If you were to stroll the campus of Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., you would discover places like the Chapel of the Christ, with an impressive organ fixed in a wide-open space where voices can ring like the angelic choirs of heaven. In the background you’d hear the trickle of the baptismal font, reminding you of the waters that make us righteous in God’s sight.
Walk out those doors, and you’d see a statue of Jesus called The Fisher of Men, which reminds students of who called them and what the task is at hand. Turn right, and on the far side of the mall stands a statue of Martin Luther pointing at the Scriptures. We stand with Luther now, 500 years later, on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now drive a few blocks away to find a new addition to campus—the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse, a 36,000-square-foot indoor turfed athletic facility.
Betty Kohn? Who is that?
That is the name of a soul who was baptized and made righteous. That is a fish who was caught by the gospel. Bob and Betty Kohn are supporters of Christian education much like Luther was. And they were children of God long before they were donors.
Betty now sings with the angelic choirs of heaven as she rests in eternity with Jesus. Long before, she sang with the choirs of St. Matthew’s, Benton Harbor, Mich. Bob and Betty later became members at Grace in neighboring St. Joseph, Mich., where I serve as pastor.
When I first met Betty, she did not sing. She didn’t even speak. She sat at a small table in the breakfast nook of the Kohn home. Across from her sat her faithful husband, Bob. Betty traced the placemat with her finger as Bob explained to me how she’d suffered a stroke years ago and had developed Alzheimer’s.
One of the joys of being a pastor is bringing God’s Word to people who can no longer make it to church. I reminded Betty of her sins, which would have separated her from a holy God if it were not for Jesus. I resurrected the truths of the gospel cleansing that was hers because of her Savior. I placed that Savior’s very own body and blood into her hands so she could eat and drink the pledge of her forgiveness.
This is why Martin Luther College exists: to train men and women who are qualified to meet WELS’ ministry needs and competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully.
This training is not simply theoretical. It is practical. Every graduate in ministry will use the hours of classroom instruction to fish for men and women like Bob and Betty Kohn. Every athlete who plays under the roof of the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse will impact other fish caught in the net of the gospel.
In addition to donating to the fieldhouse, Bob and Betty Kohn are giving to help Christian education at every level. A new gymnasium is going up at Michigan Lutheran High School, St. Joseph. A new turf soccer field is being installed and a gym has been renovated at Grace’s school.
God has blessed his church at large with the generosity of the Kohn family. But far before they were donors, they were souls, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Betty never saw the completion of the fieldhouse erected in her name. But the Kohn legacy will last for generations as many more join Betty in singing God’s praises in heaven.
This article was first published in the Fall 2022 edition of Martin Luther College’s InFocus magazine.
Learn more about Martin Luther College and how the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse fits into its strategic plan in this month’s edition of WELS Connection or at mlc-wels.edu.
Author: Joshua Bishop
Volume: 110, Number 02
Issue: February 2023
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