In many African cultures, it’s socially unacceptable for a man to visit privately with a woman who is not his wife. So how can a woman who is spiritually troubled reach out to her pastor?
One solution is to seek out a deaconess. A deaconess is a woman who is called to assist and support a pastor, explains Dcs. Dr. Cynthia Lumley, who developed the distance-education deaconess program at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“A deaconess is often the face of the congregation,” Dcs. Lumley said. “Through acts of mercy and caring for people, she points people back to the altar and the gifts God provides there through His pastors.”
A deaconess’s work can include things like visiting and caring for the ill and shut-in, working with children, and women’s counseling.
As Dcs. Lumley’s work has expanded to training deaconesses overseas, she’s seen different needs there. In India, for example, she was shocked to learn that young children still suffer from polio and need special attention and care.
“Often, works of mercy are great evangelism, because it shows the love of Christ in action,” Dcs. Lumley said. “Many people come into the church as a result of that.”
This month, Dcs. Lumley will be training deaconesses in Ethiopia, Africa. She contacted LHF to request 30 copies of Dying to Live in the Amharic language.
Dcs. Lumley believes the book will be valuable to the deaconesses-in-training because “it’s just a wonderful overview of sacramental Lutheran theology, written in a way that’s understandable,” she said.
“When you’re working with people who are suffering, reminding them that they’re loved children of God is one of the most important things you can do,” she continued.
As the deaconess points the suffering person back to the Savior, “Dr. Harold Senkbeil (the author) shows that when we hear the pastor speak, we’re actually hearing Christ speak to us.”
Dcs. Lumley believes it’s essential to have books like Dying to Live available in the languages of the people.
“Studying theology is like the scales falling off your eyes,” she said. “These books make it so that we can give them something they can take away to read and study later. When it’s translated in their own language, they’re understanding every word, and it just makes [the contents] that much more accessible to them.”
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.