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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why She Is A Deaconess

From Life of the World

Mrs. Patricia Nuffer, a Deaconess Intern at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is now working on a proposal for the “Hands of Mercy Training Center for People with Disabilities” to be tested during a five month trial in Yambio, Sudan. The picture of holding Maria’s hands, disfigured through leprosy, is the inspiration for the name of this project. She hopes this will be a model for other churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan to follow in reaching out to people with disabilities.

Here she holds the hand stumps of a woman with advanced leprosy.

When you read her story you begin to understand why so many hospitals bear the name "deaconess" in their title. Without Christian compassion there would never have been hospitals. They were never known until the coming of Christianity.

The vocation of the deaconess (alternately called the "parish nurse" for groups not comfortable with that name) dates back to the New Testament of course (Romans 16:2, 1 Timothy 3:11) but was revived in Germany in the late 1800's. It spawned the nursing and Red Cross movements as the students of the movement took it's principles to the battlefields of that century.

The nursing "profession" is its secularized form, but the Christian ministry and calling of the deaconess is much needed in our day.

By divorcing the nursing profession from its Christian roots, we've in practice taught one and all that healing is separated somehow from the providential care of God and the church.

And because nursing is considered a profession, it reaches only those able to afford hospitalization or to visit a doctor.

If we want to personalize care to the poor and make it independent of their ability to pay, we need to revive the ministry of the deaconess or parish nurse and her training must be more than what it offered by the nursing profession. It must be grounded in doctrinal and theological training in addition to nursing training so that it is a ministry done in Jesus' name and it must be funded as a ministry of the church not dependent on the recipient's ability to pay or have medical insurance.

What must be done to revive this wonderful ministry?