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Who are they? Where are they going?

A Snapshot of new vicars, pastors, graduates

Spring is a busy time on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis as many of our students receive their assignments as vicars and deaconess interns, and our concluding students receive their first calls as pastors and deaconesses. It also marks Commencement and the end of studies for our graduates across all of our degree programs. The following is a snapshot of some of our students who were among the dozens and dozens we celebrated this year on Call Day and Commencement.

Matthew Dubensky

24, single
Vicar at Hanover Lutheran Church, Cape Girardeau, Mo. (April 2018)

Home congregation

Trinity Lutheran Church, Jackson, Mich.

What inspires you?

The answer to this question is more of a “who” than a “what.” Growing up in a Christian household has given me plenty of exposure to people in my life that I find inspirational. Among the long list of those who inspire me are people like my father, my pastors and Lutheran school teachers growing up, and of course all of my professors here at the Seminary who show on a daily basis what it truly means to be a pastor. It’s not just about knowing theology or biblical languages. It’s about Jesus and His mission. It’s about being a servant and a neighbor to anyone and everyone.

What are you most excited about as part of your new assignment?

I love the Seminary, but I am really excited to put everything I have learned here into practice and to get a taste for what ministry is like “in the trenches.” I can’t wait to get out into the parish and see what ministry is like firsthand!

Christopher Ramstad

32, married father of three

Associate Pastor at Immanuel
Lutheran Church and School,
Columbus, Neb. (April 2018)

Home congregation

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Marion, Iowa

What was your first reaction when you found out where you were being called to serve?

Excitement! We had waited four years to hear where God was going to send us. It’s great to finally be able to point at a map and say, “That’s where we are going to live!”

What is your next step?

I’m anxious to start getting to know the congregation and community and to share the great love of our Savior.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the faithful witnesses whom God has placed into my life. God has given me caring pastors, faithful parents and an incredibly supportive wife and family throughout this whole journey. I’ve also been inspired these past four years of Seminary by both professors and classmates. It’s amazing to see God at work as He sends out workers into the harvest fields.

Mark Pretznow

55, married father of three grown children and grandfather of one grandson

Pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich. (April 2018)

Home congregation

Living Word Lutheran Church,
Rochester Hills, Mich.

What’s your favorite Bible verse and why?

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103: 11-12 ESV). No matter what I’ve done, Christ’s sacrifice has fully atoned for it. That kind of love is greater than my mind can grasp and yet He gives it freely to me, undeserving as I am.

What word would you choose to describe yourself? What word would others use?

Describe myself: unworthy.
Others: redeemed.

What are you most excited about as part of your first call?

Beginning the Kingdom work that the Lord has been forming me for, at the place He has chosen to send me from the beginning. In other words: fulfilling His will for my life and the lives of the parish that I will serve.

Jean Baptiste Mberebe

49, married father of six

Received a Ph.D. and will continue to serve as professor at the Institut Supérieur de Théologie Kaele in Cameroon, Africa. (May 2018)

Home congregation

Church of the Lutheran Brethren,
Cameroon, Africa

What inspires you?

The Word of God, the Lutheran Confessions, Jesus Christ the true Servant and the great company of faithful servants of God I have come to know through training and ministry, including my own father.

How would you summarize your Seminary experience in one sentence?

I could not find a better place to undertake a doctoral program!

What is your next step?

Training pastors to serve the church. I will be teaching practical courses.

How would you describe Lutheranism in Cameroon?

Right now, two other Lutheran church bodies are dominant: One is of a pietistic background and the other is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Thus I think Lutheranism in Cameroon needs to find its true center.

Ruth Ang-Onn Whiteford

31, married mother of two

Received a Ph.D. (May 2018)

Home congregation

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church,
Tulsa, Okla.

Are any family members church workers?

Though I’m a first-generation Lutheran, my grandfather was an ordained preacher, my great aunt and great uncle were missionaries, and three of my uncles were pastors.

How are you currently serving?

Over the past three years, writing a dissertation and becoming a mother has kept me plenty busy.

What’s your favorite Bible verse and why?

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8 ESV). Not only was this a central verse in my doctoral research, but it’s the message of “grace” that breathes life into my daily existence.

Juan Gabriel Vallejo Vasquez

38, single

Received a Master of Arts (taught in Spanish through the Seminary’s Center for Hispanic Studies) (May 2018)

Home congregation

Trinity Lutheran Church,
Watsonville, Calif.

What inspires you?

Knowing that God wants to use someone as insignificant as me as a tool to share the Gospel, and as a servant to His people, who are part of His Kingdom and those who are not yet part of it.

Why did you choose to attend Concordia Seminary?

I wanted and chose to study at Concordia Seminary because it has been part of my family since before I was born. God gave my grandfather the opportunity to build a relationship with the Seminary, then he gave my father the opportunity to continue that close bond, and God gave me that same opportunity and now I’m hoping to continue that relationship with the LCMS. I believe God has used Concordia Seminary to use my grandfather, my father and now me to do God’s work and to serve Him and others proclaiming the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tiffany Hudson is a communications specialist and Melanie Ave is communications manager at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.