Mennonite Health Journal

Articles on the intersection of faith and health








MHF President’s Column

Eric Lehman, MD

from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3 – August 2015

I hope that you are finding helpful the articles in this edition of Mennonite Health Journal related to the significant meetings held this summer:  the Mennonite Church USA Convention in Kansas City and the Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF) Annual Gathering in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania followed by the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Assembly also in Harrisburg.  It was personally rewarding for me to fellowship with many healthcare professionals from around the world at our MHF meeting.  Following the Annual Gathering, it was inspiring to attend Mennonite World Conference as well.

This column reports on the significance of two other meetings that were held in conjunction with Annual Gathering and MWC Assembly.

Health Care Workers Meeting.  This meeting of healthcare workers took place during the supper hour one evening at the MWC Assembly.  It was co-sponsored by Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and International Mennonite Health Association (IMHA).  Interest in the event was great and approximately 125 people attended the Thursday supper meeting.

Beth Good, Health Coordinator for MCC and member of the MHF Board, acted as the moderator of the meeting which included the following short presentations:

  • Herman Bontrager shared about the work of Clinic for Special Children involving inborn errors of metabolism among the Amish population and the Clinic’s invitation to be a resource for international projects.
  • Maurice Anyanga spoke about a project in Kenya to prevent the spread of HIV through education.
  • John Martens shared briefly about the International Mennonite Health Association and its desires to support healthcare workers around the world by enabling them to have funding for special projects.
  • I also shared about MHF and its role in supporting healthcare workers.
  • Paul Leichty and Ray Martin gave a short report on the MWC Global Health Care Leaders Summit and the resulting interest in a Global Anabaptist Health Network.

Global Health Care Leaders Summit.  This meeting was held prior to MWC Assembly and partially overlapped with the MHF Annual Gathering.  The Summit was sponsored by Mennonite World Conference and was facilitated by Mennonite Health Services Alliance (MHS) which works with health-related organizations in the United States.  MWC is interested in supporting this networking effort under one of its commissions.

The goal of the Summit was to explore the possibility of a Global Anabaptist Health Network (GAHN) of healthcare institutions and professionals.   The vision for GAHN is that it would strengthen the witness of the Anabaptist community of faith, provide mutual encouragement, promote sharing through peer learnings, and foster institutional and professional partnerships. Approximately 75 international representatives of health care organizations and interested individual practitioners attended the Summit and made the decision to take small steps toward a movement toward the vision of GAHN in developing a global communication network for mutual support and sharing of resources.

Many Anabaptists are working around the world to improve health care and feel the need for a means to foster communication and mutual help in our common efforts to reach the goal of better health for all people. Leaders of the Summit came away with a sense that it is important to make this a grass roots movement from the outset.  It is hoped that the pitfall can be avoided that would create a Western-style organizational structure too quickly and require a high cost to maintain which may exclude those with limited resources.

Executive Director, Paul Leichty and I represented Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship at two sessions of the Summit that specifically discussed the GAHN proposal. Beth Good, MHF Board secretary-treasurer, also attended as a representative of MCC.

MHF representatives also were present for some follow-up discussions.  Out of those discussions, Rick Stiffney, CEO of Mennonite Health Services is coordinating the next steps in the movement toward a Global Anabaptist Health Network.  Steps may include building a database of Mennonite-related healthcare organizations and convening a group to plan a gathering similar to the Summit in 2018.

Both of these meetings demonstrate the ongoing interest among Mennonites to support efforts toward international healthcare. MHF members, with their considerable international experience, have much to contribute toward these efforts.

About the author

Eric LehmanEric Lehman, M.D., is a physician in family practice from Archbold, Ohio. He served on the MHF Board from 2012-2015 including a year as President.  Eric graduated from Goshen College in 1982 and Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1986. Following his residency, he has been serving the Archbold community in family practice medicine since 1989.