Mennonite Health JournalArticles on the intersection of faith and health
Anticipation and Response
Paul D. Leichty
from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 17, No. 2 – May 2015
Anticipation! Can we allow ourselves to feel it? Is there something to which we can indeed look forward? I hope that Annual Gathering 2015 is indeed an event that you are eagerly anticipating! Gathering together with scores of other Christian healthcare colleagues from across the globe will be an exciting experience!
Annual Gathering attendees will hear and be able to share exciting stories of how God is at work in shaping our work as healthcare professionals in ways that give expression to our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Master Healer! Annual Gathering gives opportunities for worship and fellowship with healthcare colleagues who share our faith commitments. Annual Gathering gives opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance from Ted and Company’s opening look at the “Jesus Stories” and “What’s for lunch?” to the final communion service and meal together on Tuesday.
As I reflected on the opportunity to anticipate something, I realized how special that is. Many of us are responders. We don’t have much time to anticipate; we are too busy responding. We don’t have time to look ahead; we need to pay attention to the symptoms, the thoughts and words, the desires and needs of the patient or client who is right there in front of us at any given moment.
Our days are busy and we need to respond to the events and the people of each moment in our day. We hardly have the luxury of looking too far ahead; the present moment and the current day itself present us plenty of opportunities and challenges to keep mind and body busy and engaged! Our responses sometimes even make the difference between illness and health, between life and death. If that is so, do we really have time to look ahead and anticipate?
Yet, not everyone in a healthcare profession is a crisis responder. We all need and have benefited from those who took the time to anticipate and see the big picture. We depend on those who can look ahead and anticipate what we will need to know years from now so that we can be educated and oriented to study the right material, ask the right questions, and prepare ahead of time for the best response to a given crisis situation. Healthcare educators give the rest of us this bigger picture so that our anticipation will lead to an appropriate response.
Those in public health positions walk a fine line between anticipation and response. On the one hand, public health officials are still reacting to healthcare issues, only on a larger scale. The “patient” is still right in front of us, but it is a community, a nation, or even the whole planet instead of just one person. Yet our concerns for the larger issues of community health lead us to try to be “proactive” instead of just “reactive.” We need a certain amount of anticipation. We need those who can anticipate the flu viruses that will be active for the winter in order to develop the vaccine to be administered. We need folks who can anticipate the need for trauma awareness and support, so that we can be ready for the soldiers returning from war or the victims of the latest disaster.
We need a certain amount of anticipation in order that our responses are life-giving. Anticipation is also important in our spiritual lives as well as in our professions. The spiritual disciplines of worship and prayer are vital to our relationship with God. Being nurtured and supported by a local Christian community in the midst of our complex worlds is refreshing. Developing an attitude of compassion and service in the midst of many demands involves our own daily habits of healthy eating, exercise, and enough sleep. Having a time of Sabbath rest enables us to reflect weekly on the larger picture and see God in control even when our worlds seem out of control.
Thus, I hope we can feel some anticipation to the Annual Gathering in two months. To worship and share and simply to be with Christian healthcare colleagues is a valuable endeavor. They are the ones who know better than most people what daily life-and-death responsiveness is like.
Annual Gathering is planned to minister to the wholeness of our work, our ministry, and our being! We do hope that as many as possible can join us! Yet, even if you can’t, please know that much of what happens in Annual Gathering and particularly this year in the Mennonite World Conference Assembly to follow will have a ripple effect on our lives as healthcare workers in the Anabaptist Christian tradition! Watch for and anticipate those ripples!
Blessings in your work and ministry!
About the author
Paul D. Leichty, M.Div. was the first Executive Director of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF), serving from Sept. 2011 through May 2020. Paul has served as a pastor, church musician, computer support person, disabilities advocate, and administrator/organizer of a number of church-related ministries. In addition to responsibilities at MHF, Paul is Executive Director of Congregational Accessibility Network and was formerly Director of User Services at Mennonite.net. He is a member of Agape Fellowship of the Mennonite Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife, Twila Charles Leichty.