The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


January 14, 2010

Wartburg Seminary student's status unconfirmed after Haiti quake

Wartburg Seminary President Duane Larson reports a seminarian is believed dead in Haiti. The death has not been confirmed.

In a message on  Wartburg's web site , President Duane Larson wrote that seminarian Benjamin Judd Larson is believed to have been killed in the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake.

"I have just spoken with Benjamin Larson's mother, April," Duane Larson wrote. "It is believed now that Ben has been killed in the Haiti quake. Both Jonathan Larson and Renee Splichal Larson (Benjamin's wife) are together safely. They were in the same building as Ben when the quake hit. They made it out, eventually found each other, then returned to St. Joseph Guest House in the attempt to rescue Ben, to no avail. We understand that Renee and Jonathan will return to the U.S. this week.

Four Wartburg seminary students, including Benjamin, were spending the January winter term in Haiti. 

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said at a Jan. 14 staff prayer service, “We hold Renee, April, Judd, Jonathan and all of Ben’s family and friends in prayer, trusting in God’s mercy and the promise of the Resurrection. ...Our prayers are with the people of Haiti, and their families and friends throughout the world.”

First Lutheran Church, Duluth, Minn., where Benjamin's mother, April Ullring Larson, is pastor, hosted a Jan. 14 community prayer service for the people of Haiti. 

Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director, ELCA Global Mission, said he has visited St. Joseph Home for Boys, the building where Benjamin Larson is believed to be trapped on the third floor. Renee, Jonathan and LWF staff were unable to access Ben's location, Malpica Padilla said. 


At 6:30 p.m., Jan. 14, after this story was written, Benjamin’s parents, ELCA pastors April and Judd Larson posted this personal statement on the Web site of First Lutheran Church, Duluth, Minn.

As an infant Benjamin Judd Ulring Splichal Larson was wrapped in the arms of God in the waters of baptism, and from those waters, his life was an outpouring of love and joy, laughter and play, in response to God first loving Ben. Ben’s love of God, walking in accompaniment, passionately loving others, listening and learning from those who are poor across the globe, drove his serving.

We give thanks to God for the incredible joy of knowing Ben.  His laughter, playfulness, passionate heart for those who are hurting was manifest in his daily life.  He delighted in the privilege of serving and knowing God, laying out his life in joy. 

We are blessed by still being able to hear Ben‘s music.  His father Judd says, “If you want to know Ben, go to his music.“  In his tender music remains some of the treasure that is Ben:  what he believes, what he cares about, his deepest soul.

Most of the people who died in this deadly earthquake in Haiti are the poorest of the poor in this hemisphere.  Ben went to Haiti to teach theology and scripture in the new Lutheran Church of Haiti; but more deeply to learn from these people loved by God.  In his young death his life joins the bodies of the poor.  In the Haitian rubble Ben’s life joins these dear beloved people of God:  all those parents crying for their children; young widows calling out for their husbands; new orphans searching for their parents.

God have mercy on us.


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