MLC- The First Ten Years

The First Ten Years of Mandarin Lutheran Church

Incorporated in 1985, Mandarin Lutheran Church has been a part of the Mandarin Community for 37 years. From our humble beginnings, worshipping at the Catholic Center in Mandarin, to our current 3.6 acre property on San Jose Boulevard, MLC has grown and continues to be a church who welcomes all.


brochure announcing the formation of a new church in Mandarin, Jacksonville, Florida

Invitation to join Mandarin Lutheran Church

In the early 1980s, the American Lutheran Church sent a young pastor, Lee Magneson, to begin a new Lutheran church in Mandarin. Joining Pastor Lee were his wife, Julie, and their young children, Robbie and Missy. Pastor Lee immediately began calling on virtually every household in Mandarin to introduce himself and Mandarin’s new church, known then as the Lutheran Ministry of Mandarin.






First worship service at MLC

The first worship service of the young congregation was held January 6, 1985, at the Catholic Center at the northeast corner of Old. St. Augustine and Greenland Roads. The Diocese of St. Augustine generously allowed the congregation to meet there until they had a building of their own. Marilyn Whitford’s family was among those who attended services at the Catholic Center.






The future site of Mandarin Lutheran

In December 1985, the church was incorporated as Mandarin Lutheran Church and 11 months later it closed on 3.6 acres at the present location.







Fellowship Hall Groundbreaking- 1987

Those shown in this photo include Pastor Lee Magneson (far left) and Pastor Dave Winter (second from right). In 1987, construction was completed on the current Fellowship Hall. It served as a multi-purpose facility for MLC and was also rented out to Merry Pat’s Preschool during the week.







Sunday service at MLC

Holding two Sunday services (8:00 and 11:00), with Sunday School in between, presented logistical challenges. Each Sunday morning the space had to be changed from the preschool arrangement to church seating, to Sunday School configuration, back to church seating and, finally back to the preschool setup. With many willing hands, the transformation could be accomplished in surprisingly short order.






Sanctuary Groundbreaking

It was a happy day when construction began on the new sanctuary and an even happier one when it was ready for worship.








Dedication service for Mandarin Lutheran

The dedication service was attended by the Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, local Lutheran pastors and Protestant and Jewish clergy from Mandarin. The stained-glass windows had not been installed yet.







Early services at MLC

Initially there were no pews, and the chairs were arranged in a semi-circular pattern facing the altar. Pews were later acquired from a Baptist church in the Southside Estates area that was, ironically, replacing them with chairs.

Who Said Girls Can’t?

“When was the first time you heard a woman preach? For some pastors, the first female voice they heard in the pulpit was their own. “Proclaiming, Reforming, Celebrating: Stories of 50|40|10″ shares stories from over 100 women who have served as pastors over the past 50 years. Each story illuminates how God has called and carried these women.”

The quote above announces the ELCA publication of a collection of stories relating the journey to the pulpit of many amazing female pastors – including our own Pastor Anna!
As part of the ELCA 50th anniversary celebration of the ordination of women, an announcement calling for submissions to be considered for this collection was published many months ago. It caught my eye, and I thought “we MUST give it our best shot – we have an amazing female pastor!” I approached Pastor Anna with my proposal of “you talk; I’ll write.”

Pastor agreed, and a long afternoon ensued, while I furiously typed notes as Pastor Anna shared much about her desire to serve the Lord from girlhood, and the challenges she faced along the way.
Those notes were turned into the story you will find on page 55 at the link above, entitled “Who Said Girls Can’t.” Our submission was very close to the deadline, so Pastor held her breath and pushed “send” at the last possible moment. You can imagine our excitement when we learned that Pastor’s story was selected for inclusion in the book.

Perhaps you think you know Pastor Anna well by now; please enjoy a bit more of the life story that brought her to MLC! You may read an excerpt below. Please click the accompanying link for the full article.

Marilyn Sussan

My path to ordination at the age of 40 was nontraditional in every possible way but always guided by a deep, restless, often unspoken call to serve the Lord and a determination to never give up.
As a girl born and raised in South Africa, I came from a family deeply ingrained with the Pentecostal faith. Looking up to relatives who were dynamic and highly regarded pastors, and especially hearing stories about m

y paternal grandfather, who was the national director of missions for the Apostolic Faith Mission Church, I so wanted his legacy to be my own — but that mantle of position and possibility passed only from father to son, both in philosophy and in actual practice. My first “girls can’t …”

I was later sent to a Catholic high school, where my worldview expanded and the realization grew that my girlhood faith was not the only way to serve the Lord, yet “girls can’t…” was again a constant refrain.

With a direct route to the ministry blocked on all sides, I gained a college degree in physical therapy, which was to me a way to serve God with hands and heart by helping people to improve their health. During these years, as a young adult, I was also very active in my Pentecostal church and was even “allowed” to teach the adult Sunday school class, a great honor bestowed by a pastor who
saw and understood my desire to serve but who had no provision to make a way for me. I was privileged to serve on the youth council but never on the church council, a position reserved only for men — “girls can’t …” once again.

I eventually began attending a nondenominational church, where I learned that the related Bible college was accepting new students. In a move that could only have been guided by the Holy Spirit, I boldly went to see the dean of the college — without an appointment or introduction of any sort — and, on the spot, convinced him to accept me into the program. Following two years of successful study, I was ordained as a “co-pastor” with my pastor husband because, again “girls can’t …” serve as a pastor apart from their husbands. Single women completing the course of study could only be ordained as missionaries, because “girls can’t …”

After 12 years of mission field work, our family, now including two little girls, moved to the United States, where I became active in a Lutheran church in Miami. Although mission work was challenging and satisfying in many ways, I still did not feel as if I were truly doing God’s work for my life. As I pondered this, my pastor in Miami encouraged me to use my background and past experiences to consider ordination as an ELCA Lutheran pastor.


Taking a deep breath, I looked into the “alternate route” program at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C. For the first time in my life, there was no “girls can’t …” thrown at me from the outset, only a mandate to prove that I was worthy of acceptance and capable of doing the work that lay ahead. When facing the admissions panel of 12 esteemed theologians, I could only think, “God has brought me this far; if this is truly of God and truly intended to be my future, then I have nothing to fear” — of course, I had to give my knocking knees that same pep talk at the time!

Once accepted, I spent a reading year with a mentor and a resident “Lutheran Year” at seminary. Once ordained, I finally knew that the Holy Spirit had led me to the place where I could fully use
my gifts. Following an internship, my first call as an associate pastor led me to Emmaus Lutheran Church in Orange City, Florida, followed by a 15-year call in Ocala, Florida, where I met the challenge of consolidating three congregations at various stages of change in their ministries. By this time, I’d long since left behind the “girls can’t…” messages that had not only frustrated me
but also inspired me to keep forging ahead.



Content in Ocala that I was where I needed to be to serve God’s precious people, I found that the Holy Spirit again had a different idea: when called for an interview at Mandarin Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, Florida, where I serve today, I came close to turning down the call committee’s request but again was drawn to entertain the opportunity. When I arrived for the interview, I thought, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and that the worst case would be a gracious parting when both parties recognized a lack of fit. However, as I drove home, I knew profoundly in my spirit that “this was IT!” I felt in my heart of hearts that it was God’s will for me to be at Mandarin Lutheran at this time.

The freedom of working with a new congregation the past two years to discern how we would carry forward its ministry felt like being presented with a blank journal page on which I could write whatever I was led to. Where we are today, even with the unprecedented challenges of the past year, makes me grateful for the open minds and hearts that have come on this journey with me.

Today, the most joyous thing in my life, comparable only to the joy of my first call following ordination, is the joy of knowing I am doing exactly what God has called me to do and in the place where God called me to be. My path to 20 years as a Lutheran pastor was anything but straight and carefree. I look back and think of each of those “girls can’t…” messages as covering me in the same way an oyster creates a beautiful pearl from an unrelenting irritant. They served only to embolden me and give me the strength to persevere against all odds. The little South African girl in this story is living her lifelong dream of serving the Lord — and is a living testament that “girls CAN.” Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

Lord, so many voices tell us we are not good
enough, but you say we are. Help us to hear
world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

You can read more stories of women of the ELCA in their publication WOMEN’S ORDINATION ANNIVERSARIES: Proclaiming, Reforming, Celebrating: Stories of 50|40|10

Sandy Mitten: Our Woman of Valor

Last Friday, one of our family travelled to our Nation’s Capital to receive an award.

As a retired Naval Officer, I am one of several veterans we have in our MLC family. We all tease each other about the branch of the military we served in but that is in jest and we all deeply respect the service to our great Nation.

On Saturday, June 12th at the Military Women’s Memorial at the entrance to the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, United States Coast Guard Port Security Chief Petty Officer Sandy Mitten, was honored as a “Woman of Valor” and presented with a specially designed brooch.

The brooch features a hand-painted enamel “forget-me-not” flower with purple petals. Purple is a composite of all the military branch colors and symbolizes joint service. At its center, the white pearl represents not only the power of women, but also loyalty and integrity. The gold-plated center star and letter “V” on the tips of the leaves represent valor.

Chief Petty Officer Sandy Mitten was the first Coast Guard woman to serve overseas in a combat role. Her combat service was with the newly formed Port Security Units (PSUs). Sandy was a reservist who earned the nickname “Grandma Gunner” in the Persian Gulf after she manned the aft .50-caliber machine gun while on a PSU Raider boat during a routine patrol and she was also lovingly called “Gulf War Granny.” Sandy was one of ten women who received the “Woman of Valor” award yesterday. After that ceremony, Chief Petty Officer Mitten and her daughter were escorted by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson, President of the Women’s Memorial to a new display in the museum where Sandy’s Coast Guard utility uniform is on display and where she was presented with a special award as a “Woman of Significance.”

Below is a video of the “Women of Valor” Brooch presentation. You can see Sandy get her award at the 01:00:22 time mark in the Video.

When we heard about the upcoming presentation and realized that none of us could be there to share this incredibly special moment with Sandy and her daughter, one of our Congregation members arranged for a dear friend, a retired Full Colonel to represent us. His email reporting on the event and the program are attached below.

Please join me in congratulating our very own Sandy Mitten on this outstanding life achievement.


Yours in Christ,

Troy Borema

MLC Council President