MLC opens its campus to the public

Friday, May 28, 2021

As the social distancing and occupancy limits for the state of Minnesota ended on May 27 at 11:59 pm, Martin Luther College is currently open to the community. Following are some details regarding services you might be interested in during our summer months. The MLC Planning Committee continues to discuss plans for a normal opening to our 2021-2022 academic year! More details will be published as we confirm state and local protocols.

FITNESS CENTER: MLC students, faculty, staff, and their families, as well as other WELS members, are welcome to use the MLC Fitness Center. For more details regarding hours and access, visit mlc-wels.edu/fitness-center/.

MLC BOOKSTORE: The MLC Bookstore is open to the public this summer on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. We carry Christian greeting cards, books, piano and organ music, MLC apparel, and much more! We are located on the upper level of the Luther Student Center. Please stop by!

MLC LIBRARY: We once again welcome our community and visitors to the library. The library is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Our library staff look forward to welcoming you back and assisting you with your library needs.

MLC PRINT SERVICES: MLC Print Services, located in the lower level of the Old Main building, welcomes the community back to our shop Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. We provide a diverse selection of printing options, from basic copying to large-format printing and bindery. Call 507-233-9140 for more information, or visit mlc-wels.edu/print-services/.

MLC CAFETERIA: As is our normal procedure, the MLC Cafeteria is not serving the public over the summer months since regular classes are not in session. We are looking forward to providing excellent breakfast, lunch, and dinner options when MLC classes start in the fall! Watch for dates and times.

MLC OFFICES: We are open to the public but are temporarily relocated to accommodate a summer rewiring project. Please call 507-354-8221 to make arrangements for your visit.

Thalassa 2021 Winner Announced

The winner of the 2021 Thalassa contest is Cindy Lendt ’09 with her submission, “Hasn’t God Chosen the Poor . . .” Cindy has served in Southeast Asia since September 2019, where she says her work consists of “outreach, doing Bible studies, building relationships, discipleship, etc.”

MLC’s International Services Office is awarding Cindy $1,000, half of which she designated to her Southeast Asia mission. This is the 15th annual Thalassa Prize awarded by MLC.

Hasn’t God Chosen the Poor . . .

Every workday my teammate would bike the 35 minutes to her school and then back home again in the evening, and she started to notice two beggars sitting outside a mall with their large tin cans. This is pretty rare; begging isn’t typically allowed in this city. One day she stopped and talked with them. They wouldn’t say much or go into a restaurant with her, but she ordered takeout and brought it to them. She started cooking larger amounts of food for supper and bringing them home-cooked meals on her way home from school.

That’s when things began to change. They began to talk to her more, and she learned their names: Mr. Zhang and Mr. Fan. She gave them a solar-powered MP3 player with the New Testament in Chinese (the Proclaimer). They loved it! People would be walking by to enter the mall, and there were the two beggars with the New Testament playing loudly for everyone to hear! Some of their friends—a shop owner, a street sweeper, and another person—asked how they could get this MP3 player, so my teammate gave away three more Proclaimers. I’ve been helping with the cooking and delivery, and every time I see them they’re listening to the Bible. Mr. Zhang is blind; I need to put the food container and chopsticks directly into his hands. When I head back for home, they shout out in heavy accents: “gan xie zhu!”—“thank the Lord!”

We’ve known them about four months, and now they’ve asked about going to church. I have no idea how this adventure will continue, but you can guess my prayer: that God would take these physically poor men and make them rich—in him.

Commencement 2021

On Saturday, May 15, 170 students earned degrees marking the completion of their ministerial training at Martin Luther College. This included 32 preseminary Bachelor of Arts degrees, 110 Bachelor of Science in Education degrees (including 18 early childhood education), nine Bachelor of Science degrees, (including one staff ministry degree, six educational studies degrees and two theological studies degrees), two seminary certifications and one staff ministry certification.

In addition, 10 students received their Master of Science in Education degrees, and five students earned their Master of Science in Educational Administration degrees and one received a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.

The Commencement Service in the MLC gymnasium was conducted by presiding minister Rev. James Pope. MLC President Rich Gurgel presented the commencement sermon on the theme, “You Are Servants By and Of Boundless Grace,” and Dr. Jeff Wiechman, vice president for academics, assisted with the distribution of diplomas.

The sermon text chosen by the class, Ephesians 3:7-9, states: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”

Gurgel commended the graduates on their graduation theme. “I am so happy for the verse you chose as your class verse.  The right people are listening to the right message.  Your passage reminds you that the public ministry for which you have all studied, and into which many of you are about to be called, is a great privilege of grace to those who serve in it.”

 Gurgel went on to explain why God would want the graduates to face this reality of ministry.  “He [God] wants you to grasp, as did Paul, the astounding difference between the depth of the sin of your heart and the depth of the grace in the heart of your Savior!  All of which will lead you also to marvel with Paul, as you find yourself called into public ministry, what an astounding gift of grace that is!   Though with Paul we must confess ourselves to be less than least of God’s people.”

That understanding, Gurgel pointed out, will clarify the importance of sharing Paul’s perspective through ministry. “When we recognize that we are servants of the gospel by boundless grace to us, we learn what it means to be servants of boundless grace to others.”

Gurgel assured the graduates, as they apply this grace of God’s word in their classrooms and congregations, “. . . you will know why God has placed you there with them! You who are a servant by boundless grace get to be a servant of boundless grace as you amaze the hearts of those you serve by showring them that where sin abounds, there grace always abounds more.  Such is the boundless nature of the gospel of which you are a servant!

A Message from the President

Dear MLC Family,
Rejoice with us! Our MLC campus is beginning to reopen!
In many ways, this semester has felt like the beginning of a spring thaw after a long winter! For the first time in three challenging semesters, God has permitted us to be only three weeks away from completing an entire semester together on campus!
During this semester, our campus family’s patience with admittedly annoying COVID protocols has enabled us to be one of the only schools in our athletic conference that did not cancel a single game or match because of our responses to the virus. God has seen fit to bless us as we have studied and worshiped, worked and played together here on the hill.
All of that leads to that eagerly anticipated reopening of campus to those beyond our current students, faculty, and staff.
That first step of reopening MLC’s campus will occur during graduation week. Our graduates have already been given the opportunity to reserve places for their invited guests. Those guests will be welcome at our Commencement concerts on Friday, May 14, at 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and at our combined Graduation/Call Day service on Saturday, May 15, at 10:00 am. These events will also be livestreamed.
Please also allow us to thank the faculty members who agreed to give up their seats at graduation to create maximum space for our graduates’ guests.
Some have wondered whether we considered the possibility of having our Graduation/Call Day service outside in our football bowl. According to current Minnesota guidelines for large gatherings, however, our socially distanced seating capacity is actually greater in our gymnasium than in our football bowl.
In addition, our streaming capabilities in the gym will provide a far higher quality livestream for our invited guests who will be watching the stream in our chapel and auditorium, as well as for those who will be watching at home all around the synod.
And all this is only a prelude to a fuller reopening of our campus. This summer, God willing, we plan to host several class reunions and sports camps, which will provide us practice runs for this fall!
While only God knows the details of the future, we are expecting a return to regular campus life for the 2021-2022 school year! That will include welcoming back to campus our students’ families, our emeriti, our alumni, and the rest of our extended MLC family. It will be good to see and greet many of you in person—not just virtually!
Please pray for God’s blessings on our graduates! Pray for many students to join us on the hill again this fall! The harvest is still plentiful, and the workers are still few. So keep asking for the Lord of that harvest to bless us with young women and men willing to consider the public gospel ministry!
In Him,
Rich Gurgel
President

An Exciting Announcement from MLC!

An Important Advancement for Martin Luther College’s Campaign

The Martin Luther College (MLC) administration and governing board are excited to announce a significant advancement in the Equipping Christian Witnesses (ECW) campaign pillar designated to campus facilities. Thanks to the gift of two generous donors, our new athletic center is fully funded.

After extensive interviews, analysis, and research, MLC’s comprehensive campus site plan identified two priorities: residence space and indoor athletic space for sports teams, physical education training, and student life. For that reason, an athletic center and a residence hall were included in the facility improvement pillar of the ECW campaign.

MLC is thankful for the gifts received from many individuals, congregations, and schools throughout the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. We are also thankful for the support we have received from the New Ulm community. Those gifts provided a generous financial foundation for facilities, and now, God has moved the heart of two very generous donors to provide a transformational gift to the athletic center that will allow construction to commence.

The athletic center, named the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse, will be located at the MLC Athletic Field Complex west of the main campus, near the soccer and baseball fields. This 36,000-square-foot indoor turfed facility will feature large practice areas, baseball/softball batting cages, golf simulators, and locker rooms. In April, the MLC campus family will celebrate the groundbreaking of the fieldhouse, with student use anticipated by the beginning of 2022.

MLC President Rich Gurgel commented on this milestone of the Equipping Christian Witnesses campaign: “We are thankful to God for the generosity of so many people. The Betty Kohn Fieldhouse will serve our student body well. It is also a significant beginning to our long-range plans for making our campus even more attractive to prospective students. And we look forward to exploring how the fieldhouse can serve the recreation needs of the New Ulm community as well.”

 

 

A Message from President Gurgel

The MLC family invites you to take a few minutes and consider these encouragements from MLC President Rich Gurgel. May the wondrous gift, born in the little town of Bethlehem so long ago, bring you the true joy of our celebrations and the true peace of our salvation in Christ.

2021-22 MLC Calendar Release

MLC is pleased to offer our friends another two-year desktop calendar for 2021 and 2022. Calendars will be available at the two local New Ulm churches, but if you’re not in the area, please place your order with this form and we will mail it to you.

Order now

An Interview with Outgoing MLC President Mark Zarling

Outgoing Martin Luther College President Mark G. Zarling’s first step onto the campus was accompanied by “a little bit of fear. OK. More than a little bit.” He said he recognized the need “to grow to think in terms as an administrator” and was thankful to be blessed with “people [who] were doing their responsibilities very, very faithfully.” He reveals he had to overcome a tendency to be a quiet person, in order to become the “face of the college.”

The Chapel of the Christ highlighted his 13 years on campus. He remarks, “As the chapel went up and they [students] saw the beauty of it and the scale of it, there was no doubt in their mind. Jesus was most important here.” He remembers 900 or so campus family attendees walking in silence from the auditorium to the new chapel. “You could hear the birds . . . unforgettable.”

His 40 years of service to the church at large leads Zarling to recommend ministry because “you are the instrument of the Spirit. . . . The Lord will allow you to see trophies of grace.” Reflecting on his many travels for MLC, he says, “I would tell people one of the perks of being the president is I got to meet God’s children before we even meet in heaven. I met wonderful Christians all across the country.”

Zarling and his wife, Colette, retired to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. They hope to spend more time with family.

You can listen to or read the entire interview by clicking here.

Lois J. Bode
Temporary Archivist


The ability to use Covid-19 funds allowed retired Interim Archivist, Lois J Bode, to return for this interview. She also sorted through material which came in while there was no archivist, checked that the more than 9000 archival records were in numerical order, organized the thousands of records still to be processed, and standardized the archives database so that when an MLC archivist is funded, it will be easier to understand the collection.

 

Martin Luther College Welcomes New President

Martin Luther College is pleased to announce the arrival of its new president, Rev. Richard Gurgel.

President Gurgel replaces President Mark Zarling, who retired this June after serving the college from 2007 to 2020.

President Gurgel brings decades of experience in both ministerial education and parish ministry, as well as 18 years of experience as an MLC parent. Rich and his wife, Sue, have five boys, all graduates of the college he is now leading.

 

Pastor, Professor, Parent: From 1999 to 2020, Gurgel served as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) in Mequon, Wisconsin, where future pastors complete their ministerial training. There he taught Christian education, homiletics (preaching), and Christian doctrine.

In 2010, he was appointed WLS’s first director of the Grow in Grace Institute, the continuing education arm of the seminary. There he partnered with people on and off campus to begin retreats for pastors and wives, establish a mentoring program for new pastors, and make formal continuing education courses more accessible to pastors.

Prior to his tenure as a seminary professor, Gurgel served as the pastor of two WELS parishes: Gethsemane in Oklahoma City (1986-1992) and David’s Star in Jackson, Wisconsin (1992-1998). He also served as an emergency instructor for one year while still a seminary student, teaching religion and language arts, and coaching basketball at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School in Jackson, Wisconsin (1982-1983).

“God wastes nothing,” he says. “At each place, God had so much for me to learn in order to be a blessing to those he called me to serve. That encourages me that he can help me through another (steep) learning curve as I serve with my new partners in ministry at MLC.”

He brings another perspective to this call as well. For almost two decades, Rich and Sue were MLC parents, “making tuition and room and board payments to MLC and watching how our sons were blessed as they grew in Christian maturity on this campus.”

It is through these three lenses—pastor, professor, and parent—that Gurgel sees the college’s blessings as well as its challenges.

 

Blessings: “Without claiming that we have the perfect worker training system in the WELS,” he says, “we have many reasons to give thanks for the careful and thorough training we expect that the next generation of our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers will receive. Since almost every future called worker in our synod is part of the MLC family at some point, MLC is a pivotal part of maintaining that careful and thorough training. A rich heritage has been handed down to us, and now is our time to pass that on to others.”

That rich heritage is founded on another blessing: the gospel itself. “As president, I also hope to guard our Lutheran understanding of the centrality of the gospel as it comes to us in the means of grace. If we lose our focus on the comfort and the power of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then we lose the beating heart of our Christian faith and the power and strength to serve in the public ministry.

“We are not all about creating Bible trivia experts on this campus,” he continues, “but about raising up witnesses for Christ who have tasted and seen for themselves how good and gracious is their saving God. That love of Christ empowers faith and ministry.”

 

Challenges: Also looming large in Gurgel’s thinking and praying are three challenges the college faces: reducing student debt, enhancing campus facilities, and offering students the best education possible, one that simultaneously holds firm to the unchanging gospel and rises to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.

  • Student Debt: Regarding that first challenge, Gurgel wants to explore how the college can better collaborate with students, parents, donors, and the synod to reduce significantly the debt many students carry as they leave MLC.“As a synod, we have a huge stake in raising up a new generation of well-trained and faithful called workers. We must do all we can to avoid sending students out with educational debt that will burden them for years in public ministry and hinder their ability to raise a family. We are in this together as a synod. There is much more that we can do.”
  • Facilities: The second challenge focuses on the campus itself. Gurgel would like to expand and update the aging buildings and infrastructure here on the hill. He sees this not only as an issue of good stewardship but also as an important factor in recruiting new candidates for the public ministry.He says, “We need to remain an attractive option in an increasingly competitive market as high school students make decisions about the college they will attend. While it is only the gospel that can shape and form the next generation of servant-hearted leaders for our schools and churches, we do not want our campus and its facilities to become a deterrent to our ability to welcome them to our school.”
  • Educational Excellence: The third challenge is ongoing for every faculty member. “We must make sure we are equipping our students with an outstanding education that prepares them well to be ministers of the gospel in the 21st-century world. We have much to give thanks for, but we cannot close our eyes to where we can grow.”

A President’s Prayers: As President Gurgel takes the mantle, he does so in humility and prayer.

“I pray that God keeps me ever learning what it means to shepherd this campus with a humble gospel heart, in a way that proves a blessing to all who call this campus their home (students, faculty, staff, and administration). For our students, I pray that God will continue to use our campus to grow within them humble servant hearts, like their Savior’s, so that they stand out as lights in the darkness of a me-first world. For our faculty, staff, and administration, I pray that everyone who serves on this campus finds joy—under the cross—in that service.

“I have slowly learned,” he continues, “that I will be of little use to anyone I’ve been called to serve if my own soul is not feeding daily on the width, height, length, and depth of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. I have learned not to apologize for spending a considerable time each morning in Word and prayer so that God’s grace may bless me and enable me, in whatever way he might please that day, to be a blessing to others.”

 

Quick Facts: President Richard Gurgel Family

Rich’s wife, Sue, taught kindergarten for the past 17 years at Christ Alone Lutheran School in Mequon, Wisconsin. They enjoy supporting their five boys with their God-given callings and families:

  • Philip MLC ’06 is the Hispanic outreach pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He and his wife, Christa, have two sons, Theophilus and Amadeus.
  • Brad MLC ’08 is the principal and upper grade teacher at St. Peter Lutheran School in St. Peter, Minnesota. He and his wife, Bethany (Warnecke) MLC ’08, have four children: Kayla, Mason, Elianna, and Aiden.
  • Stephen MLC ’11 is the principal and grade 7-8 teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School in Rapid City, South Dakota. He and his wife, Megan (Ziel) MLC ’11, have two children: Warren and Whitney.
  • Nathan MLC ’14 teaches physical education, business, accounting, and economics at Manitowoc Lutheran High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
  • Ryan ’20 will be continuing his pursuit of the pastoral ministry this fall at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Education
B.A. Northwestern College 1981
M.Div. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary 1986
D.Min. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School 2010


Ministry
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School 1982-1983
Gethsemane-Oklahoma City 1986-1992
David’s Star-Jackson, Wisconsin 1992-1998
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary 1999-2020


Hobbies
Hiking, biking (“I did the New Ulm circle tour twice in my first week here!”), theater performances, baseball (“I especially enjoyed coaching Little League and high school ball for about 25 years.”)


Music
Classical, sacred choral (“My favorite musical events by far each year have been the MLC and WLS Christmas concerts.”)


Books
Books on the art and science of preaching the gospel and on leadership in the public ministry, John Grisham novels, biographies, historical fiction


Did you know? Achieving a longtime dream, President Gurgel became a certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He hopes to use that training at MLC—and later, in his retirement—to help people grow in all their God-given callings.

 

Volley Wins Team Academic Award