I have tried to document the connections between Minnesota North and North Dakota and different people and the partnerships and “crossings” that we share and sometimes don’t even know about.  For years I had heard the name Torblaa from different sources in town here in Grafton.  One of my members here kept asking if I knew Travis Torblaa, because they had been well acquainted with his family back in the day.  Low and behold I finally had a chance to talk to Travis.  He is preparing the materials needed for the shake down trip for the Mary Okeyo scholarship fund for travel to Kenya.  I still haven’t met him face to face but I asked him to write something for this blog about these connections.  Some other thoughts on his cmments – I had a call to Rdd Lake Falls years ago, we had a missionary from Japan serving at St. John’s Crystal and St. Paul’s, St. Thomas, which are probably near where Travis Grandparents lived.  Here it is………….


My childhood days were spent on a small grain farm (mostly wheat and barley) in Northwestern Minnesota where the land is fertile and the winters are severe. Dad, Mom, my older brother, my younger sister and I worked hard on the farm during the summer. This included tending a large garden with corn, peas, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, onions, pumpkins and much more. Mom would spend many hot days in the kitchen over the stove, canning food for the winter. Dad drove a semi-truck for Land O’ Lakes and took care of the farming. On Sunday afternoons my family would often travel 90 minutes west to a farm near Grafton, North Dakota to spend time with my grandparents, Orlando and Evelyn Torblaa. I was even able to stay for a whole week during a couple of summers to help with the farm work. Grandma and I would pick raspberries and sell them in town. Other time was spent with Grandpa, cutting and chopping wood for winter or repairing one of his Oliver tractors in preparation for harvest. Each October, my family would begin preparing the farm for another bitter cold and snowy winter which always seemed to arrive sometime in November.

 After graduating high school, I sold my 1967 Chevrolet pickup and used the cash as a down payment on a more economical car, a well-used Mercury Topaz. Many miles were added traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend Concordia College (now Concordia University) with the goal of becoming a Lutheran school teacher. While attending Concordia College, my high school sweetheart, Angela, and I were engaged and, one year later, married at her home congregation, St. John Lutheran Church, in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.

 After graduating college, Angela and I were sent to Japan by The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to serve as missionaries. In Japan we built relationships with Japanese people through offering English as a Foreign Language classes and providing other fun activities at churches of the Japan Lutheran Church, partner church body of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. There were many opportunities for us to witness of the love of Christ to the Japanese people and invite them to services conducted by a Japanese pastor of the Japan Lutheran Church. Almost seven years after our initial deployment for Japan we returned to the United States for a new assignment.

 Not long after we returned to the United States I began serving at the International Center of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in St. Louis, Missouri, providing care and support to missionaries located in more than 60 countries worldwide.

At the Synod convention in 2010, Rev. Bernhard Seter, Zion English Lutheran Church, Grafton, North Dakota, was elected President of The Board for International Mission of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Shortly after, Rev. Seter and I learned of our shared connection to a small town and fond memories of childhood days with my grandparents in Grafton, North Dakota, flooded back into my mind.

 I feel truly blessed by my past childhood experiences and the present opportunity to serve at the International Center through the Office of International Mission of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

 Travis Torblaa

Office of International Mission

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod