140 Years of Caring
Submitted by Chaplain Roger Nuerge
If you are reading these words, there is a good chance that you are aware that this is the 140th anniversary of Concordia Lutheran Ministries.
As a Christian organization, Concordia likes to celebrate anniversaries because they are opportunities to center on and be reminded of God’s enduring love and mercy in Christ Jesus. The past is remembered to identify God’s gracious blessings and to offer Him due thanks and praise.
In the last issue of our Faith in Caring Magazine, Deaconess Sara Scungio, one of my colleagues on Concordia’s chaplaincy staff, wrote a beautiful devotion entitled A Debt-Free Easter. She quoted the Apostle Paul from Romans 8:1-2, which states that the cross of Jesus and his resurrection set us free from all our debt of sin. Sara reminded us that according to 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Jesus to bear our sin for us so we could be made right before God. Also quoted was Colossians 1:13-14 which says that Christ’s death and resurrection transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of life eternal. Finally, Philippians 3:20 tells how Christians have their citizenship in heaven because that is where Jesus is, and we are waiting for his return to transfer us there too.
With all of that debt-free good news, now what? What are Christians called to do now that they are debt-free and waiting for Jesus to return? In 1 John 3:16-20, the epistle reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we are told, “This is how we know what love is: he gave his life for us. We also have an obligation to give our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts his heart against him, how can he still be loving God? Little children, let us not only love in words or in talk, but let us put our love into action and make it real.”
Concordia Lutheran Ministries began in the hearts and minds of people who had come to learn through God’s Word that Jesus was sent into this world to demonstrate what love really is. Jesus loved sinners so much that he gave his life for them. God demonstrated that he accepted that sacrifice of Jesus by raising him from the dead. That’s what led these men and women to give of their lives to meet the needs of orphans and the elderly. They couldn’t let their love just be words and talk, they opened their hearts to children and seniors in need and put their love in action and gave of their time and possessions to meet the needs of others. That’s how our mission began.
That love has been tested over and over again in the past 140 years. There have been fires, World Wars, financial ups and downs, and even epidemics – just to name a few challenges. The needs of people that Concordia serves have changed over the years. In the 1880s Concordia was mainly focused on the needs of orphans, but by the mid-1900s our focus shifted to taking care of the needs of elderly people who needed to be served. The needs kept changing as different levels of care, like skilled care, personal care and independent living were added. Then came rehab, visiting nurses, hospice and more.
There could be more changes to come, but the source of that care still comes from the same place. It comes from the God who created us and loved us so much as to give us his Son, Jesus. Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life on the cross for our forgiveness. When people take that seriously and accept it by faith, they in turn want to show that love to others in need. That is how Concordia started and served for 140 years and still does today in every caring act for another in need. This is not “only love in word or talk, but putting love in action and making it real.”