May 4, 2013

Graduating seminarians on a mission, thanks to MIF Mission Developer Scholarships

“Every congregation is constantly under development, always re-forming,” points out Ben Hilding, a recent graduate of the Master of Divinity program at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. “Each congregation must ask themselves: How is God leading us to a new future?”

These are the issues that interest young seminarians concentrating on mission developer work—raising up new-start congregations and injecting new life into well-established congregations. The ELCA’s Fund for Leaders program supports these young seminarians in their special calling with much-needed MIF Mission Developer Scholarships.

“We are pleased with the partnership between the Fund for Leaders and the Mission Investment Fund in this scholarship effort. I am very proud of this first group of scholarship recipients coming out of seminary this year. They are a wonderful group of young pastors,” says MIF President and CEO Eva M. Roby. MIF offered a $1.5 million challenge grant for funds raised toward these scholarships. Since 2009, 13 MIF Mission Developer Scholarships have been awarded. “Providing Mission Developer Scholarships supports our mission of helping build the church by sharing in the development of the next generation of leaders of this church.”

Four seminarians who have received these MIF Mission Developer Scholarships completed their studies this Spring and are moving on to be ordained as Lutheran pastors accepting their first calls.

Montana native Stacey Siebrasse, a graduate of the Master of Divinity program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, is joyfully accepting her first call in mid-July as mission developer at La Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria y Santa Marta in San Francisco’s Mission District, the site of her very rewarding teaching parish.

“This is a vibrant congregation in a lively part of the city,” the bilingual Siebrasse says. “This congregation is ready to start new projects and develop new visions for their families and community. They are looking to become more of a presence in the community, and I will accompany them in mission development and community organizing work.” Siebrasse is eager to work with the leaders and full membership of the church. She is concerned about social and economic justice issues and hopes to introduce some “out-of-thebox” ideas for development in this Latino community.

Ben Hilding, the recent graduate of Luther Seminary, focused more closely on his call as mission developer as he prepared for the interview required to merit the Mission Developer Scholarship. “I learned more about how God was calling me to use my gifts. I looked backward and realized that God had prepared me for this call in ways I hadn’t expected. What an epiphany!”

In July, Hilding and his wife, Alicia, will both be ordained and installed as associate pastors at Bethel Lutheran Church in Hudson, Wisconsin. Hilding will serve in youth and family ministry. 

Abigail Letsinger, a graduate of the Master of Divinity program at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, is energized about making a difference in the lives of at-risk youth. “What impact can the church have with at-risk youth? Howcan we start at the ground level?” She wants to focus on key developmental assets for raising healthy, responsible children—including self-esteem, caring, integrity, a healthy lifestyle and positive adult role models. “If the church took on a community- centered role, in addition to its worship role,” Letsinger promises, “we could provide many of these key assets for children.”

Letsinger served a pastoral internship in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin and is awaiting final word on her first call. She is anticipating a strong redevelopment opportunity in a city where she can lend her enthusiasm to sharing ministry, influencing children and youth, and building a community.

Joe Brosious, too, feels called to an urban setting, an inner city, where he can put his special mission developer gifts to work in redevelopment. “Where there is neighborhood change, we must reconnect with the people,” says Brosious, a graduate of the Master of Divinity program at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.

Brosious is awaiting his first call. “Wherever we go, we must get the church reconnected to the community that surrounds it. We must talk about our faith in the community. We must show where Christianity fits in—and why it matters.”

Donations to the ELCA Fund for Leaders’ MIF Mission Developer Scholarships help support young men and women in seminary who are called to develop new-start congregations and inject new vitality into redeveloping congregations. 

You can make a contribution online at https://community.elca.org/fundforleaders. In the drop-down list for designations, choose the second listing: MIF Mission Developers Seminary Scholarship Endowment.

If you make a gift by mail, make your check payable to ELCA Fund for Leaders and add MIF Mission Developers to the memo line. Send your donation to:

ELCA Fund for Leaders, P.O. Box 71222, Chicago, IL 60694-1222