Diakonia en Christo – service in Christ – is part of the calling of every baptized child of God. That service takes as many different forms as there are Christians. Through the age’s deaconesses and deacons have had a special concern in the name of Christ for the forgotten, outcast, undervalued people in the church and world. That is also the spirit at the heart of the lives of all who seek to follow the Servant Lord into Christian service. Through this award the Lutheran Diaconal Association seeks to thank God for the varieties of diaconal service by celebrating the lives and ministries of Lutheran lay people who in following Christ reach out in care and compassion to the hurting world.
The Lutheran Diaconal Association makes the "Diakonia en Christo" award in honor of two deaconesses whose diaconal hearts have especially exemplified the service to which Christ calls us all.
Deaconess Martha Eber was consecrated as a deaconess in 1924, following her graduation from the Lutheran Hospital Nurses Training School in Ft. Wayne, IN. From 1924 to 1940 she served as a parish deaconess at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New York. After a leave of absence to faithfully care for her invalid mother (until her death), Martha took a year's "refresher" work at Valparaiso University and then resumed her parish diaconal ministry in 1957 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in the heart of mid-town Manhattan. Martha continued to volunteer her services at St. Luke's "when and where needed" until her death in 1991. Humility and faithfulness in service were the hallmark of Martha's ministry.
On her application to enter deaconess training in 1933, Deaconess Martha Boss wrote, "I am interested in mission work and I like to help others." From her consecration in 1938 until her premature death in 1973, in an automobile accident on furlough in the U.S., Deaconess Martha Boss fulfilled her life's calling: spending herself in Christ's mission and in service to people in need. From 1938-1941, she served at the Lutheran Orphan's Home in Addison, IL, helping children from broken homes. From 1942-1945, while waiting for clearance to enter China as a missionary nurse, Martha served at the Gospel Center in Cleveland, OH, a mission among the poor and forgotten in inner-city Cleveland. She arrived in China in January 1946, to serve as superintendent of the mission hospital in Enshili, China. On one of the last planes to leave China in 1949 following the Communist take over, Martha settled in Hong Kong to continue to witness to God's love through a multitude of services (medical, spiritual, physical) to refugees in need. The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod’s multi-purpose community center in Hong Kong is named the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod-Martha Boss Lutheran Community Centre, "named after the sainted Martha Boss, in memory of her untiring service to her Lord among the Chinese people, first in China, then in Hong Kong, for 23 years. Martha Boss represents to many Chinese Christians a faithful messenger and example of the love of Jesus..."
PURPOSES. The principal purposes of the Lutheran Diaconal Association diaconal lay ministry award are:
1. To encourage the whole church, diaconate and laity, to greater service in the name of Christ, the One who came to serve.
2. To hold up a witness and example of faithful diaconal service for the whole church, diaconate and laity, to
3. To foster and honor the diaconal ministry of lay people.
CRITERIA. The nominee should be a Lutheran lay person:
1. Who in daily vocation and/or in volunteer activities serves "the least of these" (Matt. 24:40) in a significant way.
2. Who responds to human need in service, without seeking recognition or reward.
3. Who is engaged in a "foot washing" ministry in either parish or community, serving as an advocate and meeting the direct needs of those whom others forget.
4. Whose diaconal heart reflects the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-8) and honors the life witness of deaconesses Martha Boss and Martha Eber.