History of Lutherans' Home Mission Foundation

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2011

By Donna Prunkl
For The Salisbury Post
In 1921, a bishop of the Lutheran church in N.C. initiated a much-needed fund to help mission congregations construct their first buildings. Soon the Brotherhood of North Carolina Lutheran Men assumed its management. The Loan and Gift fund was like Elijah’s vessel of biblical fame — what was poured out to fund ministries of the Lutheran church was continually renewed.
In 1953 the Home Mission Foundation (HMF) was founded and became the custodian of the fund. To date it has dispersed over $7 million in loans. These contributions have largely gone unrecognized, so HMF commissioned a book to preserve and share its remarkable history.
“LIVING VESSELS: A History of the Home Mission Foundation” records the ministry and stewardship of the Foundation. “Donations large and small flow through the foundation to provide loans to congregations, grants to educate pastors, and funds to various agencies of the Lutheran church,” said David Carlyle Beam of Cherryville, president of the HMF. “These donations are invested and continue to grow and produce fruit.”
In the recently released book, the history is told through four symbolic vessels.
The first, the Loan and Gift Fund, was created to hold money that would build churches. By 1920, only 25 of the state’s 100 counties had Lutheran churches. Through the fund, mission congregations received no or low interest loans to build, and as they repaid the loans, the vessel refilled.
Results followed. In 1921 the synod had nine mission points. Two years later it reported 27, a 300 percent increase. Today, 57 counties have Lutheran congregations and some 103 N.C. Lutheran congregations have received HMF loans.
The success of this building vessel led to the development of three others. One funded a seminary professorship; others provide seminary scholarships and benefit mission development.
Lutheran Brotherhood, later renamed the North Carolina Lutheran Men in Mission (NCLMM), managed the fund until 1953 and remains its strongest supporter.
“We hope that the publication of this book will allow the light of its ministries to shine forth,” said Harold W. Yost Sr. of Concord, executive director of NCLMM. “This book identifies HMF as an important partner in Lutheran ministry. The foundation continues its history of judicious gift management and hopes, through this book, to increase its ability to make a difference.
“This history is living,’ said HMF President Emeritus Joe Ridenhour, the only surviving founder. “In the next 50 years we expect to see the creation of additional vessels, new opportunities to serve.”
“The Home Mission Foundation is ready to creatively meet the contemporary needs of the Church,” said President Beam.
The HMF history was written by the Rev. Dr. H. George Anderson, a former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A graduate of Yale and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., he later served as president of the seminary.
“Writing the history of the Home Mission Foundation has opened my eyes to how Lutheran laymen can do great things when they see a real need,” wrote Anderson.
The book’s appendices includes numerous listings of founders, contributors, scholarship recipients and financial information compiled by task force members: David Beam , Harold Yost, Joe Ridenhour of Boone, and Clarence Pugh of Hickory.
The book was edited and designed by Donna Prunkl and printed by Diversified Graphics, Inc., both of Salisbury. Cheryl Goins of Pottery 101 in Salisbury crafted the pottery vessels used in the illustrations.
North Carolina Lutheran congregations and clergy, seminary scholarship recipients, and Lutheran colleges and seminaries will receive complimentary copies, many during the N.C. Synod Assembly in June. Copies are available from the Home Mission Foundation, 1988 Lutheran Synod Drive, Salisbury, NC 28144.