In this post I want to write about a remarkable man: Ernie Malmskog. Ernie died on January 16th. I attended his funeral at the church where I came to know Ernie, when I served as interim pastor a couple of years ago. Ernie was 97 years old when he died. Ernie was a spiritual giant in my eyes, because when I knew Ernie I was already 70 years old, but around Ernie I felt like a spiritual son. I sat at Ernie’s feet, like 20 or so other men every Wed morning at Bethany Lutheran Church in Nevis, Mn. Ernie had lead that group of men for many years. They came faithfully to hear Ernie, “break the bread of life” as Ernie used to say, to feed our hunger souls with the Word of God. Ernie was a student of the Bible. It was fleshed out in his life. His manner of teaching breathed life into our souls. He had lived it for over 90 years. Here are a few impressions.
Ernie prompted the Father Hunger need in my male soul, even though I was in my 70’s and had mentored many men. Father Hunger in a man’s soul is nourished by the embrace of the loving, unconditional acceptance of a father figure. Ernie was that for me. I asked for a hug every Wed. I went to see Ernie to just share what was on my heart. I was looking for both correction and affirmation from a godly, gentle, patriarch of the Church. In Ernie’s presence I absorbed a godly “masculine energy” that made me more spiritually alive as a man. I encourage every man reading this blog, to be on the look out for a man like Ernie. When you find that man, hang out with him and absorb “the masculine energy.”
Ernie was himself. He was humble, plain spoken man, who had learned through the hard knocks of life. His whole life as a godly narrative was on display each week. His foundations in Jesus and the Scripture were firm. He had thought through the issues of life in prayer and study. It was a joy for me to observe how he handed the questions, doubts, angers, and concerns of the men he led. He was respectful, caring, and open. He always brought it back to Jesus and the Word. What an amazing layman. Even the pastors showed deference to Ernie’s leadership.
Ernie was devoted to his wife Harriet for 69 years. She had proceeded him in death. Men listened to Ernie and the women of the church honored and deeply respected Ernie, because of how he treated his bride. It was was a wonder to behold. Men, I telling you, what Ernie taught on Wednesday, was played out each week when those two came to church. Early on in my ministry as Lutheran Pastor, I realized that my most important ministry to the women was the way I respected and honored my wife in public. Men, the women in your church are watching how you treat your life. Ernie in his 90’s was an example for me.
One more impression. Ernie honored and respect the pastors that had been at Bethany. He might not always agree, but he was supportive, always encouraging to those in leadership. As the church struggled over its direction, with strong opinions on both sides, Ernie was a steady, balanced voice that allowed men to come to their own conclusions without being judged. It was a rare gift on display on many Wednesday mornings. I am very thankful that God brought Ernie Malmskog into my life for a short one and a half years.