Mennonite Health Journal

Articles on the intersection of faith and health








Mission Partially Accomplished

MHF President’s Column by Joseph Longacher

from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3 – August 2014

Three years old

A typical three-year-old has a number of defining characteristics: a recognizable form, an impressive number of activities, the ability to communicate, and even hints of their eventual personality.

Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship is not a typical three-year-old. Since beginning in June 2011, this fully formed successor to the Mennonite Nurses Association and Mennonite Medical Association has hit the ground running, with a specific shape, visible activities, and in contrast to a human three-year-old, a clearly articulated statement of purpose.

That mission statement says: “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.

How are we doing?

At a little more than three years of age, how are we doing? At the end of my two years as president of MHF, I’d like to give my perspective on what we have been able to do thus far, and perhaps of greater importance, what lies ahead.

MHF has structure, including organizational bylaws, a diligent, hardworking staff, an inviting website, and a dedicated board. We have been partially successful in our desire for more diverse leadership, adding a dietician and chaplain to our board, but our goal of having a president who is not a nurse or a physician has not yet been realized.

MHF also has members (technically called “Associates”), fewer than belonged to the two organizations that birthed us, but slowly increasing. We continue to meet yearly as a group (the Annual Gathering), but in numbers smaller than attended in the past, despite very positive feedback from those present. (Consider comments such as these from our Gathering in June: “A wonderful weekend,” “Informative, inspiring, insightful!” and “A special time of worship with words and music.”)

MHF has also sponsored Regional Meetings in Mennonite centers such as Goshen, Lancaster, Newton, and Harrisonburg, on a variety of topics including mental health, death and dying, model programs in integrated medicine, and MCC’s efforts at addressing health issues internationally.

Shared dialogue on a variety of topics is also available in the Mennonite Health Journal, a quarterly online resource. Finally, continuing the tradition of its parent organizations, MHF has maintained strong involvement in international healthcare through the promotion of medical missions, financial support of overseas projects, and the popular Student Elective Term (SET), which helps underwrite the expenses of medical students spending 4-8 weeks in a mission hospital or clinic.

What is the bottom line?

Where in the final analysis do we find ourselves at age three? As the title of this column suggests, I think we have done reasonably well in some areas, and perhaps less so in others. The following observations and opinions summarize my sense of how we have done in four specific areas, along with goals or ways to improve:

  1. We have achieved some diversity in leadership, but wish to add younger persons, and those from a variety of healthcare disciplines, to our board.
  2. While our numbers are increasing, more members are needed, especially younger, more diverse professionals. Strategies are being developed to invite such persons to consider membership.
  3. Regional meetings have attracted many persons, and need to continue as a way to introduce them to MHF and its mission. They are also a place where the Annual Gathering can be promoted. Next year’s Annual Gathering will be a special one, held July 19-21 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, immediately preceding Mennonite World Conference Assembly. We have already engaged Shane Claiborne as one of the featured speakers.
  4. There has been continued interest in and support of overseas medical programs. Even greater involvement is possible through the use of several funds overseen by MHF, including the Mobilization for Mission Fund, from which funds will be available to assist international medical workers in attending next year’s Annual Gathering.

Like most three year olds, MHF is known to and appreciated by its “family”—in this case, mostly persons who were a part of MNA or MMA. As we grow larger and develop a stronger visibility, potential members will be more aware of MHF and its own identity. Hopefully, that will make them more likely to consider membership, both for the benefits that MHF will provide them and also as a place where their gifts and input can be shared.

About the author

Joe-Longacher-200WJoe Longacher, MD, is a past President of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship and lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  He retired at the end of 2012 from a practice in gastroenterology in Richmond, Virginia and was part of the Implementation Team that gave leadership to the formation of MHF.  Joe has also served at the conference and denominational level and was a past president of Mennonite Medical Association (MMA).   He is married to Constance (Brenneman), originally from Hesston, Kansas, and they have four children and six grandchildren.