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Challenging Ourselves to See the Possibility of Abundance in This Difficult Time

by Karen LehmanPresident/CEO

We are in uncertain and challenging times when access to news and information is constant. Daily, if not hourly, new directions are given and different decisions need to be made. Questions regarding enough staff, enough supplies, enough information, and are we doing enough are the new normal. In the midst of all of this, it’s easy to focus on the challenges, our fears and anxieties, and about the possibility of not having enough resources to see us through to the other side.

But the truth is, in our faith-based, values centered and networked organizations, we have so much strength and positivity on our side!  While it’s hard to remember the strong foundations of support we have when the day to day is so challenging, it is just that underpinning that will see us through this uncertain time.  And maybe challenge ourselves to see the possibility of abundance in this difficult time.   The question I am asking myself, and I’m guessing everyone is asking – what are my priorities today and what is the most important work I should do today or tomorrow? 

While the present is constantly at the forefront, thoughts about the future are there too.  What are the implications of the coronavirus outbreak for the future?  Am I doing what I should today to ensure a positive future for our organization and community?   While the primary focus right now is on resident/client/patient care, and ensuring our staff are safe and healthy, it doesn’t mean that our communications, fundraising, marketing, public relations, etc., should take a back seat. 

Our reputations, how we’re handling the coronavirus and how we’re treating all those in our care are all being measured each day.  Your stakeholders are paying attention!    One of the greatest resources an organization can have is a good reputation that only keeps improving as you handle difficult times.  Maintaining or increasing communications with your stakeholders and donors is more critical now than ever – sharing your preparation, your hard work and how you are maintaining your faith and values are very important to highlight.     

I am reminded of the words in Jim Collins’ Good to Great about how there are enduring great companies that face challenges.  “They all have ups and downs. The critical factor is not the absence of difficulty but the ability to bounce back and emerge stronger.”  This means taking the long view and considering how your decisions today will positively shape your future.  It’s viewing the world from a perspective of abundance, of having a strong foundation that will move you through adversity in a thoughtful strategic way.   

There is abundance to be found when we look for creative solutions to problems.  There is abundance to be found in acts of kindness and generosity when stress levels are high. There is abundance in the courage of the frontline staff and to all who are working with those who are sick and/or afraid. There is abundance in the energy, peace and wisdom that can emerge when we rely on our faith. There is abundance that can spring from thankfulness in the midst of all of our uncertainty.  There is abundance in knowing that we are all here for each other as members of our faith-based association. We are never alone! 


Taking Stock and Looking Ahead: a note from Karen Lehman, President and CEO

Christmas and the New Year are natural times to take stock of things.  I become a bit more reflective, thinking not only about the past year, but also thinking ahead to what I might want to change.  This is a good time to consider what new things want to emerge, and what needs to end. What have I learned this past year that helps me be a better person and leader and how will that shape my life and work in the year to come?

At MHS, we have been taking stock of our Association this past year. Throughout 2019, the MHS Board of Directors and Staff have spent time considering what has made us successful in the past and if the ways we have served members will make us successful in the future. We asked for member input - some formal processes and informal listening - to understand the value you receive from MHS membership.

With the insights that were shared, MHS launched a strategic planning initiative by hiring a consultant specializing in Association work and we launched a strategic planning process.  We value and appreciate all of the members that were part of this undertaking!

As a result of this work, the MHS Board has set forth three strategic initiatives:

  1. Define and convey a strong, unique value proposition
  2. Develop a clear and defined identity
  3. Grow the MHS Consulting business

We are excited to share our progress on these initiatives at Mennonite Health Assembly in March. In this season of renewal, we anticipate these initiatives will create new ways for us to help you strengthen your mission to bring God’s healing and hope into the world. I wish you all a joyous holiday season and meaningful change within the new year.

— Karen Lehman

Giving Thanks: a Note From Karen Lehman, President and CEO

As Thanksgiving approaches, I pause and reflect upon the many things we, at MHS, have to be thankful for. The first thing that comes to mind is you, our members! Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and for you to strengthen and extend your ministry in faithfully and effectively fulfilling your missions. Thank you for your time as I have visited with you to listen, learn and provide assistance at your request. The work you do is inspiring! I am mindful that your organizations minister to the vulnerable and I am thankful that your faith-inspired ministries offer caring and compassionate programs and services. I am thankful for our member values that we share together as an Anabaptist health and human services association.

I am grateful to our many partners who work collaboratively with us to support your missions. I am thankful for the MHS team who work with intention and integrity for you, our members. And I am thankful for our new Public Relations Manager team member, Chris Rahe who joined our team this month.

As you engage in this Thanksgiving season may you find many things to be thankful for as well. Let us give thanks to the giver of all good things!

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations,” Psalm 100:1, 4-5.

The Meek Leader: Lessons from Values-based Leadership Program

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5

The Values-based Leadership Program began its first session on October 1st and in preparation I am reading Blessings for Leaders by Dan R. Ebener. The chapters of the book focus on a beatitude found in the gospel of Matthew. I am drawn to the chapter on humility which references the beatitude; Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, (Matthew 5:5.).

The author reviews the Aramaic language used by Jesus, and the Greek language used by the New Testament writers and notes the word meek has a different connotation than what the English language today might suggest. “The Hebrew word for “meek” describes a faithful person who has the power of free will but chooses to follow God’s will without hesitation or resentment. In most organizations, the meek are those who do the tough, gritty work, day in and day out. Whether leaders or followers, the meek do not seek the limelight. They are slow to anger, steady in spirit, free of bitterness, and disciplined to be gentle and nonviolent.” Using this description from Ebener, we know that Jesus was a meek person.  Jesus knew when to take action, how to use his words carefully, and how to lead by example.

When you think about a meek or humble person, we don’t always associate those descriptions with typical leadership traits like power, self-control and strength. Using the new definition, those are exactly the words to describe a meek person.

We are drawn to follow leaders who are careful, considerate, know when to follow or when to lead, and learn from their disappointments and mistakes.  The author goes on to say that “leaders who are meek combine the dual qualities that John Collins described as “Level Five Leadership”” when he described “the two paradoxical qualities as (1) a “personal sense of humility” and (2) the “professional will to drive results” In today’s fast-paced world where reimbursement and funding pose a challenge, workforce issues and regulatory expectations continue to be stressors for all of our members, the will to drive results and focus on outcomes is critical to keeping our mission and focus.  Leaders, from the Board and CEO to the various management levels, have to balance all of these competing challenges.  

Now is a time to look at everything that we do and question every assumption that we have about our business. Who are we partnering with? How do we make the critical decisions on contracts and business agreements? Who are our closest partners in ministry and what is their mission? How many of those partners are making money from our clients, residents and stakeholders, that goes into their pocket or how many have a non-profit, liked-minded, faith-based focus? 

In the last two weeks I had the opportunity to hear updates from all of our MHS sponsored programs; the Peace Church Retention and Captive programs that MHS sponsors along with the Fellowship of Brethren Homes (FBH) and Friends Services Alliance (FSA), and the Medical Expense Plan (MEP) that MHS sponsors. Without a doubt, all of these programs are doing very well.  Some have matured to a point of hitting their highest stride, while others are still growing and improving – but all are performing at a high level.

All of the sponsored programs are member owned and at the end of the year, whatever excess over premiums earned can be distributed back to the owners, or used to further invest and support the program.  When the market fluctuates, these programs remain steady.  When one member has a bad experience, the other members are there to support them, knowing that they have been in the same situation in the past, or may be in the future.

What does all this have to do with humility and being meek? I believe that meek leaders are courageous leaders; they know when they need to be strong in the face of challenge. They also know that they don’t have to go it alone but that cooperation and working together is always better in the long run. We’re always stronger and more successful when we work together!

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Medical Expense Plan Leadership Change

On September 17, 2019, at the Medical Expense Plan (MEP) Governing Council annual meeting, Karl Sommers was honored and thanked for his service at the occasion of his retirement. Karl served as the Executive Director of MEP since 2012.

Karl started his long and illustrious career in insurance at Mennonite Mutual Aid (now Everence ™) in 1973. His career path has traversed from actuary, to managing government relations, to serving as a consultant for the merger of Mennonite Church USA, to being MMA’s Vice president of Corporate Planning.

In the late-1980’s Karl was instrumental in starting self-funded insurance options for MMA’s larger groups. These insurance options later gave rise to MHS’ Medical Expense Plan.

Karl’s work has been infused with integrity, commitment, knowledge and a passion for health insurance. During his tenure, the Medical Expense Plan experienced growth in member size and improved quality and performance. “Under Karl’s leadership and direction, MEP has demonstrated strong and consistent performance. This has given the program a solid financial foundation and stability to ensure our continued growth”, said Karen Lehman, MHS CEO.

The Medical Expense plan provides self-funded health insurance for 10 MHS member organizations and covers approximately 3,000 lives. MHS partners with Everence in the delivery of MEP. There are many benefits of self-insurance through MEP. Some of these include active participation in the governance of the plan, reduced financial risk, mutual aid, wellness program, shared Anabaptist values, and a 5% rate reduction due to being part of the Church Benefit Plan. 

Clare Krabill, MHS COO, will succeed Karl as the Managing Director of the MEP program. “I look forward to working with our current MEP members and sharing this excellent program with our MHS members. In traditional insurance plans, the insurance company keeps the profit if your premiums exceed your claims.. Self-insurance programs, like MEP, distribute the profit back to the organization if premiums exceed your claims. This money can then support your mission. Where do you want your organization’s money to go?” said Clare.

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Supporting Health & Human Services in the Church

As our churches have become smaller, more diverse, and with fewer resources, where does the church seek resources, information, education and support for their parishioners?

I attended the MC USA bi-annual church convention and delegate meeting, MennoCon19, along with my husband, Kent Beck, who served as a delegate for our church.  I don’t often get to travel with my husband so the time we spent together as well as the time spent in the MHS booth, worship, and the sessions were particularly special. 

Two days into MennoCon19 I had what I would call an “aha moment.”  At the booth and in between sessions, I connected with the diverse church members from across the country. I spoke with a retired physician and member of Mennonite Health Care Fellowship who was interested in learning about what MHS is doing. A retired MHS member CEO stopped by the MHS booth and was happy to see pictures of his organization covering the walls of our display. I had conversations with several young people who are considering careers in the medical field and wanted to talk about their future plans. During one conversation, a pastor shared his need for education on dementia care and how to support church members through planning for major life transitions. Many people walked by and asked “What is MHS?”

The majority of MHS members were started by a church, Mennonite Board of Missions, MCC, church conferences or individuals that saw a need for care and services in their church or community.  The stories of Mennonite, Brethren and Mennonite Brethren organizations are no longer well known within the church, and many Anabaptists today do not know the originations of our mental health services & programs, the need for developmental disability support, care and housing for those needing continuum services, foster care or adoption programs and acute care hospital services.

In all of these MennoCon19 interactions, I realized the great need in our churches to seek out relationships with pastors, lay leaders and others in our church communities to connect them to the MHS network. Today as mature, self-sufficient members who in many cases are no longer closely connected with our founding church or organization, we have an opportunity to share our expertise, education and resources.

Having a presence, giving presentations on resources, tools and connections to programs and services, and providing information on MHS member histories and current offerings is something that we at MHS are committed to provide at all of our member church conferences.  Join me in looking for the opportunities to share our stories and our resources. Let’s continue to be the hands and feet of the church to support healing and hope and our Anabaptist faith and values, as we serve across the United States and Puerto Rico.  

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Women in Leadership

“I know there are some of you in the room who will be surprised to hear that during my time as an intern, I was not allowed to wear pants,” shared President & CEO of MHS, Karen Lehman. Many women in leadership positions and upcoming leaders gathered to discuss what women in leadership looks like today and how we can use our current roles to continue shaping leadership roles for years to come.  

As women continue to break barriers in 2019, there is still progress to be made toward inclusive leadership opportunities for all women. Participants were invited to share specific challenges they experience or topics for discussion to start the learning lab, and immediately items like fighting perceptions of women, balancing work and life and harnessing empathy were offered to the group.  

Collaboratively, the group discussed some first steps to think about when confronted by the challenges named. The group was reminded that women are less likely to have had generations of seasoned leaders to seek out as mentors, leaving room for opportunity to learn from the men who came before and use the unique experiences as women to adjust to real life challenges. For example, in the current climate where recruiting and retaining quality employees is a challenge across the board for MHS members, women in the room were encouraged to harness empathy and communicate with future employees in ways that encourage our shared humanity.  

Women and men alike left the session with a renewed sense of inspiration for each of their roles in the work they do. “[I] was really looking forward to this and was not disappointed! I feel empowered to make change and keep working toward goals!” shared one participant. Another attendee suggested a women mentoring program could emerge out of this learning lab, and MHS is considering how to facilitate that idea.  

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Bluestem PACE & Clayworks Tour

What better way to learn innovative approaches than on a tour of a fellow MHS peer facility? Bluestem Communities of south-central Kansas is a conglomerate of senior living communities and services. During Mennonite Health Assembly this year, a group visited McPherson, Kansas and toured both Bluestem PACE facilities and the neighboring Clayworks studios to learn how they innovate.  

Bluestem PACE is one of the only PACE programs within the MHS membership and the only rural model of its kind. The facilities were much quieter than a normal day due to closures in response to the Novo virus in the area. Bluestem PACE staff took MHA attendees through the building, explaining how the position of certain rooms and the inclusion of different onsite staff allowed for the best care to all participants. Emilie Rains, Director of Market Development and Intake and our tour guide explained how the PACE model can offer better support for individuals wanting to stay in their homes than can be provided on their own or through family. Participants are transported to the center facility based on their needs and have immediate access to warm meals, physical therapy, a primary care physician, and many different activities with the opportunity for socialization.   

Touring the facilities and meeting the staff allowed MHS members to ask questions and learn from their peers. One member asked Emilie how the PACE relationships with onsite medical staff and the physical therapist worked. While in the primary care space, we met some of the nursing staff and saw the on-staff doctor’s office, belonging to Jon Casimir. Emilie explained that because of their model and demand for service, Jon works out of the Bluestem PACE facility exclusively.  

For the last hour of the afternoon in McPherson, the group walked two blocks downtown and arrived at the Clayworks studio and gallery. Clayworks is one program within the Disability Supports of the Great Plains network where artistic expression is encouraged among all participating artists. Case workers at Disability Supports recommend artists in their caseload to spend time creating at the Clayworks studio. Artists use clay and other media to create unique pieces which are then sold in the front gallery with tags showcasing the artist who receives all of the profit from their pieces. For many on the tour, this was their first exposure to an entrepreneurial program within a larger Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities network. Questions were asked about the sustainability of this sort of program and staff explained that with the support of Disability Supports and the high quality of the work itself, sales are good and they anticipate the project staying around for a long time to come. 

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Preserving Culture Through Transition

Strong organizations today survive with a flexible attitude toward growth and accepting new opportunities when they present themselves. Tools are available when creating a growth strategy, and MHS can help! What happens to culture during growth? Laurie Nafziger, CEO of Oaklawn, and Audra Mark, Oaklawn Board Chair, shared their lessons learned from two recent mergers.  

Opportunity for Oaklawn came during the recession of 2008, when competitors in a neighboring county had to cut their losses and looked to Oaklawn for help. The decision to merge was a difficult one for Laurie and the board, but once they put their hat in the ring, the real work began. Audra and Laurie both mentioned feeling apprehension about how the oncoming staff would adjust to the Oaklawn culture, which was very different to the previous one. At the same time, leadership was thoughtful to keep the current staff engaged with the existing culture.  

With support from the board, Laurie began a transition strategy. She worked with her communications team to craft a message of identity for Oaklawn within these new times. Keeping the identity as Oaklawn instead of Oaklawn-Goshen and Oaklawn-Mishawaka was important to the perceptions of culture that were changing. Laurie and her team worked to onboard new employees under the Oaklawn set of expectations and overall culture. Consistency was one of the principals in the transition, along with transparency and frequent messaging to keep everyone on the same page.  

Now, 7 years after successful mergers of two different facilities, Oaklawn is proud of how their culture has grown to include new employees and new locations, without losing guiding principles. Many participants in the room could relate to the culture struggles within their own organizations and were able to share their own experiences with the group, furthering a sense of collaboration and togetherness. 

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Cultivating Joy- Mennonite Health Assembly 2019

WICHITA—More than 200 health and human services professionals gathered in Wichita, Kansas, February 28-March 2 to attend Mennonite Health Assembly 2019, “Cultivating Joy.” 

Assembly opened with the annual MHS members meeting where new members were welcomed, and members with anniversaries were celebrated. Long serving board chair Laurie Nafziger of Oaklawn passed the baton to Valerie Rempel PhD of Fresno Pacific University who will serve as board chair for a term of two years. “Laurie’s steady leadership, thoughtfulness, and humor created opportunities of growth for MHS, during executive transition and leading up to our current strategic planning” said MHS CEO Karen Lehman. MHS members elected James Krehbiel of Bluestem Communities and Mark Leinbach of Spring Haven Inc. to serve as the newest MHS board members for the next 4-year term.  Larry Miller retired CEO of Everence was also recognized as an appointee to the board by Mennonite Church USA. James Kelly of United Methodist Retirement Communities was appointed to the MHS Consulting board of directors.  

MHS continued its Emerging Leaders program on Thursday morning with special leadership training provided by Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Hesston College. The training used the adaptive leadership theory offered at the Kansas Leadership Center and allowed for emerging leaders to engage with their leadership journey and learn new leadership ideas while networking with their peers. “The opportunity to meet with likeminded young professionals working for Anabaptist organizations was very encouraging and inspiring. Having the Emerging Leaders program embedded within the MHA program allowed for broader networking and exposure to the experience of others’ careers in leadership.” Said emerging leader Lyubov Slashcheva. 

In line with the theme, attendees were met at each general session by featured artists “Cultivating Joy” throughout the week: Susan Bartel demonstrated her watercolor prints, David Anderson played the hammer dulcimer, Hanna Eastin threw her pottery on the wheel, Navy Widyani soloed on the harp, Brad Shores entertained on the steel drums, and John Buckner worked the lathe. Experts in areas ranging from women in leadership, to ageism, to social connection, led engaging Learning Lab workshops each day of Assembly. 

A celebration of Mim Shirk’s years of service with MHS was held on Friday evening. Strong praise for Shirk were given by MHS board chair Laurie Nafziger and others and fellowship followed. The Anabaptist Providers Group hired Shirk in January as its CEO. 

During Friday’s general session the group focused on the season of joy “Autumn- The world charged with the grandeur of God”. John Sharp shared the powerful story of the abduction and murder of his son Michael J. Sharp during his work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Despite the tragedy of losing Michael, John and his family have continued Michael’s humanitarian work and have enabled others to grow in their opportunities through the strength of their experience and willingness to share in vulnerability with the community. By choosing this path of relationship and connectedness, the Sharp’s have found joy within the context of grief” commented Jubilee Association of Maryland staff Tim Wiens, Julia Zehr McCune & Dominique Clark. 

Assembly concluded on Saturday morning with a closing hymn sing led by Vern Rempel and the Book of Jebb. Vern led the group in a closing blessing where each participant sent off their peers by pouring water over each other's hands amidst words of blessing as they returned home. 

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1/18/2019 - Organizational Transition? Don’t Panic 

What do you do when your Management Agent of 30 years tells your Board of Directors that he has decided to retire? Panic? Despair?

Let me explain; Brementowne Manor is a 106 apartment building in a south suburb of Chicago. We were founded by a passionate group of Mennonites who saw the need for affordable housing for low-income seniors in the early 1980s. We are a HUD building, and receive federal rent subsidies—also known as Section 8 vouchers—for our residents. Our staff is very small, many of whom have worked together for decades. Despite the fact we knew the day was coming when our Management Agent would retire, our Board of Directors was facing a challenge. So we called MHS for help.

In May of 2017, Karen Lehman (who was later named as the new CEO of MHS) was quickly assigned as our MHS Consultant. Karen met with our Board that July, beginning the important work of looking at our current operations, our environment as a stand-alone building, and our identity as an historically Mennonite institution. Over the years, we had been contacted by many service providers of various backgrounds—was it important to our Board to seek the services of a new Mennonite Site Manager? We determined that it was, and with Karen’s help, put together a short list of providers. And we prayed that God would lead us in the next step of our organization’s history.

We were blessed and fortunate that Karen recommended MHS-member Thurston Woods Village to us. TWV is a continuing care retirement community in Sturgis, Michigan, about 2 hours from our location in Illinois. After Karen determined that TWV was interested in our opening, several members of our Board and our Operations Administrator, Cheryl Wright, made the trip to Sturgis. TWV is a wonderful facility very capably run by CEO Theo Omo, and CFO Derek Betts. They even have a small HUD facility on their campus!

After the hard work of developing a contract with TWV, promoting our Site Manager to Operations Administrator, and submitting our new contract to HUD for review, we emerged from nearly two years of transition planning by the fall of 2018, with TWV as our new Site Manager.

Organizational change is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it helps greatly if an organization has an experienced partner in the process. With the help of Karen Lehman, and the community of Mennonite providers, we were able to find a solution that was mutually beneficial for both Brementowne and Thurston Woods Village. Together, we are looking forward to the future: not with panic, but with peace. 

Carlen Sellers,
President of the Board of Brementowne Manor,
Tinley Park, Illinois

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12/20/2018 - Mim Shirk Resigns as MHS VP; Accepts CEO Position at APG

GOSHEN, Ind.—The board of Anabaptist Providers Group (APG) has announced that Mim Shirk has accepted the position of president and CEO of APG, effective January 1, 2019. 

“After an extensive search process we are pleased that Mim Shirk will serve as our next president and CEO,” says Jerry Lile, APG Board Chair. “We look forward to the ways in which she will utilize her expertise and impressive track record to lead APG into the future.”

Shirk will be vacating her current role as VP of MHS where she has overseen member services, Mennonite Health Assembly, and MHS communication and corporate operations for 21 years. “Mim’s wisdom and guidance in the day-to-day operations at MHS will be missed,” says Karen Lehman, MHS President and CEO. “But we are very pleased that she will continue to be part of MHS through this important role at APG—and we believe APG will be very well served by Mim!”

During her tenure at MHS Shirk has consistently put members first and was involved in shifting the organization toward a more member-driven approach. She assisted in restructuring the board to be rostered by 50 percent member-elected directors and engaged members at an annual MHS members’ meeting that drew over 100 attendees. “Mim has been a solid rock and has done an excellent job of listening to members and supporting them as needs have grown and changed,” says Lehman.

Shirk has also prioritized development of leaders throughout her career. “MHS is deeply indebted to Mim for her many years of thoughtful guidance and leadership of most—if not all—programs and services in place today,” adds Lehman. She led the steering committee for the Values-based Leadership Program (a collaborative effort that has provided leadership training for more than 600 leaders), and she developed the Emerging Leaders program at Mennonite Health Assembly.

“Mim brings many years of senior management experience in non-profit settings to APG,” says Lile, “and we value her commitment to strengthening our network of Anabaptist ministries.”

Shirk will complete current projects at MHS and conclude her role as Vice President on April 30, 2019. She will concurrently begin her duties at APG on January 1, 2019.

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12/19/20 - Cultivating Joy in Worship

“As a farmer’s daughter, the word cultivate resonates with me as I think about what it means to actively seek opportunities to develop our passions, fully invest in our relationships, or allow ourselves to fully engage in worship,” says Deb Roth, producer and co-planner of Mennonite Health Assembly, February 28-March 2 in Wichita.

Attendees of MHA will have the opportunity to cultivate passions and relationships, as well as partake in leadership development and in-depth learning experiences with experts in a variety of areas. But when it comes to worship, Deb Roth and Vern Rempel, Maestro of the event, are most focused on this year’s theme: Cultivating Joy.

“In my life and experience,” says Vern, “Joy arises when I remember that my day, my heartbeat, and the created beauty all around invites me constantly into community, participation in kindness, and the sense that in God's universe, love is eternal.” And it is with that heart and mindset that general sessions at this year’s Assembly are being designed. 

“In our planning, I have already learned that cultivating joy may involve digging into the weeds of pain or the hope of planting something new,” says Deb. “My prayer is that participants attend our common times of gathering ready to be present, respond, and cultivate what God has for us to experience together in Wichita.”

Registration for MHA is open now at www.mhsonline.org/health-assembly, where you can also find lodging and other general information. Early bird rates end February 4; group and student rates are available.

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12/12/2018 - Karl Sommers to Retire in 2019

After six years of service as Executive Director of the Medical Expense Plan (MEP), Karl Sommers has announced his plan to retire, effective September 2019. Over the past six years, Karl has provided strong leadership and vision, moving the MEP forward and ensuring long-term sustainability with high performance. We ask God’s blessing on Karl as he makes this transition next year, and thank him for his years of dedicated service.

MHS will take time to discern the leadership direction for MEP.

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11/20/2018 - Welcome, New Members!

MHS is pleased to welcome two new members: Christian Care Retirement Community and Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship!

Founded in 1989 by two Apostolic Christian Churches of America, Christian Care Retirement Community continues to be managed and governed by members of the Apostolic Christian Church body. They hold to the values of the Apostolic Christian church body, which places a strong emphasis on promoting the gospel and love of Jesus Christ through its mission of serving the elderly with compassionate, quality care in a Christ-centered environment.

Christian Care Retirement Community provides a continuum of care that includes skilled nursing and rehabilitation, assisted living, and independent living all on one campus location.

Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF) is a network of Anabaptist healthcare professionals. Through an annual gathering, regional groups, webinars, newsletters, blogs and social media, Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship promotes interaction and networking, explores application of Anabaptist principles to health care, considers current issues and their implications for faith and practice, promotes healthcare practices that reflect Anabaptist values and beliefs, takes a proactive role in the church community regarding health issues, and supports projects related to healthcare.

The mission of MHF is to be an interdisciplinary community of Anabaptist health professionals which seeks to nurture the integration of faith and practice, to provide opportunities for dialogue on health-related issues, and to address specific needs through education, advocacy, and service.

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11/9/2018 - LeadingAge National 2018

MHS Consulting presented a session on Executive Transition at LeadingAge National 2018. The session, presented by Rick Stiffney, Donna Duss, Karen Lehman, Martin Schappell, and Emerson Lesher, was well attended with eager and engaged participants. Many attendees offered follow-up questions, and our MHS Consultants were pleased to offer specific insight into best practices for boards and CEOs in times of transition.   

Organizations want to plan well for CEO succession, but these transitions may not always go as planned. Without a good plan, process, or information on best practices for a search process, it can be a very challenging time for a board of directors. How a CEO leaves an organization is more important than when the CEO first comes to the organization; the last year for a CEO in a planned transition is one of the most important years in a long tenure. If your organization is facing a time of transition, MHS Consulting offers a collaborative team of professionals to work alongside you through the process.

LeadingAge is also a wonderful time to reconnect with MHS consulting clients and colleagues, and Karen Lehman, Mim Shirk, Alisa Miller, Dennis Russell, Donna Duss, and Emerson Lesher enjoyed time doing that at the MHS Expo Booth. 

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10/22/2018 - Values-Based Leadership Program Recap 
MT PLEASANT—A total of 28 participants gathered to engage Values-Based Leadership Program (VBPL) October 2-5 at Laurelville. "I enjoyed self-reflecting on my style and how it pertains to my leadership," said one attendee. "I valued spending time with people opposite my style so I could see their point of view.”

Of the 28 attendees, 12 represented MHS members: Mennonite Home Communities, Sunshine Communities, Landis Communities, Goldenrod, Pleasant View, Frederick Living, Spring Haven, and United Zion Retirement Communities. Glen Guyton, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, was also a participant as well as a leader of a session on developing intercultural competence. 

The group also worked through sessions about integrity, Anabaptist beliefs, leadership practices and understanding, DiSC, and their own leadership profiles with co-facilitators Lee Schmucker and Rick Stiffney. Four cohorts of 7 met to process these sessions and swap leadership stories, and during breaks, everyone enjoyed the beautiful setting in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania.

These established cohorts will now meet monthly to encourage each other in their goals set at VBPL, and the full group will reconvene at Laurelville in February. 

To find out more about Values-Based Leadership Program, visit www.vblp.org.

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09/18/2018 - MHS Executive Circle
By Karen Lehman, CEO/President of MHS

I remember the first time I received an email announcing an MHS Executive Circle opportunity. Several years had passed since earning my MBA degree, and I realized how much I missed the academic rigor of my MBA collaborative program. After such an intense 2-year program, I was starting to miss the discipline that came with routine assignments. On my own, I picked up leadership and business book and stayed up-to-date on the latest industry articles, but I realized what I missed most was that I didn’t have anyone to discuss these ideas with, or to engage in conversation about the challenges of being a CEO in a faith-based setting. 

Although I was not working for a MHS member organization at the time, I was invited to join the MHS Executive Circle, and decided to attend. I’m so glad I did.

Through my participation in the Executive Circle, I have made new and lasting friends. I have benefited from the opportunity to have open and honest conversations with trusted colleagues, and especially with those who were having some of the same experiences and challenges that I was. The wise counsel and advice that we gained as participants, along with thoughtful input from the leaders of the program, have guided me along my leadership journey.

Why choose The Executive Circle over other leadership programs? Simple: MHS brings Anabaptist values and a faith-infused perspective to an already excellent program, making it the obvious choice for MHS members and like-minded CEO’s.

To register for Executive Circle, click here.

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08/22/2018 - CEO Evaluations: An Essential Identity Safeguard 
By Karen Lehman, CEO/President of MHS

Without a doubt, the most important responsibility for a Board of Directors is to guard the organization’s identity. One of the best ways to ensure that identity is through CEO evaluations.

As volunteer Board members with busy schedules, it’s often easy to put off the annual CEO evaluation. We make excuses, shift it to an every-other-year process, or simply rush through an evolution that was designed to be robust and thoughtfully executed. It’s especially easy to become complacent when things are going well. But annual CEO evaluations are one of the best ways to ensure an organization is achieving its strategic mission, maintaining its vision, and reflecting its faith-based identity.

The CEO assessment helps the CEO and Board, of course, but it ultimately benefits the whole organization. When the Board and CEO take time to discuss performance and consider future goals and opportunities, they can rest assured that the organization is on the right track and is moving toward larger strategic goals. It also provides the opportunity to review and clarify performance expectations and organization direction, ensures goals and core competencies are reviewed and evaluated for ongoing performance, and acknowledges and celebrates accomplishments and achievements.

Finding the right tools and systems to complete the annual CEO assessment is the key to this process. MHS provides several resources to support this process, like the MHS online CEO assessment tool. Many organizations have benefited from this tool; it provides a fairly easy way to assess leadership in eight leadership competencies. A shortened version of this tool will soon be available. Both of these tools are offered to MHS members at no cost. An annual CEO assessment is included in MHS member benefits. There are some organizations that have also used the modestly-priced 360 feedback tool alternate years in order to include key leadership in the process.

While good tools and carefully considered processes are important, what is most critical is that there are ongoing conversations between the Board and CEO regarding performance. This is one of the Board’s primary responsibilities and is critical to the success of the CEO and to the entire organization.

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07/19/2018 - Harmony Village Celebrates 35 Years of Service 

COLUMBIANA—Harmony Village is a small—but vital—housing community in Columbiana, Ohio. They have been serving their community for over three decades, offering quality and affordable housing to low-income adults for 35 years. To celebrate this monumental milestone, Harmony Village hosted a special anniversary party attended by residents, staff, board members, and MHS CEO Karen Lehman.

During the event, Harmony Village thanked and recognized its founding couple, board, former Executive Director, staff, and supporting pastors. Current residents spoke of their love for the organization, reiterating what a pleasure it is to call Harmony Village “home.”

“I felt such a deep commitment from the community,” said Karen about her time at Harmony Village. “Not just from the residents that live there, but also from the churches and local community. I was touched by the amount of care and input that the board, staff, and residents put into their work—what an amazing place.”

The celebration ended on a high note, complete with cake from local favorite Das Dutch Haus Restaurant. 

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07/17/2018 - Highlights from LeadingAge PA

HERSHEY—For three days in June, attendees of the LeadingAge PA annual conference were delighted by presentations and networking events in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The MHS Consulting booth was a busy corner of the EXPO, with members and clients stopping by to chat with CEO Karen Lehman, Managing Director of MHS Consulting Alisa Miller, Senior Vice President Mim Shirk, and Consulting Associate Emerson Lesher, alongside Everence representatives Randy Nyce and Bill Parsons. It was a pleasure to reconnect with old friends and form relationships with new ones.

Additionally, MHS’s Alisa Miller facilitated a workshop in partnership with Carrie Arnold from Sunshine and Matt Gehman from Everence. Their workshop, Workforce Survival and Engagement, provided details on how to implement a successful Employer Sponsored Small-Dollar Loans program. If interested in piloting a similar program, contact mim@mhsonline.org.

During the opening session, it was announced that MHS has been selected to create and facilitate a new, customized, leadership-development program for LeadingAge PA. We are incredibly pleased to have been chosen to develop this new program. 

Mim Shirk, interim president for Anabaptist Providers Group, arranged a focus group of senior staff APG. In answer to the question “how is APG different than LeadingAge PA,” the group concluded APG has more of an inward focus for members, supporting their Anabaptist values and identity, and helps build strong leadership teams and boards.

Other event highlights include keynote speaker Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who inspired the group to tap resources within their organizations, a session on middle marketing senior housing, and a workshop on Lean Management describing how to build a culture of continuous improvement.

Gathering with like-minded peers is a crucial component of reinforcing our values and encouraging each other in leadership. Mark your calendars for Mennonite Health Assembly, February 28 to March 2, in sunny Wichita, Kansas.

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06/25/2018 - Board Self-Assessment: Why Take the Time? 
By Karen Lehman, President/CEO of MHS

If you want something done, ask a busy person. Countless board members prove this statement to be true: they work on multiple boards while still balancing professional and personal demands. When a person volunteers to be part of the mission and vision of an organization, they commit to figuring out how the additional responsibility will fit into their already busy schedule. They’re willing to do it because they know their participation in board work will make a difference to those served.  

But why would any busy board member want to waste their time in dysfunctional board service?  No boards strive to be less than high performing, but sometimes organizational priorities and other board responsibilities take precedence over taking proper time to measure and monitor board performance. Knowing that board members have multiple professional and personal priorities should be a catalyst for organizations to strive for the highest board performance possible.

High-performing boards regularly measure and monitor their performance, including reflecting on responsibilities, increasing participation and effectiveness, ensuring shared vision, and displaying credibility to all the organizational stakeholders. At one recent board session, board members were motivated by a discussion of their responses:

“Doing the assessment reminded me of our responsibilities as a board”
“When did we last review the bylaws?”
“Whose responsibility is it to initiate the evaluation of the executive?”

Performing regular board assessments may seem daunting, but if the responsibility is “owned” by a governance committee for scheduling and ensuring follow up, and if the process is respected and given priority, the results can and will improve the effectiveness of the boards work. Taking the time to monitor and assess board work may be one of the most effective board recruitment tools a board can use.


MHS has developed a Board Self-Assessment tool based on the framework of Chait, Ryan, and Taylor in "Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards."  The tool addresses six key functions of board functioning, and can be customized to fit the needs of a specific organization. After each board member completes the online assessment, our staff analyzes the resulting data and prepares a report with a personalized executive summary. The report also includes graphs depicting the responses of your board to each question and suggested next steps for board development. 
For more information on the MHS Board Self-Assessment tool, contact twila@mhsonline.org.

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05/21/2018 - Mim's Corner 

Wherever I go across the country, I find members are talking about staffing shortages. Overtime and agency use are stressing budgets, and there’s no relief in sight.

On May 16, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of human resource leaders from MHS members in Pennsylvania and Virginia to discuss these issues. Hosted by Living Branches at the Souderton Mennonite Homes Campus, we heard a presentation by Gwen Schuit, CEO at Friendship Community. Gwen made the case for investing in current employees, encouraging their success while simultaneously reducing turnover. The group then shared their challenges and strategies for reaching new candidates, creating flexible shifts, and increasing retention.

Across the hall, a group of chaplains also gathered to learn about helping individuals and families prepare for death.

MHS offers regional and virtual affinity group meetings throughout the year, bringing peers together for support and gain new ideas to be more successful in their work. If your organization could benefit from a similar meeting, email us for more information at info@mhsonline.org

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05/08/2018 - Alisa Miller Named Managing Director of MHS Consulting 

GOSHEN—MHS is pleased to formally announce that Alisa Miller is the new Managing Director of MHS consulting. She has been serving as Acting Director since October of 2017, becoming the official Managing Director in February of this year.
Miller has been with MHS for many years and is an incomparable choice for this new position. “Alisa is an excellent and seasoned leader—I have total confidence in her,” says Karen Lehman, CEO of MHS. “She is well prepared for this position.”

In some ways, this role is similar to the previous position Miller held. She will continue to serve and engage with clients, but with the added responsibility of guiding the direction of the practice, as well as developing business and relationships. “The scope and engagement is much broader,” says Miller about her new position. “I am really enjoying that added dimension.” As for the immediate future, Miller says she is most looking forward to attending the state and national LeadingAge Conferences. These networking events are excellent opportunities to connect with clients and foster new relationships, and Miller is especially excited to see MHS associates presenting and participating in several workshops

Through this time of transition, MHS Consulting maintains its standards of excellence as it serves its clients. “Our core strengths continue to be leadership development, transition, interim, and support service, but we also offer clinical, operational, market, and financial consulting,” says Miller about client services. “We enjoy collaborating with other professionals, often finding our strength is listening to a need and developing a multi-disciplined team of professionals to provide a solution. Being part of MHS gives us unique insights into all aspects of organizational challenges and opportunities." 

With Miller’s talent, vision, and understanding of the work to be done, the future of MHS Consulting looks brighter than ever.  

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04/09/2018 - Puerto Rico: The Work Continues 

PUERTO RICO—Puerto Rico holds a special place in the heart of Dr. Carolyn Heggen, a Mennonite therapist who specializes in trauma recovery. She spent her childhood in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, later studying and teaching at the Academia Menonita Betania.

During her latest visit to the island, sponsored by MHS and Mennonite Disaster Service, Dr. Heggen gave four major presentations and met with many of the church members who were traumatized by the effects of hurricane Maria.

Her first presentation was to professional counselors and deans at an in-service day, sponsored by the InterAmerican University at the Guayama campus. She then traveled to Hatillo, Arecibo, and Utuado, educating church leaders and pastors on “compassion fatigue” and self-care, where her words were welcomed as a healing "balm of Gilead."

The church is responding to the many needs still present today, like the continued lack of electricity in many parts of the island. Pastors are advocating for more roof repairs to be completed before the next hurricane season starts in July, and community leaders want the cement houses and church buildings to be started now.

Responding to these needs, MDS Puerto Rico is awarding grants to accelerate and empower local Mennonite churches to respond faster to those needs that have been identified. Their goal is to help the community as they address needs, to empower churches in their support of members’ needs, and to be hope in the midst of despair.

Dr. Heggen's visit may be over, but there is still much work to be done in Puerto Rico. With support from MHS and MDS, a planning group recently met to discuss a longer-term initiative to provide mental health support to those impacted by the hurricane.

The group was comprised of several qualified professionals, including: Rose Gillin, MD, staff member at Maple City Health Center, Linda Christophel, MDS volunteer serving in PR, social worker, Paul Liechty, Executive Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship, Daniel Greaser, professional social worker and trauma-competent, Carolyn Holderread-Heggen, trauma specialist and experienced teacher and counselor, Elizabeth Soto, MDS coordinator in Puerto Rico, Maria Del Mar Torres, Executive Director of mental health services with Sistema de Salud Menonita, and Rick Stiffney, current CEO of MHS and knowledgeable of the Puerto Rican health system.

If funded, this 18-to-24-month plan would support church leaders, educators, and healthcare providers, equipping them with the tools needed to understand and respond to post-hurricane challenges. These activities would include:

1. Additional relationship building and assessment of opportunities and needs.

2. Development of a resource team available for engagement in Puerto Rico.

3. Retreats for pastors and spouses.

4. Professional education-training events to equip Puerto Rican professionals.

MHS and MDS will continue to provide updates on this long-term plan as it develops. 

Some of this story has been adapted from Elizabeth Soto's blog post entitled 'God With Skin On.'

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03/26/2018 - 2017 Annual Report is now available!  

This past year we resolved to move forward: 2017 was a season of embracing progress and celebrating change, even as we remained steadfast in our pursuit of Christ and our efforts to embody Anabaptist values.

Undoubtedly, 2018 will bring its own share of opportunities and difficulties. Despite that, we rest confidently in Christ. With a new CEO at the helm, MHS welcomes fresh possibilities and adventures as we navigate these uncharted waters.

We certainly have bright hope for the new horizon that tomorrow brings!

Click here to read our full, 2017 MHS Annual Report.

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 03/10/2018 - Health Assembly 2018 Recap

PITTSBURGH—More than 200 health and human services professionals gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 8-10 to attend Mennonite Health Assembly 2018, “Celebrating Resilience.”

Following an MHS Alliance members' meeting on Thursday, Assembly opened with a general session that introduced five “Creative Guests” who were featured throughout the week: Sadie Gustafson-Zook and Ethan Setiawan contributed musical leadership, Billy Funk offered lively interpretations of resilience through video and improv, Emily Marko drew illustrations of aspects of Assembly as they were happening, and Ted Swartz of Ted & Co. provided inspiring examples of the power of storytelling. 

Experts in areas ranging from diversity, to Millennials in the workplace, to board governance, led engaging Learning Lab workshops each day of Assembly, including a pre-conference session led by Lee Schmucker on Dealing Effectively with Workplace Conflict.

A celebration of Rick Stiffney’s years of service at MHS was held on Thursday evening and attended by more than 130 guests. Accolades for Stiffney were given by MHS board chair Laurie Nafziger and others, and memories were re-lived over chocolate fondue.

During Friday’s general session, four keynote “Storytellers” shared true stories of resilience in their lives and work. Don Tyson of Eastern Mennonite University, Vicki Pendleton, formerly of Jubilee, Everett J. Thomas, formerly of Greencroft, and Laurie Nafziger of Oaklawn each shared powerful testimonies of withstanding struggle as part of a supportive community. “There is power in healing on a shared journey,” said Pendleton in her story. “We know it takes character, community, faith, and resilience to move through it with grace together.”

Friday’s dinner was a networking event that took small groups of diners to restaurants all over Pittsburgh. The evening concluded with a Celebration of Resilience to support hurricane recovery work in Puerto Rico. Jim Alvarez of Everence brought an update on the work of Sistema de Salud Menonita, and two donors provided $1,000 matching gifts. “Pay to Play” board games, mini golf, and even a hula-hoop challenge were fun opportunities for partygoers to contribute to a worthy cause, and $3,300 was raised by the end of the evening.

Assembly concluded on Saturday morning with brunch and a closing session led by Ted Swartz. “Sometimes I wonder if resilience is simply showing up, because all we can do is survive,” he said. “And other times I wonder if it’s picking our heads up, seeing the light, and looking back at how far we’ve come.”

Rick Stiffney offered a closing reflection saying, “Assembly is a time when we come together to encourage each other, build relationships, and share resources—and this has been a grand event with fresh approaches, great music, and lots of stories and fun together.” He added later, “Resilience is about clarifying our core convictions and asking if our structures have the integrity and capacity to withstand strain, as well as to adapt.” Stiffney expressed deep appreciation for all those in attendance, concluding with joyful thanks for his years at MHS and a warm welcome to incoming MHS CEO, Karen Lehman.

Read more details about this year's event at www.mhsonline.org/news. The next Mennonite Health Assembly will be held in Wichita, Kansas, February 28- March 2, 2019. 

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 03/09/2018 - Stronger Together: Stories of Resilience 

PITTSBURGH—Four keynote Storytellers recounted tales of resilience in their lives and work at the second general session at Mennonite Health Assembly, 2018. 

Don Tyson of Eastern Mennonite University told a story of students and faculty coming together in the face of tragedy. Together they formed a sacred covenant in their department and leaned on the understanding that the best way to survive uncertainty is to walk through the experience together. While experiencing loss and stress, they were committed to holding each other up and enduring as a united, committed community. “We are all accountable to each other and we experience resilience when we gather around the table together,” said Tyson. 

Vicki Pendleton, formerly of Jubilee, told the story of the deaths of six residents over the course of only a few months—the most loss in the shortest amount of time the facility had ever experienced. Two of those who passed were in their 20’s, which struck particularly close to home for Vicki, who had lost her own son when he was only 23. “I know the importance of others walking alongside you in grief,” she said. “And I was allowed to offer encouragement to another mother who was experiencing a loss that was similar to my own.” Pendleton expressed gratitude for the space to grieve and heal at Jubilee, and for staff that go above and beyond to provide comfort and compassion, and who choose to be a witness to the life and death of individuals. “There is power in healing on a shared journey,” said Pendleton. “Death and dying are not pretty, but we know it takes character, community, faith, and resilience to move through it with grace together."

After a musical interlude provided by Sadie Gustafson-Zook and Ethan Setiawan, retired Greencroft chaplain Everett Thomas took the stage and reminded listeners that growing old is a unique experience for everyone. He told the story of a former resident who was active, healthy, and independent—until she fell and broker her hip. The recovery was so painful that she asked her doctor, “what if I simply give up?” When the doctor told her she would get worse and inevitably die, she determined that, as painful as it was, she couldn't give up. “I need to honor the life God gave me,” she said. Eventually, she recovered, and Thomas asked if he could write her story of resilience. When she read his draft, she deemed it acceptable and kept a copy for herself. “She said she'd use it for future reference,” said Thomas. “And so will I."

Laurie Nafziger of Oaklawn brought the fourth and final story of the session. “Last August, there was an incident at our facility for mentally ill men,” she began. "Around midnight, the staff person on duty asked two residents who were up past curfew to go to their rooms.” Some kind of disagreement ensued and ended with one of the residents dead, the staff person in jail, a slew of circling attorneys, and little information. 

There were also unfortunate new realities to consider: Oaklawn hadn’t provided basic safety for the resident, their beloved employee would be forever changed, all the other employees might now be thinking, “This could happen to me,” and the other residents of the facility were now traumatized by the death of a house-mate. There was sure to be negative media to protect against, and a lawsuit could easily roll into 6 or even 7 figures. Worst of all, there were no concrete facts or reliable witnesses. 

As CEO, Nafziger stepped into action. Her team quickly mobilized over the next few days to establish priorities and create a plan, implementing it over the next several weeks. Though the ordeal is still far from over and there is much work to be done, the Oaklawn team is resilient and continues to move forward together. 

“We carry on,” said Nafziger. “I know we will make it through this, and here’s why:

  • We’ve faced hard things before, so we have practice at bouncing back and looking ahead. 
  • We are completely convinced of the importance and goodness of our work. 
  • We are not alone. We are surrounded by a community that values us, a strong board, terrific management team, and a host of smart and kind colleagues. 
  • God is holding us—all of Oaklawn—and that’s a very safe place to be.”

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03/09/2018 - An Assembly Update with Karen Lehman 

Halfway through Mennonite Health Assembly, 2018, we caught up with MHS consultant and incoming CEO, Karen Lehman, to get her perspective on this year’s Assembly. 

How has this year’s Assembly been unique from others? 
“I’m not sure if it’s the location, the theme of Celebrating Resilience, or the strong presence of art and music, but it feels as though more meaningful networking is taking place among attendees at this year’s Assembly. The structure has created a more interactive and engaging setting, the Learning Lab workshop format is highly interactive, and session topics have been widely relevant to all attendees, rather than being industry specific. This has brought a good mix of disciplines and levels of staff to the same table, which has led to rich, diverse conversation. I’ve already been hearing how this year’s Assembly has been such a good conference, and we are certainly having some fun!"

What has been a particularly meaningful or memorable moment for you during this Assembly? 
"The cross-generational discussion in the “Misconceptions and Millennials” Learning Lab was a bit of an “ah-ha” experience for me. It was such great dialog and emphasized that persons of various ages may not be as different as we think. It’s our values and passions that drive our engagement and make us who we are—not our age. Because many of us who work in nonprofits are so mission-driven, our organizations have unique opportunities to engage younger generations because we can offer the feeling of being part of something significant." 

What do you hope that attendees will leave with this year?
"I hope we all leave here with a renewed sense of purpose in what we're doing. Being with like-minded people who are facing the same challenges, and as Anabaptists, being with others who share our values, I hope we go home reassured that we’re aligned with colleagues who understand, and with the confidence that we are members of a supportive community that exists even after this gathering has ended. 

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03/09/2018 - Annual Members' Meeting

PITTSBURGH — MHS annual members' meeting, sponsored by Highmark, was held on Thursday, March 8, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

MHS Board Chair, Laurie Nafziger opened the meeting by welcoming eight new member CEOs to MHS Alliance: Jason Abodeely of Sunshine Communities in Maumee, Ohio, Clara Ames of No Longer Alone Ministries in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sara Hiebert of Bethesda Homes in Goessel, Kansas, Nick Jedlicka of Pleasantview Home in Kalona, Iowa, Jeremy LaKosh of Maple Lawn Homes in Eureka, Illinois, Bryan Mierau of Center for Healing & Hope in Goshen, Indiana, Leland Sapp of Peaceful Living in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, Mike Ray of Green Hills Community in West Liberty, Ohio, and Edith Yoder of Hope National in Exton, Pennsylvania.

Introductions and fun facts about each new member brought good-natured laughs and a personal and engaging beginning to the gathering. 

Emerging Leaders in attendance of the meeting were also acknowledged by Nafziger, who said, “It’s so important to keep the leadership pipeline full.” MHS board, staff, consultants, and partners, as well as representatives from Everence, were thanked. 

Minutes were approved from the 2017 meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, followed by Rick Stiffney’s final CEO report to members. 

“It is so good to be here with you today, and it has been an honor to serve you—members, staff, and board,” Stiffney began, before sharing highlights from the past year, including: 

  • In 2017 MHS accomplished a significant goal established by Mim Shirk to add ten new members in three years. 
  • MHS ended the year with a small margin of income, despite the additional cost of a leadership transition. 
  • Member engagement has remained high, and thanks to the MHS member’s survey, employee recruitment and retention has been identified as a concern that MHS will need to support in coming months. 

Stiffney also shared that in the last year, MHS has focused on five primary priorities: 

  • Extending reach to new organizations and networks that share Anabaptist Christian values. 
  • Supporting member organizations through both struggle and opportunity. 
  • Building a system for identifying, recruiting, and retaining strong leaders.
  • Achieving a consulting business model that generates resources to support our mission. 
  • Transitioning smoothly to a new CEO. “Let’s have a blessed transition,” said Nafziger last year. 

He expressed deep appreciation for members, staff, consultants, and friends of MHS, saying, “We’ve only been able to accomplish all this by working together, and I thank you.”

Stiffney then moved into hopeful anticipating for the future, forecasting growth in membership, further regionalization across the country, fruit born of international work, new ways of connecting with members in urban communities, and fresh ways to interact with a church that continues to change. “This vessel called MHS is like wet clay that we keep shaping, and will continue to be shaped in interesting ways,” he said. 

Wisdom, courage, and hope were the “watchwords" that Stiffney left MHS members with, and they were welcomed with appreciation and applause. 

Jen Foster then addressed members on behalf of the MHS Nominating Committee (Jen Foster, Jeremy Kauffman, Dean Stoesz, and Mim Shirk), recommending re-election of Laurie Nafziger for one-year term, re-election of Lowell Peachy for a two-year term, re-election of Ed Brusker for a four-year term, and election of Jodie Smiley for a four-year term. All recommendations were unanimously approved and all terms will begin on April 1, 2018.

Mim Shirk, Senior Vice President of MHS, recognized and congratulated all members celebrating milestone anniversaries who were present at the meeting:

  • Mennonite Home Communities, celebrating 115 years. “God has been so faithful,” said John Sauder, President and CEO.
  • Thurston Woods Village, celebrating 65 years. “We're excited about where the lord is going to take us in the next 65 years,” said Theo Oma, CEO.
  • Pleasantview Home, celebrating 60 years. "We have great plans to continue growing and improving ourselves, much of which we’ll work with MHS to accomplish,” said CEO Nick Jadlicka.
  • Fairmount Homes, celebrating 50 years. “We have one of the best views in Lancaster county!” said Jerry D. Lile, President and CEO.
  • Sunnsyside Village, celebrating 50 years. "We remain deeply-rooted in our founder’s vision of enriching lives and sharing Christ’s love,” said J. David Yoder, Executive Director.
  • Mennonite Friendship Communities, celebrating 45 years. “We’ve been a leader in the aging services field for 45 years and look forward to the next 45,” said Lowell J. Peachey, President and CEO.
  • Jubilee Association of Maryland, celebrating 40 Years. “We’re excited about building faith-based and innovative partnerships,” said Tim Wiens, Executive Director.
  • Oak Grove (a Greencroft affiliate), celebrating 20 years. "Each of our ministries is driven by a community that is driven by its mission and values,” said President and CEO Mark King.
  • Living Branches, celebrating 10 years. “We are blessed to offer unique opportunities for our residents to build intergenerational relationships," said Edward Brubaker, President and CEO
  • Bluestem Communities, celebrating 5 years. “The amount of work that Rick and MHS did to help us five years ago was incredibly meaningful,” said CEO and President James Krehbiel. 

Stiffney then facilitated small group discussions between members as they shared stories and insights regarding employee recruitment and retention.

Following these discussions, Mim Shirk introduced two emerging leaders and their sponsors to say a few words about their involvement in the program. 

“I’ve learned that it’s important to work in an environment where you’re not afraid to express your opinions, ask questions, and always be learning,” said emerging leader Kevin (KP) Peters. "We nominated Kevin because of his tremendous leadership in the development of systems of excellence that he helped us create,” said Tammy Friesen, CEO of Goldenrod Communities.

"We believe that culture beats strategy every day, that succession planning is essential, and that hiring the right person is better than filling open positions,” said Jason Abodeely, CEO of Sunshine Communities before introducing emerging leader, Cody Griffith. Griffith then followed by adding, “Being hired because I was the right person for the organization, regardless of which position was open, is something I admire about this organization’s leadership development. If you have a voice, Sunshine Communities will find the space for you to speak."

Shirk then concluded with a challenge: "Last year, we had seven emerging leaders at MHS Assembly. This year, we have 12. Let’s have 24 next year!” All members are invited to consider nominees for 2019.

MHS Board Chair Laurie Nafziger then introduced Karen Lehman, who will begin her term as the next (fourth) MHS CEO on May 1, 2018. “I am so happy to be serving all of you,” said Lehman. “I want to start in this position with a fresh look and approach to your work and communities. I’m looking forward to connecting with each one of your over the next year, have conversation, and see where that leads us forward together."

The 2018 MHS Member meeting concluded with a prayer of blessing for leaders from board member Jen Foster.

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Sexual Harassment Training

ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA) – The office of Leadership Development of MC USA will hold Investigator Training for Ministerial Misconduct to take place on March 2-4, 2018 in the Elkhart, Indiana office. By offering the training, MC USA seeks to create a pool of trained investigators should the event of misconduct arise anywhere in the denomination. Each area conference has been asked to send one or two participants to the training.

In order to make the training more accessible, MC USA and the Panel for Sexual Abuse Prevention will jointly cover all of the registration costs for people sent as area conference participants. Mennonite colleges, agencies and sister denominations are also invited to join the training with a registration rate of $350 per person. The misconduct training will be led by FaithTrust Institute, a multifaith organization that provides tools to address issues related to sexual abuse prevention and response.

“We take all misconduct complaints seriously and want to handle them with as much integrity as possible,” says Nancy Kauffmann, denominational minister of MC USA. “One of the ways we want to help equip conferences to respond appropriately when the need arises is to have a pool of trained investigators in our system." 

By creating a pool of trained investigators, MC USA is making efforts to change denominational culture—equipping people with education and tools so that more are prepared to recognize abuse, listen to victims and hold leaders accountable, Kauffman explained.

“Our office is committed to zero tolerance of ministerial sexual misconduct,” said Terry Shue, director of Leadership Development. “Two ways we currently work at this is by providing resources for ministerial healthy boundaries and developing a network of investigators of misconduct as our commitment to the church.” 

For questions about the training, contact Nancy Kauffmann at NancyK@MennoniteUSA.org or 574-523-3054.

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Mim's Corner - 01/31/2018

Have you noticed some changes in the communications activity from MHS?

If you follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn, you've noticed more updates about Health Assembly and member programs. We also launched a new website that has fresh content, better photos and is mobile friendly. All of these changes are thanks to our new communications partners at ColorWord Creative, led by Amanda Garcia.

In 2018, we'll use your feedback from the annual member survey to make sure we communicate to you in ways that are fresh and relevant. We'll continue the emphasis on storytelling that we're rolling out at Mennonite Health Assembly, March 8 to 10 in Pittsburgh. Remember to register at www.mhsonline.org.


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01/10/2018 Blog Post - Words From Rick

Or rather, the “nearly last words.”

I am the soon-to-be-former CEO of MHS—a transition that began in May of 2017 when the board and I agreed to a few features of the process and will end this coming April.

I am often asked, “How is it really going?” Reasonably well, I think, but we don’t get to practice this very often. I will offer a few mid-season comments:

There is clarity. I no longer wonder how will I know and when will this end? The board and staff don’t wonder: we know.

There is a plan. The staff, board and I have outlined the basic elements of a transition plan and timeline. The staff has been invaluable in preparing for a smooth transition. The board has adopted a strategic priority for 2018, focused specifically on “ending well.” They have energetically leaned into the process, always understanding when to engage me as well as when to take the reins. This has been very healthy.

There is focus. A plan requires focus. I am working with vigor on what I can do best, while staff members work with continued energy and high morale. There are some uncertainties, but the staff has confidence in the board, my successor, and the long-term importance of their work. Certainly, there are new opportunities and challenges before us, but they will wait for the next CEO and a new season.

There are some questions. These are mostly mine. Did I work on the right stuff in the right ways? What might we have accomplished with other choices? Have we wisely managed opportunities and resources? Have we carried out our mission? Those questions won’t go away for a while. That’s OK.

There is already some grief. Relationships, shaped over many years, are changing. This is true with trusted staff, member executives, boards, clients, and church leaders. I don’t like grief, but it’s a testimony to meaningful relationships.

There is trust. The high trust between board, executives, and staff is the most critical ingredient in this ending season.

At the beginning of this process, the chair of the board expressed her hope that this experience would be a blessed transition. I am confident that her hopes have been realized.

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12/15/2017 News release - Puerto Rico: Not Forgotten

GOSHEN, Ind.—Carolyn Hoderread Heggen, PhD, returned from Puerto Rico on December 8, 2017, after completing an assessment trip sponsored by MHS in cooperation with Mennonite Disaster Service.

She reports that, from the air, blue FEMA tarps, piles of debris, and damage to the normally lush landscape are visible effects of Hurricane Maria. Broken stoplights, uprooted trees, and ruined household items lining inland roads of San Juan are on-the-ground evidence of the devastating storm.

Many small communities are still without telephone service, internet, running water, and electricity, and even residents of larger towns have no indication of when neighborhood power will be restored. Those in poor, rural communities have had no contact from FEMA or other governmental agencies and wonder if the government has forgotten them.

Transportation is severely limited. Landslides have blocked mountainous roads and numerous large pieces of highway have fallen into the valley below. In some places, travel by car is becoming even more treacherous as rains weaken the supporting soil now stripped of vegetation.

Residents must wait in lines to buy gasoline for generators and vehicles. Many walk to conserve fuel, which is also hazardous due to downed wires and poles, damaged sidewalks, and debris that forces pedestrians to share the street with cars.

Food is scarce. Because so much agriculture was destroyed, few local fruits or vegetables are available and what remains is outrageously expensive. The dairy industry has been seriously affected; several mothers reported that their small children have been crying for milk and don’t understand why it’s not available. The chicken industry has also been devastated. A Mennonite chicken farmer in Pulguillas lost between 90,000 and 100,000 chickens, still has no electricity, and is, therefore, unable to hatch eggs to replace those that died. In the meantime, the price of eggs and chicken meat has skyrocketed.

Education has stalled. Staff, parents, and volunteers (including a team from Indiana/Virginia) have worked diligently to re-open classes at Academia Menonita Betania with support from Mennonite Education Agency. The campus has no electricity or running water, several roofs are missing or damaged, and 12 students have left to live with relatives and attend classes in the US, yet school director Sr. Veldez remains committed to resuming students’ education.

Many residents are experiencing symptoms of traumatic stress. In addition to the original trauma of living through a long-lasting hurricane, the stressors of its subsequent destruction continue with no end in sight. Some individuals reported their hearts beating so fast and hard that they hurt. Others had visibly shaking hands and lips. Many seemed to be suffering from severe depression. Several reported that their brains weren’t “working right,” and displayed cognitive confusion and disorientation. Fear is prevalent, as are feelings of abandonment. Heggen reports that the phrase she heard most often was, “Estoy tan cansada.”  (I am so tired.)

Some individuals reported feelings of anger—at the government and the insensitive things President Trump has said about Puerto Ricans, or at local authorities for not cleaning streets faster or restoring water and electricity. Some don’t know where to direct their anger, and several confessed anger toward God while asking profound spiritual questions about God’s love, omnipotence, and silence.

Many Puerto Ricans are evacuating. The Puerto Rican government has indicated that more than 500,000 people have fled to the US. One airport employee stated that more than 600 cars have been abandoned at the airport with keys inside and plates removed, the owners having left the country. Thirteen elderly people were carried in wheelchairs onto Heggen’s returning flight, all on their way to live with adult children in the US. One woman said she was depressed to leave but couldn’t survive alone in her leaking house without water or a way to get food.

And yet, there is hope. Amidst the severe damage and ongoing struggle in Puerto Rico, there remain signs of tenacity, compassion, and courage of its people. Individuals, particularly those in churches, seem to be aware of the needs of others—especially the infirmed and elderly. Local Mennonite churches are sharing food and watching over the elderly. The Aibonito Mennonite Church has placed a washer and dryer in their social hall and invited the community to use it. Even those who have little seem to be sharing with those who have less; many have amazing resilience.

Still, Puerto Rico has many needs. Heggen reports that Mennonite Disaster Service’s presence is appropriate and appreciated, as is MHS’s effort to provide support for psychological recovery. The outpouring of support from the North is much appreciated by the local people who are grateful to not be forgotten.

During her assessment visit to the island, Heggen was a guest speaker at a women’s gathering that was attended by 65 individuals from six congregations. She addressed the physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and relational ways we are affected by trauma, and focused on ways to create an “internal sanctuary” in the midst of chaos.

Heggen also led a workshop for the teachers and staff at Academia Menonita Betania, discussing ways to identify students who may need help, what to expect in traumatized children, and healing ways to intervene. She supplied the school with several copies of a Spanish translation of, “A Terrible Thing Happened,” a book by Margaret M. Holmes, and led an assembly for all intermediate grade students.

At Hospital Menonita Heggen met with eight cancer patients who were receiving chemotherapy infusions, a hospitalized father of a Mennonite woman suffering from ovarian cancer, and the hospital chaplain. She also visited pastors and congregants in other towns who had lost or damaged homes. 

MHS urges constituents to not forget Puerto Rico in prayer and to consider a donation of dollars and/or volunteer hours to Mennonite Disaster Service. Any mental health professionals with trauma training who are interested in volunteering should be in touch with Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship by calling Deloris Rhodes at 1-888-406-3643 or emailing Deloris@mennohealth.org. And those interested in directly supporting the work of Carolyn Holderread Heggen and other trauma specialists can send tax-deductible contributions to MHS at 1112 North Main St., Goshen, Indiana 46528.

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11/21/2017 News release - MHS appoints new CEO

GOSHEN, Ind.—The MHS Board of directors has named Karen E. Lehman as CEO of MHS, effective May 1, 2018.

Lehman has more than 25 years of leadership experience in both senior living and acute care. She has consistently and efficiently navigated organizations through various transitions to achieve financial viability, while simultaneously providing stability and new strategic goals. Her capacity to be both visionary and operationally “hands-on,” along with her effective communications skills, have resulted in Lehman’s successful recruitment and development of strong senior leaders.

“We are particularly excited that Karen will be taking this leadership role at MHS because of her commitment to our Anabaptist distinctives,” says MHS Board Chair, Laurie Neumann Nafziger. “In addition to her healthcare experience, the fact that she has recently worked as an MHS consultant allows her a unique understanding of MHS culture and values.”

The search committee has been actively seeking a successor for current MHS CEO, Rick Stiffney, since he announced his retirement in spring of 2017. The committee included four MHS board members, the chair of the MHS consulting board, a representative from Mennonite Church USA, and MHS agency staff. “We appreciated input from our various stakeholders as we sifted through a diverse and impressive pool of exceptional candidates,” says Neumann Nafziger.

Lehman’s appointment has also been approved by the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA. She will assume her position immediately following Stiffney’s retirement in May 2018.

Prior to this appointment, Lehman’s most recent experience has been serving as CEO of The Community at Rockhill in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. Her executive leadership roles also include eight years as COO of Greencroft Communities in Goshen, Indiana, three years as Executive Director of Friends House Retirement Community in Sandy Spring, Maryland, and two years at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

Lehman currently serves on the Everence Board of Directors and formerly on the Board of Directors for Jubilee Association of Maryland, Inc. She holds an MBA from Bluffton University and a Bachelor of Science in Health Information from Indiana University, Indiana University Medical Center. Lehman is also a licensed nursing home administrator. She resides in Goshen, Indiana with her husband, Kent Beck, where they attend College Mennonite Church.

MHS is a not-for-profit, faith-based, membership organization connecting Anabaptist-related health and human services providers together to stay true to our values and achieve the very best outcomes. Believing that we are stronger together, MHS offers centralized resources and values-centered consulting services that expand each member’s individual capacity for doing good, boost organizational effectiveness, and cultivate and support the next generation of non-profit leaders.

Creatively Celebrating Resilience 
Scores of epic tales begin with those four words, “once upon a time,” but words alone aren't enough to make a story great. The best stories require a hero to face risk, danger, and obstacles. Those are the stories that remain in our souls and inspire action.

And so it is with our own lives. 

We have the capacity to design, imagine, and inspire, but not without facing risk, disappointment, and even failure. It's only by persevering—despite turmoil and tragedy—that our story transforms into something truly great. Let's celebrate that.

Mennonite Health Assembly 2018 will be Celebrating Resilience in many ways, but especially through creative expression. “My vision is to bring together a group of creatives with a variety of specialties,” says assembly coordinator Vanessa Hofer. “I believe Assembly attendees will find an earnest and meaningful study and celebration of resilience when surrounded by live storytelling, visual art, music, and worship.”

With that in mind, Assembly attendees will enjoy music from award-winning players Ethan Setiawan and Sadie Gustafson-Zook, dramatic presentations from Ted Swartz and Billy Funk, and an introduction to “visual problem-solving” with artist and author Emily Marko.

“Of course, you don’t need to consider yourself an artist to have and to share a powerful story,” says Hofer, adding that four powerful stories about celebrating resilience will also be told by attendees whose submissions were selected in advance by the Assembly Planning Committee. “These incredible firsthand accounts will serve as groundwork for interactive discussions… I can’t wait for attendees to hear these stories of creative resilience within MHS member organization.”

This year’s gathering will be truly different than any prior. The request for stories and learning lab proposals for Assembly 2018 yielded excellent results, and our Planning Committee has been busy crafting a surprise-filled weekend of interactive and immersive programming, designed to both educate and energize.

Get ready to dive into topics like, “Misconceptions and Millennials: Perspectives, Opportunities & Challenges,” “The Ultimate Balancing Act: Mission vs. Success,” and “Stronger Together: Thriving through Consolidation.” And be sure to arrive in time to check out the pre-conference learning lab, “Dealing Effectively with Workplace Conflict,” led by Lee Schmucker, MHS Consulting Associate.

If you find you are often looking for creative ways to tackle big ideas with your employees or constituents, you’ll love what is in store. And for those looking for our usual excellent training for board members, you’ll find those resources, too.  

“I believe there is a healthy dose of creativity whenever resilience is at play. I am not sure the two can survive without one another,” says Hofer. “The very synonyms of creativity—inventiveness, imagination, innovation—are the action words that allow us to successfully overcome obstacles or recover from difficult circumstances.”

You are invited to come, be refreshed, encouraged, surprised, and delighted by stories of persistence told through spoken word and moments of creativity at Celebrate Resilience, Mennonite Health Assembly 2018.

Organizations that send four or more representatives are eligible for a group discount, and everyone can save $100 with early bird registration before February 2. First-time attendees are also invited to register at a special rate.

Join MHS on Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square. Register today at www.mhsonline.org/health-assembly.

Mennonite Health Assembly is co-sponsored by MHS and Everence.


After MariaCaguas Hospital, damaged by storms.
MHS’s response to disaster in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Rose Gillin and her brother, Jim Alvarez, grew up on the beautiful island Puerto Rico, but their recent homecoming was far from a celebration. Instead, they put their own heartache aside and used their exceptional qualifications and personal knowledge to assess damage done to their beloved island by hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Determined to deliver vital information to MHS, Gillin, an MD and Alvarez, CFO of Everence, assessed how MHS might give aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. “We want to offer support if there are ways that volunteer professionals can be helpful,” said MHS CEO Rick Stiffney about the dispatched team. The exploratory visit was also conducted with appreciation and strong support from Mennonite Disaster Service.

Gillin’s team remained in Puerto Rico for several days, but weak cellphone service and unreliable Internet prevented them from relaying detailed information. It wasn’t until their safe return to Indiana that they could present a full report.

“Everything looked different—devastated—especially the trees,” said Gillin about her childhood home. “As we talked with people, we could hear their pain, even as they were working together.”

The devastation didn’t end there. Most hospitals were—and still are—running on generators that require repairs after weeks of continuous use. Access to water is still limited, and there is concern about the safety of the water that is available. Many homes, churches, and schools have been damaged or destroyed. Driving is dangerous because of downed traffic signals and telephone poles.

Pharmacies are not able to fill prescriptions because they cannot access insurance companies for approval, which is of special concern for the sick and elderly. Diabetic patients are not able to refrigerate their insulin, and those on dialysis are facing an overwhelming treatment challenge.

But the suffering isn’t limited to those who are physically ailing. Nearly every resident is subject to damaging amounts of mental and emotional stress, causing many to lose sleep and fear for their safety. The inability to communicate with loved ones has produced anxiety in great measure. Wide-spread trauma has revealed a need for specialists and counselors in this area.

Even Sistema de Salud Menonita has been directly affected, reporting that more than 100 of their employees need to rebuild or replace their homes. The hospital system has donated $500,000 to support this effort with the goal of raising an additional $500,000.

Gillin and Alvarez’s findings mark the beginning of the work to come in Puerto Rico. There is a long and difficult road ahead, and recovery won’t be possible without continued aid.

In light of this, MHS is encouraging constituents to donate dollars and/or volunteer hours to Mennonite Disaster Service, which is working directly with Juan Carlos Colón, moderator of the local Mennonite Conference in Puerto Rico. Any healthcare professionals who are interested in volunteering should be in touch with Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship by calling Deloris Rhodes at 1-888-406-3643 or emailing Deloris@mennohealth.org.

Monies can also be donated to send Carolyn Holderread Heggen, PhD, and other trauma specialists to the island, as well as to the Sistema de Salud Menonita fund for their employees.

Tax-deductible contributions for the Sistema de Salud Menonita employee fund or to cover expenses for the assessment team and trauma specialists can be mailed to MHS at 1112 North Main St., Goshen, Indiana 46528.

And in the face of disaster, fear, and the unknown, all are invited to pray for pastors, institutional and hospital leaders, teachers, the sick and elderly, and those who are in need of healing of all kinds on the island of Puerto Rico.

How you can help:

Volunteer healthcare expertise by calling Deloris Rhodes at 888-406-3643.

Donate by sending checks to MHS, 1112 North Main Street, Goshen, Ind 46528.


Chinese Delegation Tours MHS Facilities 

For nearly two weeks in October, the China Christian Council Study Group explored more than a dozen senior living communities, met with MHS experts, attended workshops, and still managed to see the Liberty Bell during an intensive study of nonprofit older adult services in the state of Pennsylvania.

This group of Chinese delegates was comprised of nine executive leaders and translators and representatives from many different organizations, including Buddhist Master Jing Bo, Vice President of China Buddhist Association, and Xiao Lan of the Tian Ai Commonwealth Foundation in Shanghai.

These visitors arrived on October 15 and lost no time getting started. American hosts Myrrl Byler, Director of Mennonite Partners in China, and Ronald Yoder, International Program Advisor for MHS, welcomed the guests with a warm reception before whisking them off to the first of 13 different community tours.

Over the next five days, the study group visited diverse senior living communities with several objectives in mind. First, these visits showed the range of services available to older adults in the United States. Second, they provided an understanding of government and nonprofit/church-sponsored services—specifically in Pennsylvania. Third, they gave the visitors an opportunity to discover new types of older adult services that they might apply to their own facilities and programs.          

The group participated in worship services and Sunday School at East Chestnut Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they were heartily welcomed by pastor Todd Friesen and his wife Dennette. While there, they also enjoyed a presentation on church involvement in older adult services by MHS Senior Vice President, Emerson Lesher.  

Interactive learning filled the second half of the study group’s visit. Workshops covered a variety of topics on everything from management issues to fundraising to daily activities for residents. And this whirlwind tour finished with a banquet hosted by MHS and Anabaptist Providers Group.


Nominate an Emerging Leader

Do you know hardworking professionals under the age of 35 who are brimming with leadership potential? Are they interested in leadership or board service in an Anabaptist healthcare setting? Consider nominating them to attend the 2018 Mennonite Health Assembly, Celebrating Resilience, March 8-10 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Assembly will provide inspiring learning labs on relevant topics, as well as networking opportunities specifically designed for emerging leaders, and we are seeking young professionals with diverse backgrounds and cultures to attend.

Please submit nominations to mim@mhsonline.org by December 30, 2017. Those selected will be offered a reduced registration rate of $195.

Remember, we have reserved a limited number of space for emerging leaders, so please carefully consider who you would like to nominate—and don’t delay!


Search Committee Update

Valerie Rempel, MHS Search Committee chair, was pleased to report this week that the committee has met and is prepared to recommend a candidate to the full board for approval. As an agency of Mennonite Church USA, final approval of the candidate is required from the Executive Board, but if all goes well the committee hopes to announce a new President/CEO for MHS by the end of the year.

The work of the search committee has come after current President/CEO, Rick Stiffney, announced that he would retire in the spring of 2018 after 20 years of dedicated leadership at MHS.


MHS Valued Leadership Webinar

Daily Practices for Leading Organizational Change: A Webinar.

Meetings, emails, deadlines, and more—you have a lot on your plate. How can you find time to develop your leadership skills on top of everything else clamoring for your time and attention?

We have a solution: A bite-sized webinar that fits into even the busiest of schedules led by Emerson Lesher, MHS Senior Vice President, and Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid at Hesston College. 

In only 35 minutes you’ll gain tips on how to:

  • Invite positive change
  • Create space to dream about your organization’s potential  
  • Get beyond “either/or” to “what else?!”
  • Assess how Anabaptist values influence our approach to change
  • Plus, an open Q&A with Emerson and Rachel

Strong leadership is crucial for healthy organizations; don’t neglect its development.

Visit bit.ly/MHSLeadingChange to reserve your spot for Leading Organizational Change, Thursday, November 16 at 1 p.m. EST/12 p.m. CST/11 a.m. MST/10 a.m. PST.


News Release — MHS Assessment team reports from PR
October 16, 2017—After several days in Puerto Rico on behalf of MHS and in partnership with Mennonite Disaster Service, Dr. Rose Gillin, MD, and Jim Alvarez, CFO of Everence, have returned home to Indiana with an assessment of health and human services needs in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“Everything looked different – devastated – especially the trees,” reported Gillin, who grew up in Puerto Rico. “As we talked with people, we could hear their pain, even as they were working together.” Most hospitals are still running on generators that are now requiring repair after four weeks of continuous use. Access to water is still limited, and there is concern about the safety of the water that is available. Many homes, churches, and schools have been damaged or destroyed. Driving is dangerous because of downed traffic signals and telephone poles.

Pharmacies are not able to fill prescriptions because they cannot access insurance companies for approval, which is of special concern for the sick and elderly. Diabetic patients are not able to refrigerate their insulin, and those on dialysis are facing an overwhelming treatment challenge.

Those who are not physically ailing are still subject to damaging amounts of mental and emotional stress, causing many to lose sleep and fear for their safety. The inability to communicate and the lingering possibility of yet another hurricane have produced anxiety in great measure. Wide-spread trauma has revealed a need for specialists and counselors in this area.

Sistema de Salud Menonita, the Mennonite hospital system in Puerto Rico, has reported that more than 100 of their employees need to rebuild or replace their homes. They have donated $500,000 to support this effort with the goal of raising an additional $500,000.

In response to these findings, MHS is encouraging constituents to donate dollars and/or volunteer hours to Mennonite Disaster Service, which is working directly with Juan Carlos Colón, moderator of the local Mennonite Conference in Puerto Rico. Any healthcare professionals who are interested in volunteering should be in touch with Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship by calling Deloris Rhodes at 1-888-406-3643 or emailing Deloris@mennohealth.org.

Monies can also be donated to send Carolyn Holderread Heggen, PhD, and other trauma specialists to the island, as well as to the Sistema de Salud Menonita fund for their employees.

Tax-deductible contributions for the Sistema de Salud Menonita employee fund or to cover expenses for the assessment team and trauma specialists can be mailed to MHS at 1112 North Main St., Goshen, Indiana 46528.

And in the face of disaster, fear, and the unknown, all are invited to pray for pastors, institutional and hospital leaders, teachers, the sick and elderly, and those who are in need of healing of all kinds on the island of Puerto Rico.

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News Release – MHS Sends Initial Assessment Team to PR
October 9, 2017—Mennonite Health Services dispatched an initial visit and assessment team that arrived in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, October 4, to explore how MHS might offer medical and health and human service support in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Team leader Dr. Rose Gillin, MD, will utilize her skills as a medical physician in tandem with her experience of growing up in Puerto Rico as she works with teammate Jim Alvarez, CFO and Senior Vice President of Everence, who also grew up on the island and is a board member of Sistema de Salud Menonita. Carolyn Holderread Heggen, PhD and trauma specialist, will travel to the island at a later time to contribute to the assessment. “These are professionally competent and well-connected individuals,” says MHS CEO Rick Stiffney.

This exploratory visit is being conducted with appreciation and strong support from Mennonite Disaster Service and in full partnership with the sophisticated Sistema De Salud Menonita in Puerto Rico. “This is one of the most highly respected health systems on the island,” says Stiffney of the four Mennonite hospitals spread across the territory. “We want to offer support if there are ways that volunteer professionals can be helpful.” Together with MDS, the MHS team is also interfacing with Mennonite Church leaders in Puerto Rico.

In addition, MHS is working closely with Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship to engage their network of doctors and nurses across the US. A database of healthcare professionals, their skills, language competencies, and availability is currently being built for use in the event that MHS is called to mobilize volunteers. A mechanism to raise funds for volunteer travel is also being established in partnership with Everence.

In the late 1940’s and 50’s many Mennonite volunteers engaged in service alongside the people of Puerto Rico to start churches and build schools, clinics, and hospitals. “Although the Mennonite population in Puerto Pico is small, their witness is large,” says Stiffney. “Through God’s grace and their commitment and competence, incredible ministry has been done. It’s an honor to be part of that work today.”

Cell phone service in Puerto Rico is weak and inconsistent and internet access is unavailable, but the MHS assessment team will provide a more detailed report upon their return.

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