By Megan Mertz
Under the theme “Transforming Lives for Health, Healing and Eternity,” Concordia University Wisconsin’s (CUW) 21st annual conference for parish nurses and others involved in congregational health ministries drew participants from 20 states and three countries. It took place May 30 on CUW’s campus at Mequon, Wis.
This year’s conference brought together parish nurses to discuss topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, childhood obesity, exercise ministries, celiac disease, and anger and stress management. More than 90 people attended.
“A parish nurse is not just a nurse in a congregation,” said Maggie Karner, director of Life and Health Ministries for the LCMS. “The parish nurse is an integral part of the ministerial team, so it’s critical they do continuing education in a Lutheran context.”
“The overall goal [of parish nursing] is to always share the Gospel of Christ with a broken world,” said Dr. Carol Lueders Bolwerk, program director of Parish Nurse Ministries and Congregational Health at CUW. “Parish nurses have those talents and skills to bring Christ in a different way.”
Parish nurse Raeda Mansour, as part of the Lutheran Parish Nurses International 2013 study tour, came all the way from Palestine to attend the conference. She became a parish nurse in 2007 after taking an online parish-nursing course developed by CUW and LCMS Health Ministries and completing an internship in the United States under parish nurses of the LCMS Northern Illinois District.
“I always thought God was calling me to something else,” said Mansour, who previously worked outside the church as a registered nurse. “Since [parish nursing] was related to the church, I thought maybe it was the thing I was searching for.”
Mansour now serves 1,200 people through the senior citizen ministry at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem — including 600 Muslims in 12 villages around the city. She also works with 40 Christian families.
“There are so many things we can’t do there because of the financial challenges and political unrest,” she said. “But we are still learning new things that fit our community and culture, and I’m really blessed to work with these people and share our Savior’s love with them.”
“I came [to the conference] to be supported and encouraged,” Mansour continued, after noting that she may be the only parish nurse in the Middle East.
Concordia University Wisconsin began its parish-nursing program in 1989. Since then, some 3,500 people have enrolled in the program, which is offered on campus, at locations around the U.S. and through distance learning.
Megan Mertz is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.