By Caleb Rollins, LSA Development Manager
“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” –Luke 10:36-37
Early in July, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to represent LSA at The 66th Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). As a lifelong member of the LCMS, one of LSA’s affiliate church bodies, I know that this church body has a steadfast commitment to their faith, their history, and the work of mercy professed that Christ calls us to.
As I wandered the exhibit hall to find our booth, I felt both excited and disappointed to find that our booth sat right across from those who some consider to be the most famous Lutherans in the country – the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs. I was excited because, well, I would get to be around loving dogs for four days. But I was disappointed because it would make it much harder, nearly impossible, to get the attention of people near these Lutheran celebrities.
As the days passed, and I boasted to passersby that the K-9 Comfort Dogs worked for a member of LSA, I noticed what made these canines so exceptional: they indiscriminately show mercy, compassion, and love to people simply because they are human. They do not ask questions as to where you come from or what language you speak or what faith you do or do not follow. They simply require your presence and give you their presence as a gift in return. It is through their encompassment of the mercy of the Good Samaritan, the mercy of Christ, that they have become known and loved by so many. And yet, as our diverse network of Lutheran social ministries shows us, you do not have to be a furry, four-legged friend to do mercy work.
After my time in Milwaukee, I had the chance to go to Minnesota and visit two more LSA members also committed to mercy work. At Lyngblomsten in St. Paul, staff showed me their dedication to walk alongside older adults and their loved ones, especially those most vulnerable in their community. By welcoming people no matter their means or backgrounds and supporting their whole person, Lyngblomsten exemplifies the mercy work of Christ.
At Our Saviour’s Community Services in Minneapolis, I learned of the important work of their emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and English learning programs. By welcoming the stranger and those on the fringes into their space without judgement or fear, Our Saviour’s Community Services fulfills Christ’s call.
While the staff of Lyngblomsten and Our Saviour’s Community Services haven’t made appearances on “Good Morning America,” they still do the same mercy work that has made the K-9 Comfort Dogs so famous. Yet, most people, most Lutherans, do not know that over 250,000 people accompany the most vulnerable populations across our nation in the mercy work of the LSA social ministry network.
And as I told the many convention-goers surprised by the scope and diversity of the LSA network, maybe we could be a little bolder in shining the light on God’s work of mercy, compassion, and love being done across all Lutheran social ministries. After all, it’s this work that has brought the K-9 Comfort Dogs in front of millions. Well, that and their cute, furry faces.