Meet the Donors: From Harvest to Harvest

Don and Ruby Guhlke have harvested a lot of corn and soybeans on their Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, farm over the years. And in recent years, they’ve turned their eyes to another harvest—the one Jesus spoke about in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Those harvest laborers include the men and women training to be pastors, teachers, and staff ministers at Martin Luther College. The Guhlkes’ gifts to MLC are helping these students every day.

Don himself was not quite able to finish college. Halfway through his senior year, his 54-year-old father died of a heart attack, and all eyes turned to Don to take over the family farm. “That’s okay, though,” he says, “because I knew I was going to be a farmer one day. This just made it happen a little sooner.”

Don raised dairy cows for 20 years, and then sold the cows and concentrated on corn and soybeans for another 20 years. For the last nine years, he’s been renting his land to other farmers.

The Guhlke farm in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.

Not finishing college certainly hasn’t hurt him, at least in the math department. “I’m a numbers man,” he says. “I did well on the farm. I didn’t spend like crazy. I saved. I invested. And now I’m able to give to others.”

He and Ruby have given several major gifts to the college, including donation of assets—in their case, farm machinery.

Don says, “We like to give to MLC because our great-nephew Adam Dahle (St. Paul-Algoma WI) attends here. He’s going to be a great pastor. I can’t wait to hear his first sermon!”

Indeed, MLC students have found a special place in Don and Ruby’s hearts. Most often they dedicate their gifts to student financial assistance. MLC Day—May 3 this year—is an annual giving day for them. They’re happy to support the matching funds for the Congregational Partner Grant Program on that day every year.

Resource Development Counselor Beth Scharf MLC ’00 enjoys working with the Guhlkes. “When you talk to Don and Ruby, you immediately sense what generous people they are. They assist their families and their church, and they’ve kept ministry at the heart of their legacy giving through the WELS Foundation. Through their home congregation in Sleepy Eye, they personally know the impact and importance of our WELS called workers. Now, having a great-nephew at MLC training for the ministry, the support of our students hits home to them even more.”

Recently, Don learned of another connection to this campus. His church record revealed that he was baptized by Pastor Edmund Bliefernicht, who was filling a vacancy at St. John-Sleepy Eye when Don was born. Pastor Bliefernicht was also President Bliefernicht at Dr. Martin Luther College, 15 miles away.

 Don and Ruby are givers. They give to the synod, to their church, to schools, to their family. “I especially like being able to help my grandkids,” Don says.

And they give in many different ways. In fact, they’ve helped other farmers learn about all the best ways to give. “Many of these gifts help us too,” Don says. “The tax-qualified donations—those help the college and us.”

While Don talks about the charitable giving that has become so important to him in his retirement, he also mentions his health issues. He’s had a fair share of obstacles—including heart attacks, triple-bypass surgery, and serious spinal issues. But “somehow God always lined things up so that I could get the surgery or whatever I needed,” he says.

“Miracle after miracle!” Ruby adds.

Don chuckles. “Yeah, God must want me around for something.”

Being here for their family. Serving their church and synod. Lending financial assistance to St. John-Sleepy Eye, to the WELS Foundation, and to Martin Luther College. Yes, that’s definitely “something.”

That’s another Guhlke harvest to celebrate.