This year we’re putting an emphasis on stories that highlight leadership and leaders from around the ELCA. “I’m a Lutheran leader” is an online feature that highlights the many ways people are leaders in the church. Bishop Eaton’s Leadership Initiative encourages all of us to seek out and mentor people who show a gift for ministry. To learn more about the initiative, go to elca.org/leaders.
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Carlisle, Pa.
Deacon (former diaconal minister) and pediatrician
I feel called to ministry of word and service because it’s the perfect vehicle through which my faith and vocation can interact. As a pediatrician, I often perceived a “spiritual hole” in the lives of my patients and their families as being at the base of some of their problems. Becoming a deacon has equipped me to fill those holes, to engage in prayer and faith journeys with my patients and their families. It’s allowed me to use my medical profession to provide for needs in ways that I could have never imagined. Who knew that I could do prenatal care for uninsured and immigrant women? Who imagined that I had the skills to write grants and set up a dental clinic or to lead mission trips to Kenya? God did, of course, and that reality was revealed to me through my preparation as a deacon.
I help equip others to be leaders in their communities by assessing their gifts and showing them ways in which God can use them to build God’s kingdom. By forming relationships with others and getting to know them better, I can see the gifts that God has given them. I can make them aware of those gifts and help them see where they can be used to carry out their faith vocation. I don’t let denominational boundaries stop me. We are all on the same team when we are working to “be little Christs to one another.”
In my work as a deacon, I seek out places of need in the world and bring Jesus’ healing and comfort to those places. With the set of gifts that I have in the medical and behavioral sciences, this includes the prenatal and dental clinics for migrants and the uninsured or under-insured that I mentioned above. But it’s also included running a spiritual support group in a nursing home, working with at-risk youth in our church neighborhood, working with political advocacy groups on human rights issues and working to expand medical access to those in the homeless shelter. I’m excited to see what God leads me to do in the future!
Being part of a church community is crucial to doing effective ministry. My congregation keeps me focused on local needs as well as more national and global ones. They provide resources that I need to do my job in terms of prayer, material goods and human partners in ministry. They provide accountability and encouragement.
I’m a Lutheran leader because I truly believe that its “la obra de Dios, nuestra manos”—God’s work, our hands. 1 Corinthians 12 really resonates with me. We all have work to do in and for God’s kingdom, and my job is to lead by example and help others discover what their part is!