At a service of recognition of volunteers held in Tallinn’s Dome Church (Toomkirik) on June 12, 2011, recognition was given for the project to restore St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Martna, Estonia. Miriam Lind Lagus of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin received award for the project she started in 1998 in memory of her father, Pastor S. Eduard Lind, who served the congregation in Martna from 1937 to 1944. Bishop Einar Soone presented the awards.
Pastor Lind and his family fled Estonia ahead of the Soviet advance and emigrated to the United States in 1949. Pastor Lind founded the Minnesota Estonian Lutheran Church in 1949 and continued to serve that congregation until his death in 1993. He also served a number of parishes in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as broadcasting Estonian language church services from WCAL Radio Station in Northfield, Minnesota, for thirty-five years.
It was during a visit to Martna in 1996 with her husband, Arne Lagus, and mother, Helgi Lind, that they first saw the dilapidated condition of the 500-year old church building. During the Soviet occupation, the church had deteriorated to the point where water was leaking into the sanctuary from a roof that was nearly beyond salvaging. On April 20, 1998, Miriam launched the Martna Restoration Project.
Through letterwriting campaigns and programs about Estonia given by Miriam, more than $90,000 was raised and sent to the congregation over a 10-year period. Those funds helped to complete the following projects: restoration of the church roof and steeple, restoration of church doors, uncovering of ancient ceiling frescos, restoration and placement of the original altar painting, replacement of the leaky parsonage roof, and installation of a restroom in the parsonage and a security system in the church. Throughout the project Miriam and Arne remained involved and made several trips to view the restoration progress and to give annual updates to the donors. In 2001 when the church roof and steeple restoration was completed, they participated in a dedication service.
Contributions were received from donors in a number of states in the United States including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Additional donations were sent from Canada, Estonia and Western Australia.
Life of the 700-year old congregation of St. Martin’s continues with regular worship services. Its members are grateful for the restoration of the church which they see as a symbol of hope.
Miriam Lind Lagus