by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel
Since its beginning, the medical clinic of Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) has provided a special opportunity for the church to care for the peoples’ physical needs as well as for Gospel witness. I have met former patients and heard stories of people who came to the clinic, who besides the medical treatment received God’s Word, a prayer and were comforted in their anxieties by the ministration of the love of Jesus Christ as Saviour.
A beautiful example is from Anastacio Cerda Ortiz. He came for medical treatment and was approached with God’s Word by the president of the ILSN. He became interested in the work of the Lutheran church and today is a faithful member of the church, present every Thursday at the Clinic to build friendly relationships with patients, to pray for them if needed and to share the Gospel with them. He is also involved in the church work and has his own business during his spare time selling bread on the streets.
In 1982 an interesting paper was presented by Soritua Nababan at the Lausanne Grand Rapids Consultation titled “Your Kingdom Come.” It highlighted the close connection between physical care of others and Gospel witness or between “evangelism and social responsibility.” It certainly applies to the work of the ILSN medical clinic as well as to any other care mission and ministry developed by God’s people. It says:
. . . First, social activity is a consequence of evangelism. That is, evangelism is the means by which God brings people to new birth, and their new life manifests itself in the service of others. Secondly, social activity can be a bridge to evangelism. It can break down prejudice and suspicion, open closed doors, and gain a hearing for the Gospel. Jesus sometimes performed works of mercy before proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Thirdly, social activity not only follows evangelism as its consequence and aim, and precedes it as its bridge, but also accompanies it as its partner. They are like the two blades of a pair of scissors or the two wings of a bird. This partnership is clearly seen in the public ministry of Jesus, who not only preached the Gospel but fed the hungry and healed the sick. In his ministry, kerigma (proclamation) and diakonia (service) went hand in hand. His works explained his words, and his works dramatized his words. (Soritua Nababan, “Your Kingdom Come”, pp. 179-192 Lausanne Grand Rapids Consultation, June 19-25, 1982).
As God’s church we “unlike so many, [we] do not peddle the Word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). As we serve we don’t do it for earthly reward or profit. As we serve others we rejoice in the opportunities to share the forgiveness and salvation Jesus provides for all people. We don’t serve for own sake but for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our greatest joy and reward will be at the very end of the ages when we will see those whom we have served joining us for eternal life. It will be our reward of grace when Jesus will say to us: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:23. Jesus will say to his own at the very end “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40.