Photo by ELS Biet Sahour
When he got older, he joined the staff at Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry, another camp in northern Minnesota. Lars would have been content to keep working at Voyageurs indefinitely but had what he calls a “getting-kicked-out-of-the-nest moment.” The leaders at Voyageurs told Lars that if he wanted to work there long-term, he should first go out and experience camps and ministries in other places.
Lars agreed, though he didn’t know just how far from northern Minnesota he was about to travel.
In 2016, Lars’ sister led a trip from their synod to the West Bank with the Peace Not Walls program, the ELCA’s campaign for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. She had completed a year of service in the West Bank as a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) in 2013. As Lars puts it, “I was sort of dragged along.”
Once there, he was struck by the depth of the relationships his sister had formed in the West Bank. People still remembered her from her YAGM year, even though she had been gone for years. Lars calls the trip a tipping point for him. He was beginning to feel called to ministry, but before he applied to seminary, he decided to become a Young Adult in Global Mission himself.
As a YAGM volunteer in 2017, Lars was also placed in the West Bank. He worked at a school in Beit Sahour, helping with secondary English classes. He also volunteered at a church one day a week.
During Lars’ YAGM year, political relations between the United States and Palestine became especially strained. Lars was concerned about how this would affect the relationships he was forming. But, he says, “My host mother told me she loved me and was watching over me, and that I was always welcome in Palestine.” People at the school and even strangers on the street kept assuring him that he was still welcome. This gave him a new understanding of grace. It also strengthened his desire to become a minister so he could share the story of that grace with others.
In fall 2019, Lars began his first year at Wartburg Theological Seminary, funded by a full scholarship from the ELCA Fund for Leaders program. Without this scholarship, Lars says, a career in ministry would not be feasible for him. He knows the same is true for many of his classmates. He is immensely grateful for your gifts, which have enabled the ELCA to award scholarships to more than 900 seminary students since 2000. Lars is also grateful for the gifts supporting other ELCA ministries, such as YAGM, that have given him opportunities to see the world from different perspectives.
Lars doesn’t know what type of ELCA leader he’ll eventually become. He says he wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up where he began, at an outdoor ministry. But he has also had rewarding experiences in parishes, and his conversations with students as a YAGM recruiter have led him to consider campus ministry.
Wherever his path leads next, he will bring with him all the lessons he’s learned at home and abroad. He says he’s excited to be part of the ELCA’s global network of relationships “connected through God."