Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Williamsport, Md.
Entrepreneur with several businesses, CEO of Elmwood Farm Hospitality Group and Port 44, retired Ladies Professional Golf Association Futures Tour golfer, motivational speaker, former council president of Zion, board member on several community nonprofits including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

I was born profoundly deaf. My parents were both schoolteachers. Taking the advice of the doctors, they wanted me to be mainstreamed in public school. I had speech therapy for years and learned by lip-reading. I wore hearing aids to assist with sound awareness.

In elementary school, a teacher looked at me and said, “You’re not going to make it through high school.” That crushed me, yet motivated me. Elementary to the beginning of middle school was very difficult from a social aspect. People can be mean. God was with me all the way to overcome those obstacles. I persevered, graduated from high school and went to college.

Growing up, sports was my life. Golf was my thing on Sundays with my dad. I wasn’t physically present at worship, but I had a really good relationship with my congregation. My childhood pastor always reached out to me. I never lost touch with my faith—I prayed and followed God’s word.

I joined the LPGA Futures Tour (now the Symetra Tour) right after college, when I was 21 years old. I had a job opportunity to be a physical education teacher, but I had this riskier route to play golf. I was torn. Then I thought, “Wait a minute! This is a no-brainer. I can teach the rest of my life. I have to try to qualify on tour.” The experience was fantastic. I felt highs and lows throughout the seven years I played. I met some wonderful and faithful people along the way.

After I retired from tour in 2004, I received a cochlear implant. What a life-changing experience! I gained even more confidence and expanded my knowledge. I realized how much I had missed out on. I got my second cochlear implant done in 2016, and I’m now hearing 94%, which is better than most people. It’s been a blessing.

One of my goals after I retired from the golf tour and returned to my roots was to give back to my community and church more since I missed that element when I was younger. I made that a priority, and it still is.

In 2011, I bought my family’s farm, a 5,000-square-foot historic home on the National Register. A developer was going to build a community center for the housing development, but the housing market crashed in ’08, and I had the opportunity to buy it back. God works magic, as it was meant to be. I restored the farm as my home and as a bed-and-breakfast and meeting venue. My sister, Lettie, retired from her college coaching job and came back to join me. We run the B&B together.

I see grace as kindness from God, but we don’t necessarily deserve it. You’re forgiven and you move forward.

We have this motto: When you come to Elmwood Farm B&B, just make yourself at home! My sister and I are very active innkeepers. We give everybody space, but at the same time we’re there if you need anything or want to share conversations. I love people and hearing their stories. The people who come to stay at our farm—we were supposed to cross paths for a reason.

I’m on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes board. We have athletic power camps in the area. Whether it’s outdoor or indoor sports, hunting, fishing, volleyball, basketball, etc., not only are you teaching youth the fundamentals, but you’re also giving them God’s message and positive encouragement.

I’m a Lutheran because I’m third-generation in our Lutheran church. I’m very comfortable within our congregation and community—that’s where I feel most connected to God.

I always tell people, “Look at your scenario. Don’t be afraid to take the risk, but make sure you have a backup plan in place.”

The game of golf is like the game of life. Every person runs into unexpected obstacles every day. It’s about refocusing and reacting in a calm, positive way. We can’t control what happens, only how we adapt and adjust to it. Golf is the same way—you play shot by shot, hole by hole. It really shows your character.

I was council president for two terms. That was a very challenging time. Our congregation is a beautiful church, [an] older population with some younger families in a very historic area. We’re one of the larger congregations in this area. It was very important to hold the church together as we called a new pastor and moved forward through change.

My experience chaperoning youth at the ELCA Youth Gathering was terrific. I wish we could take our entire congregation. I got a lot out of it. I think our entire congregation needs a refresher. It’s not just about us in our small town. It is about all of us everywhere.

I see grace as kindness from God, but we don’t necessarily deserve it. You’re forgiven and you move forward. It’s just a beautiful thing.

Erin Strybis
Erin Strybis is a content editor of Living Lutheran. Find more of her stories at her website and on Instagram.

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