Annual Gathering 2017

Creating Healing Environments

MHF Annual Gathering 2017!

Creating Healing Environments

Annual Gathering 2017 Logo

June 23-25, 2017

Laurelville Mennonite Church Center

Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania

Co-hosted with the Mennonite Chaplains Association

Report on Annual Gathering 2017

MHF focuses on Creating Healing Environments at Annual Gathering 2017

Nearly one hundred members of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF) gathered at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center over the weekend of June 23-25, 2017 to explore the theme,  “Creating Healing Environments.” Severe weather, including torrential downpours and tornado warnings, greeted the attendees at they arrived on Friday, but the weather grew steadily more pleasant as the weekend progressed.

The plenary sessions included meaningful worship experiences, energetic singing, and thought-provoking input by presenters Donna Minter, John Wenger, David Baker, Anthony Brown, and Katerina Friesen. Eight workshops were presented on Saturday afternoon on a variety of topics, with participants able to choose up to four options.

Attendees represented a broad diversity of ages including several families. Twelve children participated in a lively and fun children’s program which met during the adult sessions. A large number of participants were attending their first MHF gathering. Long-time friendships were renewed and new friendships formed over social time, during meals, and between sessions. A highlight of the fellowship was the Saturday evening hymn sing and ice cream social.

For the first time, MHF tried live-streaming the plenary sessions on Facebook. Also created was a short video featuring a number of attendees making brief statements about how they create healing environments in their work. Videos can be viewed on Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship’s Facebook page under the “Videos” tab.  

Prior to the Annual Gathering, the MHF Board of Directors met on Thursday evening and Friday morning to consider a number of business items, including discussion about future Annual Gatherings. The consensus of the directors was that an annual meeting is important for maintaining the momentum of the organization, and for providing maximum opportunities for members in various parts of the country to attend. Next year’s Annual Gathering will be June 22-24, 2018, likely in Ohio. The exact location will be shared as soon as a contract with a facility is finalized.

This year’s gathering was co-hosted by the Mennonite Chaplains Association (MCA), of which about a dozen members were present. At their meeting on Friday afternoon, members of MCA voted to disband the organization, citing the difficulty of maintaining a national organization. MCA members are encouraged to become members of MHF, and/or to participate in chaplain cluster meetings sponsored by Mennonite Health Services or denominational chaplain circles. The presence of the chaplains at MHF’s Annual Gathering 2017 enriched the time together. Interim Executive Director Timothy Johnson expressed gratefulness for their attendance. He also expressed special thanks to J. Melvin Janzen, MCA President, for leading a time of centering prayer on Sunday morning before worship.

Annual Gathering 2017 Photo Gallery

Select a picture to start slide show.  

Worship and Music Leaders

Brad Yoder — Music Leader. Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter Brad Yoder led in music throughout the weekend, and also playing his own songs in a coffeehouse performance Friday night, during the “Snacks & Fellowship” time. 



Kayla BerkeyKayla Berkey — Worship Leader,  Chair of Worship Commission at Pittsburgh Mennonite Church led the worship time.


Plenary Session Presentations

Friday evening, June 23 – Opening Plenary

Donna MinterEngaging the Anabaptist Vision: Healing in the Way of Jesus

Donna Minter




Saturday morning, June 24

John WengerHealing Spaces within 21st Century Healthcare Systems

John Wenger




Saturday evening, June 24

David BakerHealing in the Third Age

David Baker





Sunday morning, June 25 

Healing through Sharing Song and Story

Tony Brown




Leaves for the Healing of the Nations: Addressing the Spiritual Roots of the Climate Crisis

Katerina Friesen




Workshop Sessions

  • Introduction to Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) – Donna Minter
  • Repairing the Breach: Churches as Sites of Environmental Healing and Food System Change – Katerina Friesen
  • One Disease: Redox Imbalance as the Root Cause of Chronic Disease – Michael Sherer
  • Restoring Trauma-Informed Care: Keeping Ourselves Accountable with Cultural Humility and Social Consciousness – Aaron Erb
  • Training in the Healing Professions – Randy Longenecker, Shari Leidig Holland, and panel
  • Aging: A time for family conversations—and healing – Marlene and Gerald Kaufman
  • Healing Conversations around Contentious Subjects – Kenton Derstine
  • Mobilization for Service Reports – Grant Recipients

More information

Essay Scholarship

Students, residents, and other professionals in training were encouraged to submit an essay (under 2,000 words) on the theme “Creating Healing Environments” from their respective perspectives and experiences. Awards and publication were given to the following persons: 



Mennonite Health Journal

New Podcast Episode: Esther Bucher and the Impact of Occupational Therapy

NEW PODCAST EPISODE with Esther Bucher

Occupational Therapy Makes Life Accessible


Occupational therapy makes life accessible: An interview with Esther Bucher

Esther Bucher talks about her experience as an occupational therapist, how she came to her profession in her forties and her two service terms abroad with different Mennonite mission groups, including time in Vietnam as a MCC service worker where she worked with victims of Agent Orange.


Available on All major Podcast Platforms

Paul D. Leichty

Paul D. Leichty, MDiv
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Executive Director of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship

I am committed to assist healthcare professionals to integrate their Anabaptist Christian faith and their professional life. It is a privilege to serve hundreds of committed and caring healthcare professionals in their faith journey. 

Indigo Miller, BSN, RN

Indigo Miller, BSN, RN
Boston, Mass.
RN & MPH Candidate

MHF does important work providing opportunities for health professionals and students to build relationships across disciplines while encouraging tough conversations centered on how faith influences our individual and collective work improving health and seeking physical, mental, and spiritual human wellness. I am personally thankful to MHF for offering valuable opportunities in leadership and networking as a young professional, and their generosity via the Steven Roth Memorial Grant Program in support of my public health volunteering in Tanzania.

The Anabaptist Healthcare Worker: Pursuing a Call to Nurturing People as a Life Standard

The Anabaptist Healthcare Worker: Pursuing a Call to Nurturing People as a Life Standard

A reflection from Five Life Standards Nurture Council member Jennifer Wiebe

The Anabaptist Healthcare Worker: Pursuing a Call to Nurturing People as a Life Standard

What do a cookbook, my work in health care, and following Christ have in common? The answer may be found in Doris Janzen Longacre’s More-with-Less Cookbook.  In the book, Janzen Longacre writes about the Five Life Standards, which includes a call to the work of nurturing people. She states that nurturing is feeding, but it is much more than feeding. Janzen Longacre asserts that nurturing “includes all actions that bring others to full life and growth in the kingdom of God.” Janzen Longacre’s vision of nurturing certainly has implications for me as an Anabaptist healthcare provider. Her words beckon me to provide the best care I can for others. They inspire me to do what I can, not only to nurture people’s health, but their entire well-being. Furthermore, at a time when many healthcare workers feel disillusioned and exhausted, there is inspiration in the idea that all of us need to be nurtured and supported, and that we cannot attend to the needs of others until we have received sustenance ourselves.  

As I think about nurturing people in the context of my work in providing medical care to Indigenous people in the inner city and on a remote reserve, I think about when it is that people feel nurtured. I remember Russell (not his real name). Russel was a proud Indigenous man, and he was not feeling nurtured by anything that I was doing. We did not connect at all, and even after two visits I could not figure out why he had come in. At one point he suggested that I probably did not care about him or any of his problems. I was at a loss, and eventually our meeting ended in failure. I had certainly done nothing at all to help him.  I assumed that he would never be back again, and I felt frustrated and defeated. A while later that same day, I realized that Russell was still in the clinic, sitting all by himself. I decided to offer him a cup of coffee. He looked at me strangely, smiled, and accepted the coffee. Then he asked if he could make an appointment for the following week, since he had so many concerns that he needed to talk about. At that moment, everything changed. On that day, the two of us forged a friendship that would last for many years, and I feel blessed at the opportunities we have had to learn from each other. All of this happened because of one cup of coffee. With this cup of coffee, I was able to offer some physical nourishment to him, and I believe that he felt nurtured in other ways as well. 

The story of Russel and the cup of coffee shows what can happen when we pay attention and work towards nurturing others. Although not all situations have such a positive ending, Anabaptist healthcare providers generally are nurturing people. This may go back to the days of Menno Simons, who is 1539 stated that true faith “feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful,” and it “binds up that which is wounded.” As healthcare workers, we see a lot of hungry, sorrowful, and wounded people, and we want to fulfill the call to provide care and nourishment for them. 

Although our goal as healthcare providers and followers of Christ is to nurture others to health and well-being, there are times when the extent of the need seems overwhelming. There seems to always be another serious health problem or another mental health crisis. This is especially discouraging when we see how certain groups of people are suffering disproportionately in our society. One glaring example of this is the unequal effect that the pandemic has had on particular communities. Sometimes the crushing problems seem formidable, and it is all one can do to get up in the morning to face another day.       

Considering that healthcare providers spend much of their time nurturing others, it is important that they are nurtured themselves. This can come in many forms, and depending on the person, may include activities such as meditation, listening to music, creating artwork, doing a physical activity, or discussing the concerns of the day with a trusted friend. Christians in healthcare can also go to the source of all nourishment. Christ bestows on us refreshments and the provisions of life, including daily bread and living water to sustain us during life’s most difficult trials. As seen in Jeremiah 17:7-8, those who trust in the Lord are blessed, and are like trees planted by the water. 

In John 13:14, Jesus himself uses the symbol of water to teach his disciples about the need to receive support and nurture for themselves. In this passage, Jesus pours water on the feet of the disciples, and then washes them. By doing so, Jesus is showing his love for them, and is a source of encouragement to them. Jesus’ act of washing the disciples’ feet also prepares them for the work ahead. He says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” It is only after Jesus provides for his disciples and nourishes their souls that he invites them to follow his example to nurture other people as well. Furthermore, Jesus shows the disciples exactly how they are to nurture and support others. Since only servants usually washed people’s feet, Jesus puts himself in the role of a servant, and therefore exemplifies an attitude of humility. In addition, the act of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet meant that the disciples were no longer just people that needed to be provided for. Instead, Jesus’ act of love suggests that he and the disciples are now in a different kind of relationship. They are no longer just teacher and student, but they are now friends. Jesus is a role model for healthcare providers, and is an example that we should embrace. Like Jesus, we are to serve others with compassion and humility, and the relationship we have with the people we serve makes all the difference.    

Besides using water to nurture his disciples, Jesus also used five loaves and two fish to nourish an entire crowd. As we see in John 6:9, he used a young boy, a child, to make it all happen. Jesus used that meager lunch to bless and feed thousands of people. This all happened because the child “showed up,” and was willing to give what he had. Jesus changed everything, and used this lunch to abundantly provide for everyone. He used the offerings of a child to show compassion and mercy to each person that was there that day. 

Doris Janzen Longacre talks about aspiring to a life of nurturing as a life standard. This certainly applies to healthcare providers. Sometimes we need to be nurtured ourselves, and need to let Jesus wash our feet. At other times, our small attempts at nurturing may turn into something life-giving. Sometimes, like the boy with the loaves and fish, we just need to show up and make ourselves available. And sometimes, all it takes is a cup of coffee.

Thank you, Jennifer, for this beautiful reflection. Do you have a reflection on the way(s) any of the Five Life Standards impact your work and living? Submit to Cate! Please consider joining us for Annual Gathering for in-depth, connected discussion of the Life Standards and how we renew and rejuvenate ourselves as healthcare providers. 


NEW Podcast Episode: Social Epidemiology during the Pandemic, a Mennos in Medicine Special

NEW PODCAST EPISODE with Allison Ruark

Social Epidemiology comes to life during the Pandemic


Mennos in Medicine: Social epidemiology comes to life during a pandemic; An interview with Allison Ruark

Allison Ruark discusses her first year of teaching epidemiology during a pandemic and life changes the pandemic has brought to her and her family, with a sudden move from South Africa to the states. She gives us an epidemiological perspective on the pandemic and the impact the vaccine is having on our daily lives.

Available on All major Podcast Platforms