History

Mosaic was formed July 1, 2003, by the consolidation of two Nebraska-born Lutheran ministries dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities. Bethphage began in 1913 in Axtell, Neb., and Martin Luther Homes began in 1925 in Sterling, Neb.

Bethphage Heritage

The Rev. K.G. William Dahl witnessed the neglect that children and adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities received in large institutions. He believed in a better way and convinced 54 people to give $1 each to establish Bethphage Inner Mission Association in 1913.

With the start-up money, Pastor Dahl rented and renovated four homes in Axtell. On June 29, 1914, the first four guests arrived. Within a year, the ministry had grown to include 40 guests and 20 workers, and a new setting on land north of Axtell. The "hill," as the Bethphage Mission casually came to be known, reflected a unique architectural style hearkening to Pastor Dahl's native Sweden. A prominent building at Bethphage is Zion Chapel, dedicated May 20, 1931, as a gift of the Women's Missionary Society of the Augustana Synod.

Pastor Dahl died in 1917, at 34. He is buried in the Bethphage Cemetery.

Martin Luther Homes Heritage

Three pastors and two laymen saw the need for a school for "teachable mentally retarded children." They met in Sterling at the former Martin Luther Academy, a school that had been closed for several years. The founders included the Revs. Julius Moehl, August Hoeger, and William Fruehling, and laymen John Aden and William Ehmen. The Martin Luther Home Society was organized on October 20, 1925.

As word spread that a home for children and adults with disabilities was opening in Sterling, families began bringing their children for placement, even though the Home was not ready.

Pastor Moehl, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Sterling, and his wife, Martha, had three small children of their own. Yet they took these students into their home and assumed responsibility for their care.

As the building aged and the student population grew, extensive renovation was needed or the Home would face the possibility of state closure. The decision was made to build a new facility. On June 1, 1956, a new Martin Luther Home opened in Beatrice, Neb.

Both Organizations Become National Ministries

With the advent of community-based programs for people with developmental disabilities in the 1970s and 1980s, both Bethphage and Martin Luther Homes grew into national ministries. The organizations were invited to begin services in locations across the United States by families and officials who knew the quality of care provided by the organizations.

With their national growth, both organizations felt the need for administrative offices in more easily accessible locations for national travelers. In 1986 Bethphage moved its headquarters to Omaha, Neb., and in 1993 Martin Luther Homes moved its headquarters to Lincoln, Neb.

Church Reorganizations Create Ground For Consolidation

Throughout their histories, both organizations maintained close ties with the Church. As Church structures changed and realigned over the years, Bethphage and Martin Luther Homes both became affiliated ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, when that body was formed in 1988.


Their shared mission, shared vision and shared Church affiliation prompted the two organizations' Boards of Directors to vote to merge the two ministries, a move that became complete July 1, 2003.

Throughout their histories, both legacy organizations changed as needed to carry forth the vision of their founders. The priority has been, and continues to be, the needs and desires of the people Mosaic supports.

Pastor Dahl once wrote, "Retrogression or even a standstill must never be heard at the Mission." Pastor Hoeger, whose motto was "Always forward!" wrote, "Thus we are sisters and brothers in this work. If the angels are glad to serve us and human beings, then how much more should we be thankful and happy that we can also help others who need our help."

  • Photo album
    Photos from the Bethphage and Martin Luther Homes heritage.
  • Historical Timeline
    A view of major milestones in Mosaic and the World's history.