It was just a tilt of his head, but it meant so much when Todd Gustafson nodded in agreement. He was acknowledging faith in Jesus’ work as the only reason for heaven. It was a different message from Todd’s Mormon faith, which teaches each person must earn salvation. God’s saving grace is absent from Mormon theology.
“I rejoiced at that simple nod, for it was a confession that Jesus has won heaven for Todd as His gift to him,” Rev. Kenley Mann said.
Pastor Kenley is the chaplain at The Lutheran Home: River Falls, which is where he met Todd. Getting to know new residents is important to supporting their spiritual needs, and Pastor Kenley likes
to sit down and swap personal histories. At their first chat, Todd mentioned he had been in the U.S. Army and was a Mormon.
“As I do during the first visit, I explained to Todd why God should let us sinners into His perfect heaven. I also asked if he and I could have one-on-one Bible Studies together. He welcomed that,” Pastor Kenley said.
The two would pore over the King James Version of the Bible familiar to Mormons. They discussed Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac as well as parables such as The Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son and Christ’s Resurrection. When there was a death in the family, Pastor Kenley offered God’s strength to Todd, revisiting the meaning of Christ’s resurrection and how it proves Jesus’ words and promises are true and must be kept. When Pastor Kenley heard Todd’s health was declining, he chose the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.” (Luke 16:19-23)
It was then, as Pastor Kenley explained Abraham and Lazarus were saved by their faith, Todd nodded. His faith in God’s saving grace blossomed.
“We both have our Bibles open as we study together. That is the source for what Todd believes now, and the Holy Spirit is doing his miraculous, ongoing work of giving Todd trust in Christ as his entire reason for heaven,” Pastor Kenley said.
When Todd was in better health, Pastor Kenley Mann would often sit and have coffee with him during breakfast or an afternoon activity. Before parting, they’d say a short prayer together. After Bible study, Pastor Kenley often sang a hymn before he left. In all these visits, both men were reminded who God is and how He cares for them. When Todd entered hospice care, his newfound faith strengthened him.
“I don’t know how long Todd or I will be on this earth, but God has placed everlasting life in Todd’s heart by his word,” Pastor Kenley said. “What a privilege it is to have the calling to visit Todd and share the truth of Christ as our Savior.”
A gift of $15 provides a Bible for a senior at on each our facilities. Consider donating $100 to purchase a Bible for each new resident at The Lutheran Home Campus in River Falls. Give today!