Bismarck, N.D. - Karen Elinor Nordvall passed away Sept. 20, 2013.
She was born July 21, 1946. Daughter to Rudy and Thelma Helland, she was raised on the family farm in Binford, N.D. She attended Concordia College, Moorhead, graduating Magna Cum Laude with degrees in art and English education.
It was at college that she met the love of her life, Bob Nordvall, son of Carl and Ida Nordvall of Thief River Falls. They married in 1967 and moved to Minneapolis while Bob attended Luther Seminary.
They were called to missions and served in Papua New Guinea for almost 11 years. The first years were spent in the jungle mountains where Karen worked with native women in home and health skills. Later moving to the capital city of Port Moresby, Karen played a vital supportive role to Bob’s position as a university chaplain. Their two children, Karl and Siri, were both born in New Guinea.
The family returned to North Dakota in 1982 and served Lutheran churches in Binford, McHenry, Taylor-Richardton, and finally almost a quarter-century of ministry at Charity Lutheran in Bismarck, N.D.
Karen played many roles in these communities of faith always serving passionately, faithfully and creatively. She was also active in other organizations; most notably in Lutherans for Life. Karen completed a Master’s in ESL and taught in the Bismarck public school system, working extensively with refugee communities. She also put her art degree to work teaching at Shiloh Christian School.
In 2006, Karen accompanied Bob on a sabbatical to Eastern Europe. They taught at Tartu Theological Academy in Estonia and at St. Gregor’s in Saldus, Latvia. The experience changed their lives as they felt a call to return to mission work. In 2010, after retiring from parish ministry, they joined the East European Mission Network. Karen was instrumental in establishing the first Friendship English Language Bible Camp at the Tartu Academy in Estonia and in ongoing developments in program curriculum.
Karen helped edit two books: “We Shall Live In Heaven,” by Estonian pastor Haari Haamar; and “Igniting a Passion for Missions,” by Pastor Bill Moberly, director of EEMN. As Bob devoted his time to raising both funds and awareness of the Tartu Academy, Karen was an indispensable partner. She tirelessly and skillfully handled the myriad communications across cultures that have helped to create a global network of support for the vital ministry of the Academy.
Recent highlights of the past years include the incredible joy of two precious granddaughters, Elena and Stella, tenting in the redwoods of California, a trip to Norway and Sweden, and the fulfillment of a life-long dream of touring Italy to see cherished works of art including those by her favorite artist, Caravaggio.
Karen lived to serve and praise her Lord and her Savior, Jesus Christ, in humble awareness that she was a sinner saved by grace.
She is survived by her husband of 46 years, Bob in Richfield; her daughter Siri (Mike) Myhrom in Minneapolis, and son Karl (Tina) Nordvall in Edgerton, Wis., and also by her three brothers, Arden (Marianne) Helland of Pasadena, Md., David (Wealtha) Helland of Rockford, Ill., and Lowell (Nancy) Helland of Binford, N.D.
Karen was preceeded in death by her loving parents, Rudy and Thelma Helland.