Bev Christiansan is one of only three people receiving Lutheran award | VailDaily.com

Bev Christiansan is one of only three people receiving Lutheran award

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Bev Christiansan recently received The Spirit of Service Award from the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. Christiansan is one of only three people in the U.S. to receive the award. She will be honored Aug. 7 at her home church, Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards.

EDWARDS — Bev Christiansan has received The Spirit of Service Award from the Concordia Plan Services of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Only three people in the nation are recipients of this award. A celebration of this honor will be held at Gracious Savior Church Aug. 7 at 9:30 a.m.

"Nearly every working mom, struggling teenager, abused woman or sheltered child in our community owes a debt of gratitude to Mother Bev," Gracious Savior Pastor Jason Haynes said. Haynes nominated Christiansan, known throughout her community as "Mother Bev," for the Spirit of Service award for her decades of service. A founding member of Gracious Savior in 1981 along with her husband, Elmer, and others, Christiansan's spirit of service has touched the lives of many people in her part of Colorado.

When people talk the way Christiansan has impacted their lives, the language is real and the emotions are deep. They speak of how she mentored them through challenging times in their lives; how they lean on her in their times of need; how she created services in her community that are still changing lives; how she prays for them and with them with a passionate heart; how she is not afraid to reach out to those who are most difficult to reach; and how she is filled with the love of Christ.

"I'd do anything for Mother Bev," they say one after another.

These days, Christiansan is serving the seniors of her community. At a young 74 years of age, Christiansan still has a lot to give, as she picks them up at home to take them to doctor's appointments, prepares meals for them, serves as a needed friend and prays with them. Her relationships with the seniors she works with are truly special to her.

"It's precious to them, too, because you realize the clock is running and we might not have a lot more time," Christiansan said. "Making happy memories with that time is so valuable and it makes life worth getting up in the morning."

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Decades of service

Christiansan's service to this part of Colorado began in the late 1960s. She saw the need for early childhood education, so she began the community's first preschool. While focusing on that program, she was creating relationships with other young people throughout the region. When young mothers at the local campus of Colorado Mountain College were asked to name someone who had a positive influence in their lives, Christiansan's name came up again and again.

The college asked Bev to lead a new program for young mothers. "As a Christian, her light within just radiated," said Rhonda Salazar, one of the first young mothers Christiansan mentored. "I immediately gravitated toward her as a young Christian mother." Christiansan mentored the young mothers and tutored them in her home, even purchasing a van to pick them up. Many young women earned their GED thanks to Christiansan's guidance.

Her heart next turned to helping abused women. She saw the hurt that was in her community, often masked and hidden away. She reached out to these women, helping them recover from their challenging, and even dangerous, circumstances. She helped them connect with resources in their community, created a safe place for them to stay and showed them God's love.

"There's a safe home in this valley," Haynes said. "The police can go into a dangerous situation and they can remove someone and take (the threatened party) to a safe place immediately. That's there because of Bev."

The program exists today and has expanded to serve even more women and their children, with multiple sites throughout the county. Christiansan speaks with a humble pride as she describes the way that the program still reaches those who are hurting.

After working closely with women and children who had experienced such pain, Christiansan eventually decided it was time to shift her focus to seniors. She had heard the similar stories of abuse and sadness so many times. Knowing that the program was in good hands she moved onward.

"You may notice that Bev cries a lot," Haynes said. "I think it's because she's carried so many burdens for so many people for decades."

Keeping the faith

Asked how she keeps going after all these years of service, Christiansan answers, "The more that I do, the more I depend on him and the more dependent I am on him, he provides me what I need to keep going. I figure when I wake up in the morning and I'm still here, that he has something for me to do."

Within her own church community at Gracious Savior, Christiansan builds strong, Christ-centered relationships and encourages others to serve.

"She is so calm in her love for Jesus and how she shares that and how she shows that," said JoAnne Graef, a member of Gracious Savior. "When we first came here we were welcomed and my children were welcomed and they just fell in love with her from the moment they met her."

When Christiansan reflects on her years of serving Eagle County, she always does so through stories. The stories are an oral history of her life, and in many ways, her community.

She'll share the story of a senior citizen who just wanted a friend and to be heard. She glows with pride when she talks about the young mothers who went on to be successful, in work, as parents and, eventually, as grandmothers. She weeps when she talks about her senior friends who have gone home to their creator since she started working with them. She tears up with love when she talks about her dear husband Elmer, who has supported her, worked beside her and quietly stood by as she has connected with so many.

Always, Christiansan gives credit to our Gracious Savior.

"He keeps putting me into a place where I can speak up for the ones who can't. I never know what's next," she said. "He amazes me how he comes up with the needs and he provides a solution and gives me the opportunity to serve the people he wants served."

A video depicting Bev Christiansan’s service to the valley is posted on the Concordia Plan Services Facebook page and has been viewed over 35,000 times.