gate in front of one of the churches, designed as Luther’s Rose, she explained: “In this presentation we will open the doors of our experience to you.”

From right to left, the keynote presenters (second-year deaconess students): Bethany Stoever, Kate Phillips, Chelsie MacIntosh, and Stephanie Wilde.
Accompanying on guitars (as Stephanie holds the music) are first-years (r-l) Kate Engebrecht and Emilyann Pool.

The goal of the mission work in Latin American is three fold: Spread the Word, Plant Churches, and Show Mercy. While there, the students were able to visit all four congregations in the Dominican Republic, attend Bible Studies, and visit schools and centers for mercy. “There’s something special about worshiping with brothers and sisters in a different language, but the same words” said second-year deaconess student Bethany Stoever. A Spanish hymnal is currently in the works, and the liturgy is very familiar even in a different language. Catechetical instruction is also very important to the mission in the Dominican Republic.

Culturally, time is far more relaxed; services start when people—especially the pastor—shows up. Church buildings are also barred outside of service hours for security reasons (a commonplace practice across the country). However, during offering, which is not passed around but rather carried individually to the front of the church, Bethany said, “It was truly humbling to see the members walking forward in front to drop off their gift.” Expenses in the Dominican Republic are very similar to American expenses, and yet minimum wage is $200 a month. Many people—even those with specialized education and careers in the medical field—have to work multiple jobs.

The Dominican people are very social, their homes incredibly close together. “The fellowship aspect of their culture is something America lacks,” Kate noted. During their visitations to homes in Palmar Arriba and Pueblo Nuevo, the deaconess students listened to the stories of these members’ lives, holding the hands of those they listened to and offering encouragement. They also participated in home Bible studies. “These are things we all need,” she said. “Prayer, human touch, and the Gospel. We are all part of the Body of Christ.”

Another second-year deaconess student, Stephanie Wilde, spoke of the seminary in the Dominican Republic. Seminario Concordia El Reformador serves the entire region, their nine students hailing from all over Latin America. The Deaconess Program there is not nearly as formal as that for the pastoral students, but Stephanie noted the many similarities between their seminary and ours: fieldwork, vicarage, and coffee and conversation between classes and chapel. “Building relationships is important,” she stressed. The three-story building shares space with a congregation and an elementary school, with the school on the first floor, the congregation worshiping on the second, and seminary classrooms and guest housing on the third. The dorms are located down the hill from the seminary.

Schools are also a great way to reach out into the community with the Gospel, as they are here in America, both today and historically. The school in Palmar Arriba serves preschool through sixth grade. Students pay $10 a month to attend, and the school’s finances are supplemented by a congregation in Florida. The school day begins with a Bible story taught by a deaconess, as they work to increase biblical literacy.

Chelsie MacIntosh, the final second-year deaconess student to speak, spoke of the special needs centers and programs they also visited, like the Good Shepherd Home and the Home for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. They traveled to centers that cared for orphan adults with disabilities; in one center, all but two of these men and women were nonverbal, having grown up in orphanages with no specialized care before they aged out.

One of the focuses of the mission work in the Dominican Republic at such places is to teach caregivers that these men and women are neither angels who are put on earth to teach people spiritual or moral lessons (whose physical needs thus come secondary), nor should they be neglected or dehumanized. The lack of care is almost always due to a lack of education. Patient care has improved as the nurses learn, and the care centers have changed from dehumanizing institutions where patients are referred to by numbers, to more home-like environments where patients are recognized as people with names and given opportunities to go outside. The greater goal has become to help them rejoin their families and communities.

The mission in the Dominican Republic has had a great impact, as the people have learned, as Chelsie put it, to “See with the eyes of light, to see them as people. It’s a beautiful model of how to care, seeing our neighbors as children of God.”

Deaconess Amy Rast, Associate Director of Deaconess Formation Programs, concluded the presentation with a thank you to the LWML (knowing that many of the women in the Seminary Guild serve both through the Guild as well as through their LWMLs at their home congregations) for supporting these missions. So far, nine graduates of the Deaconess Program here at CTSFW have served in Latin America, and two more will intern in the Dominican Republic in just a few months. You’ll find out which ones in less than three weeks, during Deaconess Internship Assignments.

Deaconess Rast also added that there are currently 37 women in the Deaconess Program right now, including both residential and long-distance students, as well as those on their internships. “Thank you for all that you do in support of that,” she said.

Brittni Brown, Deaconess Studies Program Intern, then followed up with a Bible study on Psalm 116. “You get to join us for a class,” she told the ladies. The deaconess students study psalms throughout their program, and this academic quarter features Psalm 116. “And I also love it,” she admitted with a smile.

At the podium, Deaconess Intern Brittni Brown calls for answer to her Bible study questions (“I like discussion,” she explained) as Deaconess Rast writes them on the board.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Psalm 116:1-4

The Seminary Guild then called their meeting to order, finishing with the installation of the new officers and closing devotions by Rev. Jim Fundum, Admission Counselor and theological adviser to the group. Their next meeting takes place after summer, on September 10, 2019, for the Getting to Know You Tea. “As Dorcas (Acts 9:36) supported the apostles as they spread God’s word, we, as sisters in Christ, have an opportunity to share God’s love through our support of the students, faculty, staff and the seminary as a whole,” the Seminary Guild explained in their meeting agenda. “We want our Guild to thrive for years and years to come, but do that, we need YOU. See you back here in September.”

Installation of next year’s board for the Seminary Guild (Rev. Fundum with service in hand).

Friends of the Fort

Friends of the Fort is a group of pastors, supported by their congregations, who bring simple gifts of gratitude to the staff members and faculty that serve here at CTSFW. These past two days you’ve seen two of their number preach in chapel: the Rev. Dr. Steve Sohns from Resurrection Lutheran Church in Spring, Texas, on Thursday and the Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler from Concordia Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, just his morning. Five others joined them for their trip to campus (and an additional Rev. Dr. who couldn’t make it this year, but whose congregation still contributed to the gifts). Some are alumni of CTSFW, but others claim our sister Seminary in St. Louis as their alma mater. They hail from Florida, Texas, Nebraska, California, Missouri, and Illinois.

“The Friends of the Fort have told us repeatedly what a joy it has been to get to know all of you,” Carrie O’Donnell, Assistant to President Rast, wrote in an email to all staff and faculty, “and they appreciated the opportunity to thank you in person for all that you do in service to our Lord and His Church.”

Our gratitude goes out to Reverends Jeff Skopak, Al Doering, Santiago Keinbaum, Tim Klinkenberg, Steve Sohns, Scott Seidler, Ken Krueger, Charles Mueller, and Chris Esget; for the gifts from your congregations; for stopping by each office and work station to meet all of us; for the thank you cards and letters created by the kids of Grace Lutheran Church and School (Jacksonville, Florida); and for the joy you have given all of us as you have taken this time in the busy season of Lent to encourage those who work behind the scenes.

Thank you.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Thessalonians 5:9-11

From coffee hour following chapel on Thursday. Friends of the Fort provided the sustenance and mingled with students, faculty, and staff.
Prepped gift bags for the staff.
The kids from Grace Lutheran in Jacksonville, FL, created the cards that made it into every gift bag that went out to every faculty and staff member at CTSFW. Dr. Gieschen (right) admires a card while one of the Friends of the Fort members, Rev. Steve Sohns, looks on.
Professor Pless (left) and President Rast (right) speak with Rev. Santi Keinbaum (middle), one of the members of Friends of the Fort, during the faculty appreciation dinner. They are hosting a bbq for the staff tonight.