March 7, 2010 - Grace V. Rao


Seen in the center back row of this photo, Deaconess Grace V. Rao is clearly enjoying her time with several of the 75 children served by Karunai Illam (Mercy Home) Integrated Child Development Center, established for ”untouchable children” in Chennai, India.

Grace was born on May 17, 1957 in Hyderabad, India.  She earned two bachelor’s degrees, in Communications and in Accounting and Income Tax, and then worked as a PR executive for a public sector project under the ministry of defense. 

Yet Grace’s childhood dream was to pursue higher education in the United States and to study theology.  In 1994, she came to the US and enrolled in Concordia University, Ann Arbor, where she obtained a third bachelor’s degree in Theology and Communications.  When I asked her how she then came to be a deaconess, Grace explained:

“It was my inner call to serve the Lord, but I wasn’t sure how this would happen!  I wanted to serve in a vocation where I could use my education, talents, and other gifts blessed by the gracious Lord.  I started looking for graduate studies. Meanwhile, LCMS World Missions hosted the first leadership seminar for international students from all Concordia University System institutions. I attended and met a deaconess who said that I would be a fine deaconess. My response was: what does a deaconess do? Talking to her, meeting with the director of deaconess studies, and reading about diaconal service, inspired me and provided answers for my inner call.  So I believe it was God’s will, guidance, and plan, molding me and drawing me to be a deaconess, to serve His suffering and needy children.”

Grace received an MA in Religion from Concordia Univeristy Chicago in 2000.  Her first deaconess placement was at Zion Lutheran Church in Annandale, Minnesota, where she served from 2000-2005.  Since then she has worked for LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC).  As “Manager, Diaconal Project Development,” Grace engages and informs LCMS congregations, districts, and partner churches about the synod’s diaconal needs, deaconess ministry, and general works of mercy; directs budgeted resources for projects; and works on every aspect of existing projects and developing diaconal programs.  She also interacts with the deaconess programs of partner churches, is the managing editor of Mercy Works magazine, and accepts speaking engagements.  Working for the synod's mercy arm at WR-HC has taken Grace to Honk Kong, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Malaysia, and South Africa.

During the last ten years, Grace has been an active member of Concordia Deaconess Conference – Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, including holding office as the conference President (2004-06) and serving as member or chairman of the nominations and constitution committees.  On December 5, 2008, Grace became a US citizen.  Today she looks forward to many more years of serving her Lord from these shores, and around the world.  In Grace's own words, "I'm blessed and humbled to serve at LCMS World Relief and Human Care." 

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