Story Magazine - First Quarter, 2007

Pastoral Care A Natural Fit for Lucy Mungai

by Allison Schmitt, M.A. Jr.

Although Lucy Mungai entered Luther's doctoral program in pastoral care and counseling in a roundabout fashion, it's hard to imagine a more appropriate path. A native of Kenya, Mungai has been ministering, preaching and leading Christians since she was a teenager. Now that she's in the doctoral program, she recognizes the value that deeper theological grounding gives her pastoral care work.

Looking back, although she might not have called it "pastoral care" at the time, that's exactly what she offered to those around her for years. When she read the class descriptions in the Luther catalog she said, "I need these classes!" She's found that her formal education has challenged her assumptions and guided her work. It's given her "the language to speak to some of these things that I wouldn't have had," she said.

Mungai's family joined the Luther community in 2003 when her husband, David Mwihia, started his doctorate in theology. Mungai, a high school math and chemistry teacher with three master's degrees, wanted to continue her education, too. Although she looked at other schools, she found herself drawn to Luther. The more she learned about the pastoral care program, the more she recognized the fit.

Growing up, Mungai was very involved with the Anglican Church. She admired the women she saw in preaching and leadership roles and thought, "When I grow up I want to be like them." Although she describes herself as very shy as a child, others' belief in her abilities encouraged her to overcome that obstacle. By the time she was in high school, she was leading youth groups in the Christian Union Movement. She gained hands-on experience in preaching and ministering to the needy while also participating in lay ministry training and mentorship programs.

One might think being a wife, mother of two and a doctoral student would be stressful. Instead, Mungai says what she finds stressful is being powerless to change inequitable systems. She feels called to affirm women in their divine gifts and undo the damage of "learned helplessness." She wants to address injustice suffered by people who are elderly, struggle with mental illness or are subject to class discrimination, whether in the United States or in Kenya. "That's in God's hands," she said.

"I keep praying that God will open people's eyes to what God's purpose for all humanity is," she said.With her eyes opened to the potential for her pastoral care training, it's easy to see Mungai is a part of that plan.