Elise “Viktoria“ Peters Celebrated 25 Years at Sjölunden

Bemidji, MN — An enjoyable endeavor that one invests time and energy in for quarter of a century offers many opportunities for developing friends among those who participate in the same activity. For Elise Peters, dean of the Year-Round Programs at the Concordia Swedish Language Village, 25 years with Sjölunden has meant that she feels part of a family group, her Sjölunden family.

On the final October night of the Swedish camp's week for adults in the north woods of Minnesota, Peters was honored and recognized for her years of service to the Swedish language programs. During the banquet participants and guests made toasts and shared stories about their experiences with Peters. Donna Forbes of Duluth recalled the session following 9/11, when many registrants were unwilling to fly; those who could get to camp took many long walks in the woods to try to make sense of what had happened. Another long-time participant remembered a severe snow storm, which prevented any of the kitchen staff from making the 20 mile trek to work, so Peters had to figure out how to get the meals on the table until the site could be plowed out. Members of the language class she taught during the camp week performed a skit, drawing material from their classroom experiences and exaggerating her teaching style to show how Peters tried to get them to see that they could travel to Texas but not walk there, a challenge faced by English speakers to know when to use åka and gå. They acted out a scenario when she tried to teach them about stressing syllables when speaking in the past tense, thus TAL-a-de, instead of tal-AH-de, and how to select the correct preposition to go to Stockholm, live in Gamlastan, and go shopping at a store.

Christine Schultze, vice president of Concordia Language Villages of Concordia College was present to recognize Peters. She said, “We have a very special tradition on the 25th year. We plant an evergreen tree right across from our International Peace Site at our headquarters in Moorhead. We think it‘s really special on the 25th year, this evergreen award, because it‘s ever fresh, ever growing — the idea that creativity is really that font that comes from within and that you share with others.“

Schultz spoke to the guests and Peters as she continued, “Another really significant piece is that many people have donated in your honor because one of the things that we knew was very important to Elise “Viktoria“ was that people like you could participate at Sjölunden, and some need access to extra resources to do so. The scholarship fund, actually the first scholarship fund for our adult programs, is being inaugurated tonight from donations from some in this room, from some people who have had experienced life with you at Sjölunden across the years, as a villager, as a staff member and here as a leader of the adult program. So we will be establishing a scholarship fund that will bear your name and hopefully over time and every year somebody will receive that scholarship award. So I‘m really pleased to announce that with the hope that it grows in perpetuity.“

Two additional gifts were made, one was a CLV jacket that Peters had seen on a fellow staff member during the spring program. She had said, “That‘s what you can give me for my 25th anniversary.“ The other gift was a surprise by an anonymous donor to the value of $1500: Peters was given a trip to Sweden — on the condition that she travels within 365 days, and blog and post photos on Facebook to show where she visits.

The evening ended with everyone standing in a circle, holding hands, singing in Swedish, “Hold my hand, my friend, hold my hand.“ The warmth felt in the elegant dining hall was both from the heart and the unseasonally warm autumn Minnesota weather.

For more information about the 2015 language and culture programs for adults, visit www.concordialanguagevillages.org. The spring weekend is scheduled for April 23-26, with the fall week-long program slated for October 18-24.