Elder's Corner

A monthly update letter from our elders

Elder's Corner

March 2023

Dear Salem Church Family,

It is time for our monthly elder corner. My name is Mark Strand. I teach at NDSU, and my wife Rene is a Reading Corps teacher at Ed Clapp Elementary School. We have three young adult children, Bjorn, Marit and Anders. I grew up on a farm near Portland, ND, in a loving family with 4 brothers and a sister (Salem attender Kim Erickson). After finishing various degrees in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado, my family and I served in China in healthcare missions work with the organization Evergreen for 20 years. During that time I also completed a year of theological education. In 2012 we moved to Fargo, when I began my current work at NDSU.

I have served as an elder at Salem since 2019. I am always encouraged by the way in which we as elders are able to have open and candid discussions on issues, respecting one another even when we view things differently, and then agreeing to be unified around whatever we as a group decide. We covet your prayers as we serve in this role.

Over the last several months the elders have been working on several important things:

1. Finances: We are thankful that our 2022 shortfall was only $3,400, as Dale Hellevang reported in church recently, but we are also aware that we need to increase our giving in 2023 by $116,000 to meet budget for 2023. So as Pastor Kent said on March 5, “let's not fall behind early!” Please give consistently and generously to support the ministries at Salem. If you are new to Salem maybe this is the time to begin. We are also thankful that we are able to reduce expenses by having a renter in the Fargo building now.

2. Visioning work: Since Pastor Seth’s arrival at Salem we have been studying, praying, discussing, surveying and listening regarding what God’s vision for Salem for the present and the near future should be. Of course this vision is built on who we are as a church. But we also feel the need to align Salem with God’s work in the current generation. The way Jesus talked about it in Matthew 9:16-17 is, the Spirit does new work in each generation (new wine), so we want to make sure that we have the right wineskins (structures, ministries, and practices) for that new wine We anticipate spending dedicated time in the next couple months to visioning work.

3. Prayer and support of members of our church who are hurting and facing health challenges. Since we are volunteer lay elders, our pastors and staff do most of this pastoral care work, but as elders our primary calling is providing spiritual and personal care for our church family, through prayer and support. Don’t hesitate to call upon us if you have needs that we should be aware of or can help with or concerns to raise.

I see a connection between our calling to provide prayer and support to members of our church family and the Ruth sermon series we are now in. Ruth’s faith and courage, and Boaz’ grace and kindness is such an encouragement. Think about it: Ruth, a Moabitess, married a foreigner from Bethlehem. Then the three men in her new family all died. It’s easy to understand why her mother-in-law Naomi became bitter. But Ruth persevered in the face of challenges. Her willingness to return to Bethlehem, to a people not her own, to live as a foreigner, and to continue to serve her now widowed mother-in-law, is a reminder to never give up. God is good. Although her family members were not coming back, and moving to Bethlehem was risky, and it would have been simpler to stay in Moab and marry one of her own people, she remained hopeful. She had no way of knowing that God was preparing a Boaz for her, or that the barley harvest would allow for ample gleanings, or that Boaz’ servants would protect her. But that is what God had in store for her. Dear brothers and sisters, whatever difficulty you are facing presently, know that God “has a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) The pathway through is not necessarily easy, or exactly as we would choose, but it is a good future, blessed by a good God, and lived out within a community of people who love God.

On April 9 we will be celebrating Easter. I don’t know how you spend the weeks leading up to Easter, but traditionally it is a time to seek the Lord in prayer and Bible reading, to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward God, and to serve others. One element of this focus is confession of sin. I invite you to spend additional time between now and Easter preparing in this way. 

God bless,

Mark Strand, for the Salem Elders