Mercy Care for All


by Laura J. Seaman

When Sandra Rhein forfeited her plans to pursue a master’s degree in church music to enter the deaconess program, she had no idea how God would work through her.

God used Rhein’s theological training and passion for music to spread the Gospel throughout Kenya. At the request of the Rev. Dr. Walter Obare, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, Rhein and a team of scholars and theologians helped bring about a “Lutheran hymnal with a Kenyan [African] touch.”

“Music combined with God’s Word,” said Rhein, “has the power to carry His Word deep into our souls, and bring comfort, strength and encouragement.”

Rhein is one of nearly 200 deaconesses in the LCMS today. They serve in mission fields, parishes, schools, mercy institutions and ministries. They bear witness and mercy to the young, the aged, prisoners, women, new mothers, families, the sick and many others.

These theologically trained women share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through acts of mercy, spiritual care and by teaching the Christian faith. Like the women of old, they continue to work hard, laboring in the Lord’s harvest fields.

“We stand by Scripture and our Confessions,” said Deaconess Grace Rao, director of LCMS Deaconess Ministry. “Deaconess Ministry is centered on serving the church through education and mercy, and we point to the pastor for Word and Sacrament.”

Rao carries that message as she works to assist, advise, facilitate and coordinate deaconess training with LCMS partner churches around the world. Lutheran women in Kenya, Sudan, South Africa, India, Latin America, Russia and many other places receive theological and practical deaconess training through the efforts of our Deaconess Ministry office.

Following the example of Peter’s mother-in-law, who rose to serve immediately after Jesus had healed her (Matt. 8:15), deaconesses serve out of gratitude for the mercy they have received through Christ’s saving work.

“Deaconess Ministry is centered on serving the church through education and mercy, and we point to the pastor for Word and Sacrament.”

A deaconess is a servant of Christ and the Church. In whatever capacity is needed, a deaconess exemplifies the heart of mercy, caring for people in need and reaching out to them with God’s Word of life.

A History of Deaconess Ministry in the LCMS

  • 1919 First LCMS deaconesses
  • 1979 First LCMS deaconess training program established at what is today Concordia University Chicago
  • 1989 Synod in convention adds Synod-trained deaconesses to roster of church workers
  • 2001 Synod in convention approves deaconess training at LCMS seminaries
  • 2002 Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, launches deaconess program 2003 Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, launches deaconess program


Mercy Operations

Deaconess Ministry

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Annual Budget: 166,570

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Lutherans Engage the World — Engaging the Church in the work of witness and mercy
across the globe in our life together. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

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