In 2006, the congregation of Carson Mennonite Brethren Church of Delft, Minn., gave a final selfless act when the small, rural congregation closed its doors.
The congregation made one more mission-minded decision, assuring that the church’s work would go on after the church was no more.
One-third of the church’s proceeds were given to Tabor College, which led to the creation of the new Carson Center for Mission, Service, and Global Education, providing opportunities to students to participate in mission and service projects around the world.
Several members of the former Carson Church including a number of gifted leaders from a single family, the Ewerts, visited the campus March 13-18.
Dr. Merrill Ewert, president of Fresno Pacific University, a Tabor College graduate who grew up in the Carson Church, was the keynote speaker at a fund-raising banquet for the Carson Center Saturday evening at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church.
Ewert was joined by his siblings, Lowell Ewert, director of peace and conflict students at Conrad Grebel University, Dr. Norm Ewert, associate professor of economics at Wheaton College, and Elaine (Ewert) Kroeker, a driving force behind the creation of the Carson Center and a member of the Tabor board of directors.
“Tonight we celebrate the legacy of this little church in Delft, Minnesota,” Merrill Ewert said. “We honor and we thank those who have shaped our lives. We dedicate the Carson Center here at Tabor College to service in the kingdom, and we commit ourselves to support this college and the center.
“As president of Fresno Pacific I ask you to join me in supporting Tabor College and the Carson Center, that it may be a place that calls people to lives of missions and service,” Ewert said.
While introducing Ewert, Tabor Provost Lawrence Ressler said, “I want you to know that Tabor provides great education, it provides great leaders, and here’s the evidence: we even provide presidents for other universities.”
Ewert has led Fresno Pacific University since 2002, and was awarded the Tabor College Alumni Merit Award in 1978 and 2007. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Tabor College in 1967.
During his speech, Ewert said growing up in a mission-minded church and attending a mission-minded college had had a profound impact on his life. He talked about his own call to the mission field, a call that came during his last semester at Tabor, in the form of a note written on a paper he had turned in for a class on contemporary world religions taught by longtime professor Dr. Clarence Hiebert.
“On the paper were just two comments. One said ‘A’ and that was a good thing; the second one was, ‘Come see me,’ and I wasn’t so sure,” Ewert said. “But I did go to see him, and at the end of that conversation, I found myself not on the way to the University of Minnesota for graduate school as I had expected and planned, but on the way to the Congo to be part of the Tabor Congo program, circa 1967.”
Ewert went on to spend seven years in Africa working in the areas of relief and community development with the Mennonite Brethren Church, the Mennonite Central Committee, and MAP International.
Kroeker, a 1972 Tabor graduate, spoke about the history of the Carson MB Church, which she attended her entire life until it closed Nov. 27, 2005.
“We were not a perfect church, but somehow despite all of our weaknesses, we made a team that ended up giving Carson the reputation for having sent out a lot of missionaries around the world,” Kroeker said. “A large percentage of the money received in the church offerings was sent away to support missions, and without this giving spirit, the list of missionaries serving from the church would be far smaller.”