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<h1><a href="/blog/health-ministrys-personal-touch-dee-wisemans-story">Health Ministry's Personal Touch: Dee Wiseman's Story</a></h1>

The strength of Dee Wiseman’s health ministry is in its small moments—it is personal, tending toward one-on-one interaction that touches people when they need healing the most.

Dee is a tremendous presence at All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton, WI. A retired RN looking to share her caring nature, Dee decided to explore parish nursing after seeing an article advertising an upcoming meeting. “After talking to a parish nurse, I realized that this was an opportunity to use my RN experience, something I would enjoy doing,” said Dee.

She secured a $500 grant from Wisconsin’s Women’s Health Foundation and signed up for a parish nurse course. Dee ended up with more than a certification—she became friends with eight other women pursuing training for their respective congregations, all different denominations.

Health Ministry First Steps and Challenges Along the Way

Once certified, Dee became an official parish nurse. “Now what do I do?” she wondered. 

She started with a bulletin board, a caring heart and gumption. Her first thought was to establish a committee to help but the congregation was reluctant even when its priest asked for participation.

Dee’s spirit was not daunted and ideas kept flowing. Efforts to educate seemed appropriate, including:

  • A file of life: a way to record medications, so that friends and family could relay this information easily in emergencies.
  • Crisis protocol: for example, what to do while waiting for an EMT to arrive?
  • DNR: what to consider when declaring power of attorney and end of life wishes?

Dee loves hearing stories of how someone was helped by these efforts.

Dee heard about ‘prayer shawls’ from a fellow parish nurse; this has become a very successful project, well received in the parish. Dee and three volunteers make the prayer shawls from yarn purchased and also donated by parish members; they have produced more than 1,000 shawls since 2004. And as fast as they are created, they are blessed by Father Patrick and put out every Sunday, free for parish members and loved ones. “They seem to disappear soon after they are laid out for the service!” Dee said.

Responding to the Call of Ministry

Dee takes initiative. “When someone is sick, I go,” said Dee. She averages 24 visits and drives more than 200 miles each month to visit those not able to make it to church for whatever reason. Dee also actively visits the sick and people in need from the parish, attends funerals and provides support to her parish and others in the community.

She connects people and volunteering evolves from relationships. One parishioner owes a friendship to volunteering: offering to drive a woman to a nearby nursing home to visit her husband turned into a bright spot for him. The woman reminded him of his grandmother, so he decided to spend more time with her. Now he drives her to other appointments and occasionally treats her to a nice dinner out. 

One of Dee’s continuing programs is providing blood pressure checks once a month to the parishioners to help them monitor their health.

Dee’s positive spirit helps keep momentum, even though it may not fit her original vision of the ministry. She anchors numerous activities, like a monthly blood pressure check program and a walking tour of Wisconsin, a fun way to encourage physical activity based on the number of miles people walked weekly. Dee offers samples, coupons and even pins to remind the congregation about organ donation. 

She receives a great response at nursing homes she frequents; Dee and her ideas are quite popular. At one facility’s wine and cheese party, Dee noticed that many residents are big sports fans. She collected pom-poms and giveaways for a Green Bay Packers party, with mugs and branded popcorn boxes donated from the Packers organization. The residents were overjoyed.

Support System

Since becoming certified, Dee’s parish nurse friends have developed ministries with different areas of focus. So it’s productive when they meet up each month to share ideas. Sometimes they join up for outreach at facilities like a new “memory café,” a stress-free environment for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.

And again, the connections bring new opportunities to learn and inspire. Dee has helped another congregation develop a health ministry, occasionally visits and advises. “If there is a need, I do it,” she said. “The best I can do is try.”


Inevitably, there are challenges in building a health ministry. Dee experienced:

Importance of Clergy Support: Many of her ideas took time to see results, with little initial participation from the congregation. But many times when she brought in another source, things clicked. Sometimes third party validation makes the difference. Now if Dee comes up against a block, Father Patrick backs up the idea with positive results.

Unexpected results: A lack of response could be disinterest, but it could require time to process and create change. Despite your best efforts, it may take an illness, accident or incident to make your message hit home. But something productive may be happening during the silence; God may be preparing others. Dee keeps moving forward, inviting new opportunities to serve, enriching her ministry.

You may change someone’s life and never know. You may capture broad interest by connecting ideas to newsworthy topics, like providing DNR education while the Terry Schiavo case was in the news. But when your ideas are personally moving and relevant, they will always affect people in a powerful way. Keep shining your light, God may be using you in ways you don’t yet realize!

Terra Hoskins contributes to the NEHM and NEAC blog on a freelance basis. As principal of Hoskins Interactive, an inbound marketing consultancy, she helps organizations improve the quality of website traffic needed to expand business. Follow Terra on her blog and on Twitter: @terrahoskins

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/the-magic-of-sharing">The Magic of Sharing</a></h1>

I recently returned from a two week mission trip to Kenya, where we conducted eye exams, provided free eyeglasses to those in need, and visited an orphanage and several schools. The opportunity to minister to and with others was a remarkable, life-changing experience I’ll never forget.

I’ve often found something magical happens when you sit down to share food with others. For the hosts, it is an act of gracious hospitality, an opportunity to provide one of the basic necessities of life and to share customs and traditions. As a guest in Kenya, I found it a true honor to be offered food and drink from the tables of those who often do not have enough to eat. It caused me to examine my own practices and to give thought to how casually I sometimes treat the availability of food at home. Clearly, this is a class distinction as much as a geographical one, for many in our own communities wonder if they will have enough to eat tonight.

We ate two meals at the Dickson Children Centre, an orphanage where we help sponsor children. The young boys and girls were all over us, desperate for our attention and affection. They piled on top of us, called our names, and occupied space in every lap and chair arm near us. However, once the meal was served, the focus was clearly on eating.

Interestingly enough, although the children all had full plates and were offered more from the kitchen, there was an obvious culture of sharing. The children wordlessly exchanged food, taking some from others (even when they had plenty themselves) and giving food to those near them. A constant, silent trade went on throughout dinner, assuring everyone had a satisfying meal.
It was a beautiful process to watch, not unlike those crazy eight-way intersections with no traffic signals. Everyone seemed to intuitively know what everyone else needed, and somehow each person had his or her needs met.

Sharing food at our own parishes can be transforming, too. Do we sit only with our friends? Or do we make an effort to share a meal with someone we don’t know well? Do we ensure our meals are healthy and welcoming to all? Or do we ignore common food allergies and other common dietary restrictions? If our meal comes with certain traditions, are we mindful about providing visitors information so they feel included?

I invite you to examine your parish’s practices with food and to make your choices consciously. Don’t miss the opportunity to transform yourself and others in this shared experience!

Matthew Ellis is the CEO of National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM).

tags Kenya, Food
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

Greetings everyone, 

We are thrilled to announce that Sue Hacker Nelson has joined the team at NEHM! Sue brings a terrific skill set and is a wonderful addition to the office. Several of you may have already received a call from her asking if she will be able to meet you at our conference in Baltimore

I know Sue is going to be a great fit here at NEHM. I have told her about the great people involved in our health ministries and I hope you will have the opportunity to meet with her soon. Sue can be reached at 317-253-1277 ext. 34 or sue@episcopalhealthministries.org.

See you in Baltimore!

Matthew Ellis 

tags Updates
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/a-case-study-in-personal-health-ministry">A Case Study in Personal Health Ministry</a></h1>

I recently had the opportunity to practice a bit of health ministry in my home. My wife Karen and I were discussing our own desire to eat healthier, as well as our desire to help others in our family as well. I'm sure the profile is familiar to many of us: lives alone, approaching 70 years old, increasingly sedentary, overweight, experiencing more frequent health problems. So, how did I use NEHM's site to help?

The first thing I did was go to NEHM's Resources page and click on the tag for 'Healthy Weight'. We were looking specifically for resources for individuals, not parishes. We started by downloading the 'Aim for a Healthy Weight' document. This has a tremendous amount of very user-friendly material. A quick look through it gave us ideas for what foods we should be eating, portion sizes and substitutions for making our current recipes more healthy. We took a quick look at our estimated Body Mass Index (BMI).  It was clear this is a great resource. There's plenty to dig in to here, so we saved this document for closer reading later and continued looking.

The Portion Plate from Episcopal Retirement Homes in Cincinnati, OH is a terrific resource. An actual plate, this can clearly help with portion control. It's one thing to know you should eat less meat and more fruits and veggies but another thing to see the ideal proportions actually represented on your plate. While it is nice to know a church can use this as a program for members, we were excited to see we could also order individual plates and brochures.

We had purposely saved the Let's Move! website for last, as we had expected it would have a lot of great ideas to explore. We definitely were not disappointed. Pulling up the main site, the very first story was 'Let's Cook!', a new MyPlate recipe partnership that makes it easy for busy families to enjoy healthier meals at home. Immediately, we saw links to eighteen(!) cooking sites with recipes that were specifically designated as healthy. Even more interesting to me personally was the new set of Pinterest boards, showing you what many of these recipes actually look like when ready. It's one thing to know you are about to eat something that is good for you; it's quite another to browse great pictures and have your mouth water at meals that look delicious, are easy to prepare and don't take long either.

At this point, we were feeling really good about the information we had found and Karen and I were both excited about our ideas for different meals (we tend to repeat the same meals often). We returned to the 'Aim for a Healthy Weight' document and reviewed the information about the importance of physical exercise and its impact on health. The information was clear and the goals seemed reasonable. Sure, this isn't exactly new information. However, knowing the 'right thing' in the abstract and having a concrete plan to address it is often two completely different things. Here is what our review of resources on NEHM's site yielded for us:

  1. A document (Aim for a Healthy Weight) we could print and share with family members that provided an overview of essential health information and a basic plan for making positive changes.

  2. A Portion Plate that will help us visualize portion sizes and stick to them.

  3. A bunch of easy, simple, delicious (I hope, based on the pictures) recipes that will save us from not knowing what to make for dinner.

Finally, we recently volunteered with our parish to prepare a meal for a local shelter. The meal we served was good but I couldn't help wondering if we could serve a healthier meal with fresher ingredients instead of relying on processed foods. The Pinterest recipes have given me numerous ideas for our next meal there.

I'm excited about how we have reorganized NEHM's resources. I think the new model encourages you to browse topics and explore new ideas. This is just one example of how I personally used the site for myself this week. I hope you are finding it to be equally worthwhile!

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<h1><a href="/blog/teach-diet-stroke-prevention-and-integrative-medicine-for-health-ministry">Teach Diet, Stroke Prevention and Integrative Medicine for Health Ministry</a></h1>

Each week, we’ll share interesting health and healing-related stories in the news. Following is a round up of articles about physical, emotional and spiritual health and healing that could be applied to health ministries.

Know Stroke: Know the Signs. Act in Time

More than 780,000 strokes occur each year, most prevalent in people aged 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But risks can be palpable given complex health conditions—regardless of age. How can you educate parishioners? Visit NIH’s website and Know Stroke, a joint site created with the National Institute of Nerological Disorders and Stroke holds a wealth of information, including a community education kit, literature and posters.

The Mediterranean Diet: One of Nature’s Best Prescriptions

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease, you might think that medication is all you need to protect yourself from future heart problems. While it is important to take your medication as directed by your physician, you also need to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. 

A Mediterranean-style diet is a good place to start, inspired by lifestyles of southern Italy, Greece and Spain. The a plan is centered on vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit and lean sources of protein, such as chicken and fish. Use olive oil instead of butter, and season your food with fresh herbs and vinegar instead of salt. By reducing the amount of red meat and full-fat dairy you eat, you’ll be reducing saturated fats—and feeling more energized. 

Making changes to your diet is definitely worth the effort. Research shows that people with heart disease can lower their odds of having a heart attack or stroke by following a heart-healthy diet.

U.S. Manages Disease, Not Health

This story struck a personal chord; my entire family is seeing a MD who transitioned into integrative medicine. He’s found basic root causes for some major heath issues and is treating them with stellar results; my parents can discontinue the thyroid and blood pressure medications their previous physician prescribed, in one case, misdiagnosing the condition.

In a time where people are concerned with heath care coverage, I thought I should share this intriguing look at the concept of cost and care.

Hospital Pet Programs Unleash Healing Powers

The use of therapy dogs extends back to World War II, possibly earlier. And pet owners and lovers know of the healing power of pets. But it seems that hospitals are becoming more receptive to visitation from family pets. Find out how Rush University Medical Center in Chicago established a policy that was safe and unobtrusive to staff operations. 


Terra Hoskins contributes to the NEHM and NEAC blog on a freelance basis. As principal of Hoskins Interactive, an inbound marketing consultancy, she helps organizations improve the quality of website traffic needed to expand business. Follow Terra on her blog and on Twitter: @terrahoskins.

*photo credit: rageforst via photopin cc