Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
In this season of giving thanks, Tales of Tuscarora will be dedicated during the month of November to highlighting and celebrating some of the accomplishments that have been made possible because of the Tuscarora family.
Over the past 45 years, Tuscarora has been blessed to see it's ministry grow, and has the privilege of welcoming thousands of guests each year. As the ministry grows, our needs grow with it. We have always been humbled to see how God provides for our needs right when we need them. There is no better illustration of this in our history than the Senum-Thompson Center.
Upon the purchase of the facility in 1972, Tuscarora did not have a facility large enough to function as a meeting place for all our guests. From 1972-1975 a tent was used as the main meeting area (as seen in the picture above). Construction on the Olav B. Olsen Auditorium was completed in 1975 and was used for a main meeting area as well as a gymnasium for our guests.
In the years that followed that construction Tuscarora embarked on several projects to expand and improve our guest rooms. In 1998, after the construction of Riverside Manor 2, it became clear that it was time again to revisit our primary gathering place. The Olsen Activity Center had served us well, but was needed to function primarily as a gymnasium. After an announcement of the new project was made, Steve Green announced after a concert in 1998 that he would return to give a concert in dedication of the proposed new facility. A daunting announcement - since plans for the construction were so new.
While the need for the building was recognized - the path to getting there seems uncertain. The facility that was needed, one that would seat 700 people, but still feel intimate to 200, would not be cheap. After a professional analysis, Tuscarora knew it could not shoulder the burden alone, and most of the funds would need to be raised.
The Board of Directors prayerfully considered the direction that should be taken. The answer they received was clear - the space was needed - and the support would be provided. A "Miracle Goal," far above what the Board thought was possible to raise, was set at $1,000,000.
Stepping forward in faith that the support would come, plans were created for the facility and made public. Banquets were held in Staten Island, NY, Huntington, NY, and South Windsor, CT as well as on the Tuscarora grounds. Through these banquets, and other fundraising efforts, the promise received through prayer was fulfilled! The Miracle Goal was surpassed and $1,375,000 was raised! This was an incredible testimony to God's faithfulness and the Tuscarora family's commitment to the project.
Once it was clear the building would go up as planned, the decision was made to dedicate this building in honor of two very special men involved in the ministry of Tuscarora: Rev. Ted Thompson and Reidar Senum.
Rev. Ted Thompson was a Board member in the earliest years of the ministry. As a pastor of Hillside Lutheran Brethren Church, each Sunday he and his wife Ruth would travel up to Tuscarora for a variety of jobs. From repairs, building, landscaping to cooking, baking, and any other work that was needed. Pastor Ted would easily move from behind the pulpit to busing tables. Working faithfully until Tuscarora was on solid financial footing - he continued to serve as a Board member even from afar in Minnesota and Florida. His love for Tuscarora never diminished.
Reidar Senum came to Brooklyn, NY from Norway and became an active member of the 59th Street Lutheran Brethren Church. Reidar was a part of the committee in the early 1970's which was tasked with finding a location for a Lutheran Brethren Conference Center. He was a Founding Board member and was even President for 8 years. As buildings went up on the grounds, Reidar answered the call time and time again by providing manpower, materials, and other resources that were needed. He had a heart full of love for his Lord and compassion for the lost. He willingly used his gifts of leadership, vision, and encouragement to build up and expand the body of Christ.
The Senum-Thomspon Center would be a memorial in praise and thanksgiving to the God who made the building possible through the hands of men who obeyed.
On September 17, 2000, the ground breaking for the new Senum-Thomspn Center was held. Ruth Thompson and Norma Senum participated in the ceremony on behalf of their families and were joined by Edgar Jensen and Herb Jacobsen, President of the Board of Directors and Executive Director at that time.
With a dedication in 2003, where Steve Green did in fact return to perform, the Senum-Thomspon Center has since proven it's value to the ministry. In the first full week of it's use, 48 young people made the decision to accept Christ as their personal savior. Many other have followed their lead in the 15 years since.