“I’m a Lutheran” is a monthly profile featuring ELCA members around the country. The profiles showcase ELCA members in all their diversity, connecting one another through individual faith stories as Lutherans. Sentence prompts are provided to each person featured. If you’d like to nominate someone for “I’m a Lutheran,” email megan.brandsrud@elca.org.

Congregation: Zion Lutheran Church, Waterloo, Iowa

Occupation: Retired U.S. Foreign Service officer

I believe that I am a child of God and that God daily showers me with gifts of love and grace.

I wanted to pursue a career in Foreign Service because I grew up wondering about how people lived in other lands. When I was working on my Master of Arts in theater, someone suggested I might enjoy the work of the cultural section of our embassies. I checked it out and became part of the U.S. Foreign Service, working primarily in educational and cultural exchange. I also served in public affairs and the press office.

My favorite way to spend my time in retirement is reading, traveling and volunteering in my community. I love being a reading buddy for first-graders and a conversational partner with international intensive English students. I also enjoy having time to volunteer for some jobs in my congregation.

My faith helped get me through being held hostage for 444 days during the Iranian hostage crisis by putting into practice everything I learned at home, in Sunday school and confirmation, at college and Bible study: praying, remembering others in greater need than I was, learning how to forgive my enemies, hymn singing and relying on the promises of Scriptures. As I said shortly after my return, I was confirmed again in all I’d been taught about God’s power, love and grace.

I pray in many ways and for many things. I pray for my family, friends, church and world. I know firsthand the power of prayer for others. During my time in Iran, I felt held up by the safety net of prayer that was being said for all of us during the time of our captivity.

My favorite church memory is visiting the Church of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula, located at the traditional site of the burning bush and a gathering place for ascetics from earliest Christian times. While visiting the church, I was invited by one of the local priests to have a seat. I closed my eyes and was lost in meditation for some time. I love silence, and in this holy place I was surrounded by the silence of the great cloud of witnesses. It was an intensely beautiful and moving moment.

I decided to get my master’s degree in religion after I retired because I had so many questions about my church, my faith and the Scriptures. I didn’t really plan on getting a degree—I just wanted the discussion, reading lists and conversation I knew I would find at seminary. I didn’t always find answers, but I always found more questions, and my faith and understanding grew in God’s grace.

My favorite piece of Scripture is .… What?? That’s like asking who your favorite child is! I love the Psalms, especially the imprecatory ones that let one shake a fist at God when one doesn’t understand what is happening in life! I also lean on the promise verses: “I am with you to the end of the ages” and “I will send you a comforter (advocate or helper) to be with you forever.” And then there are all the love verses: “Love your enemies” in Luke and the letters of John exhorting us to live in love.

Returning to my alma mater Wartburg College as an adjunct professor was a lovely experience. I loved the courses I was invited to teach: reconciliation, a couple of theater courses, intercultural communication and public speaking. Great students and professional colleagues. And to cap it, I was asked to work with the “Christmas with Wartburg” concerts for about 10 years. Joy!

My education at Wartburg helped shape me by encouraging me to explore ideas and to ask questions. Professors were willing to discuss ideas from most any angle, and encouraged wide reading and analysis. My principle job was reading and studying—what could be better?

People are surprised that I like a cold beer—especially in a Munich beer garden, or that I wish I’d been able to take Latin as a young student.

I think connecting with and learning about other cultures is important because it’s all about loving our brothers and sisters of God’s creation. We are all children of God! We need to understand that different is not always better or worse—just different.

I struggle with being judgmental.

I share my faith by participating in Bible study, worshiping regularly, speaking about my faith and occasionally writing about it. Prayer is also a constant in my life.

I chose to write about my experience of the hostage crisis because I’d been speaking about it in a wide variety of venues. I talked especially about my faith and the need to love one’s enemies as we are told in Luke 6. I’d been asked to write the story but was resisting when a friend said, “Kate, you can’t speak to everyone, but if you write your story a lot of people can read it.” That made sense.

An issue I’m fighting for is resolving the food deprivation issue in my community and worldwide. No one should have to send their children to bed hungry at the end of the day.

I’m a Lutheran in part because I was raised in the Lutheran faith, but even more because I love being part of a church that believes in teaching the vastness of God’s love and forgiveness, and that the Spirit can fill my life each day with the gift of grace.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is an associate editor of Living Lutheran.

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