by Maggie Karner
The LCMS has, along with the whole Christian church on earth, historically believed that the Church is called to bring compassion and healing to body and soul in a broken society. Through the coordinated efforts of LCMS Health Ministries, which provides educational resources, relief projects and hands-on medical volunteers, thousands of people at home and abroad receive the healing and compassionate touch of the Great Physician. Complementing the witness of the church, LCMS Health Ministries promotes Christ-centered health and wellness of body, mind and spirit.
Through the popular Mercy Medical Team (MMT) program for short-term medical mission service, medical and lay volunteers have cared for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Thousands suffering with malnutrition, parasites, serious wounds, malaria and other tropical diseases as well as illnesses associated with unhealthy drinking water and sanitation receive hands-on clinical care. Since 2006, the LCMS has sent a steady stream of international medical teams, providing primary care clinics for over 20,000 people in locations such as Kenya and Madagascar.
Our medical professionals were literally covered in the blood of disaster victims in Haiti. MMTs cared for thousands in the aftermath of the tsunami that decimated Indonesia and India in recent years.
LCMS Health Ministries also provides funding and leads community health-education initiatives as well as health and nutrition programs both domestically and overseas.
Through the stewardship of LCMS donors, LCMS Health Ministries has cared for the unmet health needs of thousands of people in dozens of the world’s least-developed countries. Since 2006, more than $1 million in needed medicines have been administered through our mercy work overseas alone. And through the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, LCMS donors have touched the lives of 1.6 million people in East Africa, especially the women and children who are most affected by the disease.
Over $1 Million The amount of pharamacueticals LCMS MMTs have administered and donated since 2006.
In the United States, LCMS Health Ministries also carries out this model of Gospel-centered health outreach. Through the development and coordination of the LCMS Disability Task Force, the LCMS intentionally advocates for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities and chronic mental illness, as well as the underserved in LCMS congregations, schools and surrounding communities.
In each of our 35 districts, LCMS health ministries help organize, mentor, provide continuing education and encourage the vocation of theologically trained parish nurses. These registered nurses support the work of the pastoral ministry in local congregations and communities. With representation on the newly formed Lutheran Parish Nursing International (LPNI) cooperative, the LCMS promotes parish nursing worldwide with our partner churches.
This summer, in Ambur, India, the first certificate class in Lutheran parish nursing was conducted. Registered nurses in the India Evangelical Lutheran Church now have the theological and practical training needed for service in this LCMS partner church.
In a recent lecture for parish-nurse training, the Rev. John T. Pless, assistant professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, explained that mercy is not something we do or earn. Instead, he said, “The body of Christ humbly receives Christ’s gifts and then His mercy ‘takes shape’ for the world through our vocations of healing and hope!” This is the mission of LCMS Health Ministries.
About the Author: Maggie Karner is director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries and is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bristol, Conn., where her husband, Kevin, serves as pastor.
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