ESTES PARK, CO (June 30, 2011) – Marvin “Marv” Branstrom, a longtime member of Sierra Bible Church in Murphys, California, was presented with the T.W. Anderson Award during a special ceremony as part of this morning’s business session during the 126th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
The award is presented each year to laypersons who evidence lives of commitment and dedication to Christ and the Church. The award is named in honor of the only layperson to serve as president of the Covenant. Click here to watch video footage of the award presentation.
The people who nominated Branstrom praised that kind of dedication. “Marvin Branstrom is an example of the kind of servant leader that Jesus challenged his disciples to aspire to in John 13,” wrote Kevin Swanson, pastor of Metro Community Covenant Church in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Swanson has known Branstrom since their days at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, California.
In his letter, former Sierra Bible Church pastor Russ Ogren praised Marv’s “unwavering and inexhaustible commitment and dedication to Christ and the Church as a faithful servant.”
Branstrom and his wife, Alice, were Redwood City residents, but would frequently visit the Murphys area. At one point, they visited the small, struggling church. During that visit, Marvin was asked to help take the offering and pray the blessing.
The couple decided they would retire to Murphys, but also decided after their initial experience at Sierra Bible Church that they would not return to that congregation. Marvin still was living in Redwood City when he went to the denomination’s Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, as a delegate for Peninsula Covenant.
It would be a fateful moment for the Branstroms and the Sierra Bible Church. At the meeting, they kept talking about church planting, but I thought what about all the existing churches,” Marv recalls.
“I felt the Holy Spirit lay his hand on my heart and tell me I should help revitalize the Sierra Bible Church.” When Marv returned home and told his wife, “She was kind of dumbfounded.” They had agreed to not go back there.
They have stayed ever since. He has served in just about every capacity possible and been willing to help anyone with any need, say those who know him.
He has taught adult Sunday school, produced children’s Bible story DVDs used as Children’s Sermons, served as a media tech for worship services, and provided the first computers to the church. He has furthered the computer knowledge of church members by providing technical support and instruction in peoples’ homes.
Marv had a long career as an anatomy and physiology instructor at a community college for 25 years, and developed a software module for helping students study the subjects. He also taught life science classes to high school students for 10 years.
He has used more than his teaching gifts at the church. Marv has provided countless hours of behind-the-scene work on building projects and maintenance tasks. Marv initiated leadership retreats and led the church-wide valuation evaluations as part of the Veritas vitalization process.
Marv is quick to note the work of Alice, who helped start the Mothers of Preschoolers groups in the area. Together they launched the Abraham and Sarah ministry, which involves senior adults babysitting the children of the mothers during the two meetings each month. As many as a dozen seniors from the community assist the ministry.
“We get our grandma and grandpa fix,” Marv jokes.
In accepting the award, Branstrom said he was doing so “on behalf of all the hard-working laypeople – it is a team effort.” Praising the work of his wife, he quickly pointed out that no one individual or couple can do it all. Referencing the scripture passage in Corinthians where Paul speaks of the body of Christ and its many parts, Branstrom stressed that everyone in the church has different talents and different roles to play.
“We all have to be part of God’s dream – clergy and laypeople alike,” he added, referencing Wednesday evening’s sermon.