In this spirit of welcoming people back to our community, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to a new member of the FM area whom I was fortunate to meet via a mentor of mine this summer: Dr. Michael Chan joined the Concordia College community in June 2022. Prior to that, he was associate professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Dr. Chan joined Luther Seminary after completing his Ph.D. at Emory University and a year of research and teaching at the University of Helsinki. Dr. Chan is a graduate of Luther Seminary (M.A. in biblical theology) and Pacific Lutheran University (B.A. in elementary education). As the Executive Director for faith and learning, Dr. Chan directs the Lorentzsen and Dovre centers, guides Concordia’s interfaith relationships and oversees the work of Campus Ministry. Please help me extend to him and his family a warm welcome to the Red River Valley! Until we meet again:
– Alexandre Cyusa
There are so many ways in which Fargo-Moorhead feels both like a homecoming and a new adventure. I grew up in Kingman, AZ—a midsized, rural town that is situated along Route 66 and nestled among a cluster of granite-laced mountain ranges. Both sides of my family—one branch from Arkansas and the other from China—settled in this western town for different reasons. But ultimately they all stayed, raised families, and put down deep roots that abide to this very day.
The town was steeped in the good, bad, and the ugly of western mythology—from saloons and rodeos to mineral mines and reservations. It was a moderately-populated watering hole in the punishing heat of the Mohave Desert. Not unlike Fargo-Moorhead, one could get from one end of town to the next in less than 25 minutes. Just a few minutes further, and one could be fully immersed in wild and open public lands. Kingman, like Fargo-Moorhead, was situated at the border between urban and rural realities.
This young man went even further west in 2000, when I left AZ for college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. The most important thing I found there was Katherine, now my wife of almost 19 years. The second most important thing I found there was a deep appreciation for an open-minded, rigorous liberal arts education. More on that later.
Since then, we’ve moved well over 15 times, living variously in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minnesota and Helsinki (Finland). We have resided in many places, but we have only ever felt truly settled in a small handful of places. Fargo-Moorhead is quickly becoming one of them.
Higher education has been my professional home for well over a decade. Most of that time was spent in the classrooms of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN where I taught Old Testament languages and literature to aspiring pastors and church leaders. Those were deeply meaningful experiences that continue to shape my life and leadership in fundamental ways.
We moved to Fargo-Moorhead, however, after I was offered a position at Concordia College as Executive Director of Faith and Learning. This offer resonated with an emergent hope to grow as an institutional leader and return to serving undergraduate students again.
Among my responsibilities are the Dovre Center for Faith and Learning, the Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work, campus ministry and several interfaith initiatives. At first blush, these responsibilities seem disparate and unrelated. But all of them emerge in various ways out of the 500-year-old taproot of the Protestant Reformation, with its entwined commitments to love God and the neighbor.
My hopes for our life, our country, and our community are reflected in the Lorentzsen Center’s primary question for the year: How do we build a more trustworthy world? Through public lectures, conversations, and podcasts, we will examine democratic institutions and practices that are both critical and fragile at this moment in our nation’s history (e.g., journalism, economic opportunity, free speech, K-12 education).
Animating this year’s programming is the conviction that democracy is not something that can be taken for granted. One of democracy’s greatest vulnerabilities is the fact that it requires so much proactive energy and advocacy to make it resilient in the face of harsh headwinds. Democracy is not a natural form of human organization. Unless each generation articulates afresh the need for democracy and its values, we run the risk of raising children who will look to more convenient—but in the long run more destructive—models of governance.
In a 2020 book titled, A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream, Yuval Levin argues that we must recommit to building more trustworthy institutions across society—from schools to religious communities, corporations to congress.
As my family gets to know the Fargo-Moorhead area, we are heartened by the resolve of its leaders to build this community into a place of opportunity, wellness and welcome. Like many other American communities, Fargo-Moorhead faces significant and compounding challenges. But as far as I can tell, it is facing those challenges with a vision to create a more trustworthy community.