By Kara Peter ’22 (St. James-Portage MI)
Adapted from KnightWatch Weekly
It’s true—most of MLC’s student body calls the Midwest home, but we do enroll students from across the country and the entire globe. Our 12 international students this year (pictured) hail from Antigua and Barbuda, China, Colombia, South Korea, Vietnam, and Ukraine.
During International Education Week, our students got to know their international peers and gained insight into the diverse cultures they may encounter in their future ministries. They attended presentations by their international friends, learned about opportunities to study and serve abroad, answered questions at international trivia night, and participated in an international badminton tournament.
And the caf staff stepped up too. With the international students’ help, they offered different international foods every night, mixing up the regular menu with everything from empanadas to egg drop soup, from fried plantain to borscht. One of our internationals is Juan Escobar (pictured), a grad of Divine Savior Academy originally from Colombia. Why would a Colombian choose snowy New Ulm? Juan’s answer is this: “I am very social. I like talking to people. That’s one of my passions. And on top of that, sharing God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus. So there’s no better career than to be a pastor and no better place to study for that than at MLC. “Everywhere in the world, everyone is different,” he adds. “Everyone has different ideas, different cultures, different beliefs. You just have to understand them and be respectful.”
Whether you’re from Milwaukee or Beijing, MLC is a place to grow in faith and prepare for the ministry. Here we’re all united in our calling to serve Christ.
“One of my passions is to meet new cultures and network with people. And I love spreading the gospel. There’s no better place than MLC to encourage my passions and make me a great pastor.”
When Juan David Escobar—he prefers JuanDa—and his mom fled the violence of Colombia to live in Miami, they had no idea JuanDa would one day move 1800 miles further north, to Minnesota.
Thank Divine Savior Academy, the Lutheran high school where JuanDa says he heard the gospel every day, grew closer to God, and realized what he wanted to do with his life: “One of my passions is to meet new cultures and network with people. And I love spreading the gospel. There’s no better place than MLC to encourage my passions and make me a great pastor.”
Although JuanDa isn’t a fan of Minnesota cold, he does love the snow! And the people here are plenty warm. “People here make you feel like you have a new family,” he says. “It’s amazing. They care about you, they worry about you, they want to make sure you don’t die in the winter.”
JuanDa has high hopes for college. “I hope our cross country team wins conference. I hope I pass my Greek class with an A. I hope to develop my English speaking and writing skills. I hope to learn many of the aspects that make a great pastor. I’m looking forward to the seminary. And I’m very excited to see where God puts me to work, and the things he will allow me to accomplish in his name. It will be awesome.”
“I don’t know how to describe what really turned my heart. I think that was just God’s plan.”
The first time Shanghai native Jiacheng Liu heard the name of Jesus was in Watertown, South Dakota. Jiacheng, who goes by Nic, was a high school junior who had signed up for a foreign exchange program, not realizing he’d be enrolled at a little Lutheran high school in the American Midwest. That year at Great Plains LHS was pivotal, marked by a new book called the Bible, a new faith, a baptism, and a confirmation. “It was interesting because I never really learned about Christianity before,” Nic says. “I don’t know how to describe what really turned my heart. I think that was just God’s plan. I decided to be baptized after Christmas.”
God’s plan—with the influence of his teacher, Jeff Roloff, and his host family, Matt and Jody Roberts—led him to Martin Luther College as well. Although his parents, who are not Christian, still have a difficult time understanding his decision to serve in the ministry, they support him.
And it looks as though God’s plan also includes a very hectic May 2020. Nic and his fiancée, senior Kayla Rosenbaum, will hear their ministry assignment on May 16, and nine days later they’ll be married.
“My high school teachers inspired me with their dedication to their jobs and their passion for Christ. It made me want to be a teacher like them.” When Yiling Leng was a little girl in Hangzhou, China, curiosity led her to reach for a strange book sitting on a shelf. It was a Bible. When she opened its pages, though, what she found was not its life-changing message but a big, hairy spider. She slammed it shut and vowed never to open a Bible again. God had other plans. Through English classes taught by Friends of China, Yiling learned about the hero of that book, Jesus, and she dared to read more. Eventually she came to America, attended Michigan Lutheran Seminary, and heard about MLC, a college that would show her how to share the story of Jesus with others. “
My high school teachers inspired me with their dedication to their jobs and their passion for Christ,” she says. “It made me want to be a teacher like them.”
At MLC, Yiling, who goes by Sophie, jumped into campus life, working as a photographer, singing in College Choir, and studying Spanish. She also served off-campus, doing hurricane cleanup in Florida and teaching math and Spanish literacy in Mexico.
The Bible is no longer a scary book. In fact, Sophie is eager to graduate and be assigned to a classroom where she can open the Bible and tell the life-changing story of Jesus every day.
“I really appreciate the small community at MLC. Having professors who know you personally helps a lot in college life.” Sora Lee is quick to verbalize what every international student—every human being, really—knows in their heart: Relationships matter.
When she came to California Lutheran, it was her relationship with her teacher April Cook that made all the difference.
“I was nervous because of the cultural differences and language barrier. She helped me through all my obstacles and encouraged me to stay in America.” April also encouraged Sora on a career path. “I decided to become a teacher like her,” Sora says, “not only to help students academically but also to guide them through their hardships.”
At Cal Lutheran, by the power of the Spirit, Sora developed an even more important relationship—with her Savior. “I became a Christian after going to Cal Lu and hearing God’s Words. I knew who Jesus was because I went to a church with my friend in South Korea when I was young. But it was more of trying it out for fun than being serious and believing it.” Now Sora’s at MLC, and once again, the relationships make it meaningful: “I really appreciate the small community at MLC. Having professors who know you personally helps a lot in college life.” She’ll finish her double major in 2020, and she hopes God will have her teach somewhere in the States. At some school, somewhere, there will be students who need a strong relationship with their teacher—and with the Savior she tells them about.
This feature was originally published in the MLC InFocus, Spring 2020 issue.