Spring Grove residents recently became more aware of the Maranatha Fellowship (MF) through news coverage of a land dispute between Thomas Tollefsrud/Maranatha Fellowship and my uncle and aunt, Karl and Suzanne Solum.
What is the impact of MF on our wonderful community, my hometown? That’s worth pondering.
I’d like to share how MF has impacted me. While I was a teenager during the ‘70s I was on the sidelines watching Maranatha form. Mr. Tollefsrud came to talk to my Uncle John about forming the group while John was working at my parents’ farm. I babysat Mr. Tollefsrud’s children and some of my own cousins while my five uncles and their wives attended MF meetings.
I heard my parents, grandparents, and other relatives express concern among each other and also directly to my MF uncles as the group became more exclusive, separating themselves from family and community (church, school, outside employment). MF families no longer would celebrate birthdays, weddings, Christmas or other holidays with us.
When my grandparents and dad passed away, my MF uncles, aunts, and cousins did not sit with us in the family section during the funeral, nor did they join us in the basement for fellowship after the service. Some did not attend at all. I wonder why.
When two of my uncles’ wives left MF, they stayed with me and my husband for a time, and we heard their sad stories.
I know the people who joined MF did so with good intentions. Sadly the actions and beliefs of MF members quickly deteriorated into separation from family, community, outside authority, and accountability.
My relatives who have left the group have since restored their ties with our extended family and community. I’m thrilled that they’re part of our lives again! In stark contrast, MF members, including their own children and siblings, have shunned these same people as “the opposition” and have refused to settle their differences outside of court.
So how does this impact the Spring Grove community?
Please be aware of the facts. Members of MF have carefully crafted their public image for years. After all, their livelihoods depend upon the good will of people who buy their goods and services. Testimony given under oath in a court of law can be proven and corroborated. My family has been aware of these things for decades, and our hearts have been breaking.
The members of MF are not our enemies. They are part of our community: relatives and neighbors. I encourage all of us who are part of this community to not ignore the difficult truth. Pray for these families, and as much as possible, reach out to them in love.
Tracie Solum Henkel
Apple Valley, Minn.