Who Is Thy Neighbor?
The Gospel proclamation doesn’t change, but our approach to loving our neighbors does. It begins with understanding their cultural background and present reality. While the diversity of God’s people is vast (young, old, rich, poor, Asian, Hmong, Nigerian), let’s look at how the church responded and still responds to the specific needs of our ethnic and minority brothers and sisters in Christ.
LCMS BLACK MINISTRY
By: Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Director, LCMS Black Ministry
“The LCMS has 144 years of proclaiming the Gospel to the black community in America. It’s a legacy of establishing nearly 200 black congregations, nearly 100 black schools, three colleges and one seminary serving black communities throughout the U.S.
“In these proclamations, many black pastors, educators and other church workers were birthed. This mission work among black Americans was from the heart of white missionaries and their families. They gave their lives in a segregated society to work on the integrated Gospel of salvation for the black community. It was truly the work of the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
“In the segregated South, where a prohibition of race-mixing was the written and practiced law of societal norms, these missionaries and families defied the norms for the sake of the Gospel. Sadly, less than 10 predominately black Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) schools and about 130 congregations remain today.
“The opportunity of proclaiming the Gospel in all of its means is ripe for the present time. If we are going to make a difference for the future of LCMS mission and ministry in communities of color, we must help make a difference with our congregations in their communities, intentionally and collaboratively.
“We do best in proclamation, education and mercy work — that must be our intentional and collaborative focus. Making a difference in the lives of congregations [who in turn make] a difference in the lives of serving communities.”
LCMS HISPANIC MINISTRY
By: Rev. Aurelio Magarino Pastor, Iglesia Luterana Hispana Cristo Señor de la Vida Executive Director, Hispanic Lutheran Mission Society of Washington, D.C.
“What does it look like to love our neighbor in the Hispanic community? In any community, and particularly in the Hispanic community — with its variety of needs, dreams and longings — the best way to show how to love our neighbor is expressed by the phrase, ‘faith active in love.’ The shape of ‘faith active in love’ is multidimensional.
“However, it is primarily expressed by the Gospel’s proclamation to fulfill the most intimate need every person has. That need is the restoration of our broken relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
“Empowered by the Gospel, Hispanics are loved [through] ministries like food and clothes distribution. These ministries also provide children [with] tutorial programs, English as a second language and assistance with language interpretation. Let’s not forget, legal services, family counseling, immigration advocacy, youth mentoring, financial education and job skills training are just a few other needs. The list is endless.
“Love is best shown by serving in the same manner Jesus has served us. Kerygma (proclamation) and Diakonia (service) go hand to hand in loving our Hispanic neighbor.”
LOVING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
By: Rev. Mark Heilman Pastor, Memorial Lutheran Church, Ames, Iowa
“When Iowa State University is in session, half the population of Ames, Iowa, is students. For us to love our neighbor means loving students. It is more and more challenging to reach out to American students because they often don’t see the needs they have. We can readily help the needs of internationals who are looking for people to befriend and help them.
“Ministry to international students needs people who can spend time with them — not necessarily funds. This works especially well for older people who have the time to deal with internationals who come from cultures that hold the elderly in greater respect. [Students come from] … China, Brazil, Malaysia, Iran, Egypt, Taiwan and Turkey.
We provide English classes during the week. We form Bible studies. We also have monthly activities like field trips. We welcome international students into our Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs. Those who attend church are usually accompanied by one of our members or students who go to our church. A few [students] have no prior contact [with the Gospel]. Many have heard of the Bible but have not truly heard the Gospel.”
TRANSLATING OUR LUTHERAN HYMNAL
By: Deaconess Sandra Rhein Sacred Music Educator, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Asia
“Music is a good gift of God. When it is combined with God’s Word, there is a double blessing. Along with the power and beauty of the music, it becomes a vehicle for carrying God’s Word and proclaiming that Word in a living, active way. Lutheran hymns preach and proclaim Christ. They bring the living voice of the Gospel to us. To come with that living voice of the Gospel through hymnody is to visit our neighbor in mercy. Bringing hymns into people’s lives is a reflection of our love — Christ’s love in us — for our neighbor.”
Rhein has served as coordinating editor of three hymnals: Ibada Takatifu (Divine Service), a Swahili hymnal for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya; Sebhat LeAmlak (Sing to the Lord), an Amharic hymnal for the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus; and Chinese Lutheran Service Book, a test booklet for the Chinese Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Pray with us: Father, your love for this world breaks down walls between people. As God’s children, teach us to love our neighbors as You have loved us. Strengthen Your church that she may be a beacon of joy and unity and a light of forgiveness and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.