By Daniel Morgenstern – HCC Intern
On November 1990, four people took a leap of faith. These motivated individuals decided that despite a lack of venue, funding, or consistent volunteers, they would begin a movement to serve the Chinese students arriving in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. They sent out invitations to every friend or acquaintance they could think of and prepared the Thanksgiving dinner. They couldn’t have known it then, but this dinner was the start of the Hospitality Center for Chinese.
They hadn’t chosen to attempt this first step abruptly. The thoughts and hopes had sprung up almost 10 years before. Milo and Charlotte Gronseth and Paul and Ida Martinson had opened their homes to Chinese students and had hoped that a movement would be organized. After years of discussion and prayer, the two couples approached the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to propose an organized hospitality ministry.
Not ready to launch
The ELCA was interested but was not ready to launch such an endeavor. The group then asked the Midwest China Study Resource Center (MCSRC) if they would help; again the answer was no.
Bishop David Olson of the ELCA recommended that the couples form a committee to continue to research and advocate for the creation of a hospitality organization. A taskforce was formed in the last months of 1988 and eventually grew into a network that would eventually be the foundation upon which the movement would stand.
The composition of this group shifted over time, but the names of Karl Bunday, Sue Jueson, the Martinsons, and the Gronseths always featured prominently. For two years, these men and women continued to search, push, and pray for the resources and support necessary for a hospitality ministry. After urging someone, anyone, to commit, the taskforce was left with the resources available to its own members and words of encouragement from organizations that were not ready to give anything more.
With no other help forthcoming, the taskforce decided to act.
First step of action
The Thanksgiving dinner was planned and funded by task force members and their associates. The courage and faith of these individuals cannot be understated. God had put a fire in their hearts to serve the Chinese students, and they would help those students whether they received outside support or not. God rewarded their faith with great success as both the Thanksgiving and then Christmas dinners saw dozens of Chinese students come to share in fellowship.
The following year was one filled with blessings. The ministry had yet to find a stable location to coordinate and run itself. This problem was solved by the invitation of Galen Hora, the director of the Lutheran Campus Ministry, to the now rapidly growing movement. Galen proved to be a hard worker and invaluable contact who also allowed a room at his ministry center to be rented for a mere $100 a month. This fee and the refurnishing of the room were both taken care of by those joining the movement. By October 1991, the Hospitality Center for Chinese Student and Scholars had officially been founded and had managed to enlist the support of the ELCA in volunteers and funding. By 1992, Hospitality Center for Chinese was officially registered as a nonprofit.
The story of HCC is that of concerned people acting to fulfill a need they saw. They had little support in the realm of volunteers, official backing, or finances, but they pressed on regardless. Their commitment and faith opened the door for other like-minded individuals to join them and grow the movement into the organization HCC is today.
Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith.