At first Linden Olson thought, “Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can do that. Someone else can do it better.”
But after a while he realized, “If my pastor thinks I can do it, I guess I could give it a try.”
Linden’s pastor had just invited him to serve on his synod’s candidacy committee, which has the responsibility of approving people for rostered ministry in the church. And today, more than 30 years later, this ELCA member continues to sit on that same committee in what is now the ELCA Southwestern Minnesota Synod.
“Sometimes people don’t recognize what gifts and talents they have,” said Linden, who is a farmer and pork producer. “So they might need a little nudge. Hopefully, they can then discover they are quite capable, and (their volunteer work) can lead to wider service.”
And that is what happened to Linden. His service to this church has expanded over the years. Currently, in addition to sitting on the candidacy committee, Linden serves on the board of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and the task force of the ELCA genetics social statement.
Linden also volunteers at American Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Worthington, Minn., where he and his wife, Carol, are members.
Throughout his volunteer work, Linden has had the opportunity to work with ELCA members from different backgrounds, with different experiences, perspectives and insights.
And that has been especially true of serving on the ELCA genetics social statement task force, he said, which included experts in agricultural and human genetics.
“I came away with a profound appreciation for the task force members, the ELCA churchwide staff, and the task force writing team,” Linden said. “Here was a diverse group of people who were very willing to listen, respect, understand and try to find a common language that would reflect their viewpoints, yet be able to produce a document that would be quite valuable, not only to the ELCA, but also to the general public.”
Looking back, Linden says he is glad he agreed to serve this church. “It doesn’t make a difference if it’s teaching Sunday school, working for a community food shelf or working for Habit for Humanity. Once you combine an interest with a gift, serving can be very gratifying and rewarding.”
When not volunteering, Linden operates a hog farm, seeing himself as one integral part of the food chain to make sure that what goes on the consumer’s table is wholesome, safe and nutritious.
“A lot of what I’ve done in the swine industry is working toward that end,” he said.
Faith is a part of everyday life
Linden grew up in a Lutheran family where faith was a part of everyday life.
“We had devotions every night at the supper table. We went to church and Sunday school every Sunday,” he says.
Linden’s father was superintendent in the congregation, and he did an opening for Sunday school students every week. “A lot of people referred to him as the Sunday school pastor,” Linden says.
“From there it was seeing what my father and other people were doing for the church. It kind of rubs off on you — if it’s important to these people, it should be important to you, too. It’s picking up from other people rather than making a conscious decision to get involved. You try to find those things that appeal to you and that you have some gifts for,” Linden says.