By Kim Plummer Krull
Seventeen Indian Lutheran registered nurses completed the inaugural parish nurse training program led by LCMS Health Ministries in partnership with the Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC), introducing a new vocation and a new opportunity for mercy work in a country with many serious medical needs.
“The Indian nurses were excited and very involved in the course,” said Dr. Marcy Schnorr, LCMS Parish Nursing coordinator, who developed and taught the pilot program, July 2-5 at Bethesda Hospital in Ambur, India.
“They all wore their parish nurse pins with pride and also plan to wear them so that others might know they are parish nurses so that they may be available to serve others as needed. One [parish nurse] commented that although this was going to be something new, she knew that ‘nothing would be too difficult because God would be with her as she served Him and served the people.’ “
The IELC is the first LCMS partner church Schnorr has worked with to introduce parish nursing, although she has spoken to various international Lutheran audiences and helped start the ministry at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.
Indian nurses and nursing students expressed an interest in parish nursing last year when Schnorr and Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries, led a first-time series of diabetic educational workshops in IELC parishes. IELC President Samuel requested parish nursing training in partnership with that church body after a presentation about the ministry — a unique blend of professional nursing and spiritual caregiving.
The newly trained Indian parish nurses will be an asset in a country with no shortage of health challenges, Karner said, including a diabetes epidemic, poverty, poor nutrition and limited access to health care and care for aging adults.
“Our Lutheran congregations in India can be active in valuable outreach while they serve their members and the surrounding community with hands-on, Christian care to help people deal with these many issues. At the same time, they are opening the door for great pastoral care and opportunities for the witness of the Gospel,” said Karner. “It [parish nursing] is truly a wonderful example of Christian faith in action!”
In addition to health and wellness education, the nurses took part in Lutheran theological training which included educational video segments taught by the Rev. John T. Pless, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Dr. Daniel Paavola, theology professor at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.
Deaconess Grace Rao, manager of LCMS Deaconess Ministries; Darin Storkson, LCMS regional director for Southern Asia and Oceania; and Ravi Jesupatham, LCMS India country coordinator, also worked with IELC partners and helped launch the pilot program.
Plans already are in the works to continue growing parish nursing in India. Nursing administrators at Bethesda Hospital, Ambur, will facilitate regular meetings of the newly trained nurses as they begin their mercy ministries.
“Some plan to focus on the needs of children; others spoke of serving the elderly,” Schnorr said.
According to Karner, the Indian parish nurses will get ongoing support, ideas and mentoring by connecting electronically with Lutheran parish nurses in the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Canada and Bethlehem — who are all part of Lutheran Parish Nurses International, a global networking group.
Each of the 17 newly trained nurses ultimately plan to share the ministry with sister registered nurses in their country.
“We are hopeful that this program will inspire other international Lutheran church bodies to investigate this rich and rewarding vocation of mercy in their ministries as well,” Karner said.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted July 12, 2012