By Deacon Erica Larson, Director of Faith Formation
We celebrate with all those who graduated from college, graduate school, and other leadership programs this spring. No matter what stage of life, graduation is a faith milestone, and we are reminded of our vocational calling to love and serve our neighbor by using our God-given gifts and strengths!
Innocent Anthony graduated from Luther Seminary as a Master of Theology, majoring in Mission and World Religion. Innocent says, “My vision as a pastor and as a missiologist is to sensitize and raise the consciousness of the church toward her missional calling and responsibility in the world. I envision the training of pastors and local church leaders to engage the missional approach to discipleship.” Our congregation has been blessed by his presence and friendship during his time at Luther Seminary. His family and community will be equally blessed by his return to Nigeria and his call to share the gospel!
Brothers Jackson and Will Kendall both graduated this spring! Jackson received his Master’s in Education at the University of Minnesota and is seeking a teaching position with great anticipation! He is currently a nanny for three children, who are sure to love his energy and joyful spirit.
Will graduated from Northland College with a B.A. in water science and chemistry. This summer, he is in Battle Mountain, Nevada, and is once again working as a wildland firefighter, using his athleticism and bravery for this important work. When contemplating his future, he is passionate about wetland restoration and may seek employment in that area. Will has been an avid outdoorsman over the last four years, and one of his favorite experiences during college was seeing the northern lights over Lake Superior.
When reflecting on his faith, Will says, “I feel like what I learned through church has helped me be able to connect more with a broader range of people.” To celebrate graduation, the brothers did some rock climbing together in the Stansbury Mountains outside of Salt Lake City!
Nissa Rolf received her B.A. from California Lutheran University, with a double major in Music and Psychology; but, she’s not done yet! She shares, “While simultaneously finishing up my undergraduate degree, I began a Master's of Music Therapy at Augsburg University. The program is specifically designed for students that do not have a music therapy degree and graduate courses are interspersed throughout the program. It is a three and a half year program that includes an internship and in-depth preparation to become a board-certified music therapist and obtain a master's degree.
“At CLU, I was heavily involved in the music department. As a part of an octet group from the choir, we were invited to sing at the LA Rams NFL game in November of 2018 following a mass shooting close to campus. A recent alum, who was also involved in the music department, was killed that night and we had the opportunity to honor him, the other victims, and the first responders involved in the tragedy. I remember having intense emotions of fear, excitement, pride, and grief wash over me as we sang the National Anthem. I felt extremely spiritual in those moments and I will forever treasure that experience.
“I was also a tour guide for the university and had the opportunity to show prospective students and families the beautiful school that I fell in love with. Telling personal stories, answering questions, and giving advice to these students was the highlight of each week and a constant reminder of why I chose CLU!
“I believe that I have been called to support and guide others through my musical gifts and being enrolled in two incredible ELCA institutions has emphasized that for me. I am so excited to embark on this journey and appreciate all of the unconditional love and support that the congregation at LNL has given me!”
Nick Schulze graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a major in mass media and a minor in automotive engineering. This summer, he’ll be traveling while also seeking employment. He hopes to work in the automotive field in a position that allows him to do mass media work. Some of his favorite experiences in college were meeting new people, making new memories, and being a part of clubs such as the Student Events Team. While in college, Nick also expanded his license plate collection after finding a scrapyard in Mankato!
Nick says, “Faith kept me going when classes were hard and I felt like I was constantly busy. I knew that everything would work out. Faith will always help me through stressful times!”
Jennifer Swanberg recently completed the Rasmussen Leadership Academy, which provides high achieving students at Rasmussen College the opportunity to explore strengths, apply them to leadership opportunities, and utilize these strengths as role models in the workforce, community, with families and their College experience.
She shares, “Throughout the program, we were tasked with creating a leadership action plan focused on the domain of our choice. The domain I chose was community because I felt that it is where I can make the biggest impact as a leader and the area that I can improve in the most. The goal that I chose is to help strengthen the PreK/Kindergarten education program at Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church. My favorite part of the program was learning about what my strengths are after taking the Clifton Strengths Survey. I also enjoyed learning about how I can utilize these strengths to become a great leader in many aspects of my life.
“Faith plays a major role in my education. A lot of people ask me how I do it. How can I go to school full time, work full time, and be a partner and mother of two? I would tell them "Honestly, I don't know how I do it". But that's not true. I know how. I know that it's because God gives me the strength every day to do it all again. God blesses me with family and friends that continue to support me in any way I need them to. Lastly, there is something in my heart that tells me it's all going to be worth it, that everything will be ok, and that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”
Sarah Zaepfel graduated from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in French and Philosophy. While at St. Olaf, a favorite pastime was seeing movies with her friends. Sarah has always had an artistic flare, and greatly enjoyed taking an animation class that allowed her to express her creativity.
When reflecting on how her faith journey was influenced by her time at St. Olaf, she says, “I really loved the student congregation at St. Olaf and the pastors are really cool. Honestly, I didn’t expect I’d go to church and daily chapel as often as I did, but I surprised myself!”
Sarah’s future plans are undecided, but she loves math and could see working in a position putting her mathematical gifts to use. If she could have her dream job though, she just might want to be an illustrator for children’s books!
We pray for all graduates: God of creation pour out your Spirit on these students as they enter a new period of life and faith. Bless them as they begin new ventures as faithful people, hearing your words, responding in thankfulness by proclaiming your love and grace through words and deeds, and serving all people while doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. We pray all this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.