With Our Faith and Hope and Energy

“Good health is an essential to happiness, and happiness is an essential to good citizenship.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-day health program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. My goal was to maximize my capacity to be fruitful and effective as an episcopal leader by investing in my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

My experience was unlike anything I could have imagined! Dozens of wheelchairs were lined up outside the main building at 6:30 a.m., waiting for the arrival of hundreds of patients from around the world. Every year 1.3 million people from all walks of life as well as every state and 150 countries visit one of the various Mayo facilities, most as outpatients. In 2016-17, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, was ranked as the #1 overall hospital in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

“Within its walls all classes of people, the poor as well as the rich, without regard to color or creed, shall be cared for without discrimination.” – Dr. Will Mayo

William Worrall (WW) Mayo came to Rochester, Minnesota in 1863 as an examining surgeon for the military draft board during the Civil War. After the war was over, Mayo opened a medical practice, and his sons William James (Will) and Charles Horace (Charlie) followed in their father’s footsteps.

August 21, 1883, was a defining moment in Rochester and in the Mayo family. A tornado destroyed one-third of the town, resulting in thirty-seven deaths and over two hundred injuries. The Mayo family escaped serious harm, and W.W., his son Will, and other doctors set up a temporary hospital in the city dance hall. Called in to serve as nurses were Mother Alfred Moes and the Catholic Sisters of St. Francis, who had no medical training.

Mother Alfred Moes subsequently suggested to Dr. Mayo that she and her sisters would fund and build a hospital in Rochester if Dr. Mayo and his sons would serve as the staff. St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1889, and an addition followed five years later. W.W. Mayo, who was seventy years old at the time, was a consulting physician at the hospital while sons Will and Charlie saw patients and performed surgeries. They, along with four other physicians, were the founders of Mayo Clinic.

“With our faith and hope and energy, it will succeed.” – Mother Alfred Moes

From the beginning, Mayo Clinic was a different kind of hospital, providing integrated care focusing on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. According to Mayo Clinic’s website, “Mayo Clinic is a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education, and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing.” Mayo’s mission statement is “to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education, and research.”

Mayo doctors consult with each other about patient care and collaborate on comprehensive diagnoses and treatment in almost every medical and surgical specialty. Since the Mayo system has 4,500 physicians and scientists as well as 57,000 health staff, most patients can receive coordinated and multidisciplinary care from many physicians and staff in a single visit.

Chaplains are available 24-hours a day, and chapels in the three main buildings are always open, including worship spaces for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. There is also a new Healthy Living Center, which offers physical activity assessments, personalized wellness plans, meditation, yoga, and classes on stress relief, resiliency, and nutrition.

“We must not forget that happiness is a state of mind, not necessarily of body, that life is what each person believes it to be. The sick man needs faith, faith in his physician, but there comes a time when faith in a higher power may be necessary to sustain his morale.” – Dr. Will Mayo

As has happened so often in American history, the Methodists made their mark on the Mayo story as well, for the church is also God’s agent for healing of mind, body, and spirit.

Twenty-three years after the Mayo’s opened their first clinic, John H. Kahler decided to build additional hospital facilities for patients near the Mayo brothers’ offices in Rochester. These buildings were a combination of hospital rooms, operating rooms, and hotels.

By the early 1950’s, the Kahler Corporation decided to offload their hospitals. A group of influential citizens, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Methodist Harry Blackmun (then a Mayo Clinic legal counsel), convinced the Methodist Church in 1954 to become the sponsor of these hospitals. A new 794-bed hospital was built in 1966 and was called Rochester Methodist Hospital. By 1986, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Methodist Hospital, and Saint Mary’s Hospital integrated their operations, and in 2014, they finally became one single hospital. The Mayo Clinic Methodist Campus continues the legacy of John Wesley’s 1778 words.

It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.” – John Wesley

Is health care the privilege of those who can pay or a right for all? It continues to be a critical question. Who deserves health care in the US or anywhere in the world? And what obligation do governments have to care for the whole person, no matter what their financial resources might be? Living as I do in a state where funds for the treatment of mental illness have been cut so drastically that there are not nearly enough beds for those who need inpatient care, or therapists for those who need outpatient care, how will the church make its voice heard?

“It is a poor government that does not realize that the prolonged life, health, and happiness of its people are its greatest asset.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo

As people of faith, we know that Jesus always saw the whole person. Matthew 4:23 says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” Resolution #3201 from the 2008 and 2012 United Methodist Book of Resolutions was amended and readopted in 2016 by the General Conference and includes these words,

“In a just society, all people are entitled to basic maintenance and health-care services. We reject as contrary to our understanding of the gospel, the notion of differing standards of health care for various segments of the population. The American Health Care system must serve and be sensitive to the diversity of all people in the United States and its territories.”

“If we excel at anything, it is in our capacity for translating idealism into action.”      – Dr. Charlie Mayo

Every single person I encountered in my two-day health program was not only excellent, but caring: from the internist, to the integrative medicine doctor, to the x-ray techs, to Sherry, the person with the unenviable task of cleaning wax from my ears. When Sherry found out what my job is, she talked about how her parents were “dumpers”; that is, they dumped her off at the local United Methodist Church on Sunday morning without going themselves. She also testified that the faithful disciples at her church modeled how to love as Jesus loved and make a difference in the world. It was a deeply touching story that only reinforced my passion for the church and the conviction that each one of us is a healer.

“The success of the clinic must be measured by its contributions to the general good of humanity.”Dr. Charlie Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo

With our faith and hope and energy, we can not only heal, but we can change the world!

Mommy, Don’t Let Them Get You!

How might God be speaking to you through these true stories from Iowa?

From a mother of two who has been here for twenty years:

I don’t know what to do. My husband died two weeks ago. I don’t have time to grieve. I’m too worried about taking care of my kids. The other day I was rear-ended, and my car is a mess. I am so lucky the policeman didn’t give me a ticket for not having a license. But he told me not to drive. Now he knows my car because of the dented fender, so how do I get to work?

My kids are devastated from their father’s death and the trauma of living with a cancer patient for years. My husband was diagnosed when our youngest was two years old. Almost all of his life, our son has lived with the possibility of his father dying and also with the threat of both his parents being deported. It has traumatized him.

I was at work the other day when someone ran into the office, saying, “ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is driving around in the neighborhood!” I was terrified. What would happen to my children if I’m deported? They are still grieving the death of their father, and now, what if I get deported? Every time I drive, I’m worried that I’ll be picked up.

The other day I was driving from one place to another, and I know that ICE was following me. I saw them in my rearview mirror. What am I supposed to do? Stay behind locked doors in my house? How will I work? How will I buy food, make my house payment, pay the electric bill? I have been in Des Moines for twenty years.

My husband had and I have no criminal record – nothing. Our daughter is a student at the university, and our son is in high school. If I’m sent back to the country in which I was born, what will happen to my son? Should he come with me? But then he would lose his educational opportunities. He’s a very good student. All I have are questions. No one has the answers. Lawyers can’t even tell me what’s going to happen because no one knows how the laws are going to be interpreted.

People tell me, “Become legal.” How? There’s no way. I applied fifteen years ago, and I have at least five more years to wait to even be considered for permanent residency.

The place where people worship in a church building is called the “sanctuary.” The concept of sanctuary or “safe places” for people to flee is found in Numbers 35:10-11, where God says to Moses, “When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, so that a slayer who kills a person without intent may flee there.” The biblical practice of sanctuary was to protect an accused person from vigilante justice until a fair trial could be held.

From a wife and mom

I love my children. They are the three most precious gifts from God that I can possibly imagine. And, my husband! He looks like a big hunk, but he is the sweetest guy you could ever meet. He knew from the very beginning of our relationship that I was undocumented. Since even before our first baby was born, he knew that I might be deported at any time. He knew he might end up being a single parent, so he decided to be the best dad he could possibly be … and he is! Since ICE has been out arresting people, I’ve been scared, really scared that his fear might become a reality, that he actually might be a single parent for our three children. The rumors on the street are crazy, just crazy. People say that our landlords will turn us in, that our enemies will turn us in, that we can’t talk to the police because they’ll turn us in. They say that ICE agents are horrible and mean.

My husband was so worried that he made me quit my job. I am going crazy staying at home. I love my kids, but … we can’t go to the park anymore. We can’t go to the mall and have them play in the playground. We can’t go to the store to buy groceries together. We can’t walk in the neighborhood. I can’t work anymore. I can’t go to church. I can’t go to their school plays. It breaks my heart that they think I don’t want to attend their plays, but if I do go I might get caught and deported. I love them so much! I can’t imagine life if I were sent back to Central America! But it’s driving me crazy being in the house all of the time. My husband says that’s how it has to be for now. How long will “now” last?

  • “For the Lord your God … loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:18-19)
  • “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
  • “The aliens shall be to you as citizens, and shall also be allotted an inheritance.” (Ezekiel 47:21-22)
  • “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

From a husband and dad

I’m Latino, born in California. Even though I’m a citizen, I don’t want to drive with my wife in the car because they will stop us and she doesn’t have documents. Why doesn’t she become legal? Why doesn’t she follow the correct way to come into the U.S., you ask? Well, the truth is, there is no way. So I have to convince my wife to stay at home so that she doesn’t get detained and sent away from us. I love her. I love her with all my being, yet I can’t do anything to protect her except make sure she stays at home and doesn’t answer the door except when she knows friends are coming over. I know it’s hard for her, but that’s how it has to be for now.

In medieval England, from at least the 12th to the 16th centuries, sanctuary was a legal procedure in both the church and secular law. Once accused persons made it into the safety of a churchyard, a community was legally obligated to keep them safe and feed them for up to forty days. After forty days, fugitives often had to confess, give up their possessions, and walk barefoot to the nearest port where they would live in exile for the rest of their life.

It is important to note that the concept of US faith communities providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants has no legal standing, which means that housing an undocumented immigrant in a church building is a violation of federal law. At the same time, there are currently faith communities housing immigrants across the US as a sign of God’s love, and historically, immigration enforcement agents have not entered houses of faith to remove a person. The new Executive Order has removed the previous administration’s practice of prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. 

From a mom and professional

“Mommy don’t let them get you!” Those are the last words I hear from my five-year-old little girl every time I leave the house. I drive safely, I have insurance, I make sure the lights on my car are working properly, and I never go above the speed limit or run a red light or fail to stop at a stop sign… Yet I can’t stop being Latina. I can’t change the color of my skin or the way I look, so being stopped, arrested, and deported is always a possibility. I pray every day that I don’t get caught. I wonder why some people get caught and others don’t? Do some people pray more than others? Does God listen more to some than to others?

What can we do to help our brothers and sisters who have made this country their home but live in constant terror? Dare we sacrifice the safety of others in order to ensure our own safety and comfort? Can we turn against our own neighbors? How do we preserve the dignity of others and work for the common good of all of God’s children?

From a professional:

I was born in Mexico. I came to the US when I was a child. My mother and brother came here with me because she wanted to start a new life without my father. I became concerned soon after the 2016 election when my mother, who is a Legal Permanent Resident, was riding a Des Moines metro bus and another passenger said to her in a hateful, threatening tone, “Good, now you and all illegals like you will have to go back to where you belong.”

It was very upsetting to my mom. But I realized that I, too, looked like who I am, a Mexican. Well, I’m a U.S. citizen, and Des Moines is my home, but my family’s heritage is Mexican. Since then I have carried my U.S. passport everywhere I go. I am a professional. I have a Master’s degree and work at a university, but I walk in fear everywhere I go. It’s not just people who don’t have documents to work, it’s anyone who looks different from the stereotypical Iowans of European descent – white folks.

  • When immigrants have to wait twenty years before even being considered for permanent residency, how can we be a voice for immigration reform?
  • In Iowa and other states, there is a network of faith communities that is willing to provide support for immigrant families in need. (iowasanctuary.org)
  • Support for those who are vulnerable can be given in different ways: through finances, meals, rides, child care, and prayer.
  • Direct people to Justice for our Neighbors, a United Methodist free legal immigration ministry in many states, including Iowa.
  • Churches can advertise their support for immigrant communities and welcome all people to worship and participate.

I pray for the day when no child will have to ever say again, “Mommy, don’t let them get you!”




What is Saving Your Life Right Now?

As the four of us sat down for an extended lunch recently, one of my friends asked, “What is saving your life right now?” We sighed, laughed, and began to reflect, all of us United Methodist clergywomen. We didn’t bother trying to unpack what the question meant because we instinctively knew.

What is it that keeps you going during this uncertain time in our denomination, country, and world? How can we live fully when others are living in fear, refugee families are desperate to find safety, friends are reduced to poverty because of medical debt, and racial/ethnic tensions continue to simmer? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 16:25 when he says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

What is saving my life? Let me count the ways.

  • Visiting the Detroit Zoo with my three friends on a spring-like February day and running into a former church member, who was carrying on his back a six-year-old Syrian refugee boy sponsored by the church. What joy was on his face!
  • Hearing about a church that made several hundred paper hearts for Valentine’s Day and delivered them to a nearby Muslim congregation.
  • Celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with our Christian family and our son-in-law’s Jewish family. Talking about how we are all obligated to advocate for those who are on the margins, for we rise and fall together.

  • Reading books that deepen my faith, challenge my mind, and inspire me to make a difference: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller
  • Meeting with various groups in my travels who are asking, “How can we be people of faith in the times in which we live, especially when our own families are divided?”
  • Spending time with United Methodist college students who are grateful for a safe place to explore their faith and do not hesitate to make their voice heard.
  • Walking through a botanical garden and marveling at the variety of God’s world, including the sausage tree, which is sacred to many communities.

  • Observing how people are learning to dialogue about difficult issues in ways that are not defensive, accusatory or mean but rather honor others.
  • Driving across Iowa on I-80 and listening to the splendid symphonies and symphonic dances of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
  • Discussing theology with my new six-year-old friend Kinnick from Council Bluffs, who asked what a bishop is and then prayed for me in worship the next day.

What is saving my life?

  • Celebrating the lives of two dear friends who died recently. Dorothy Wimmer, who died on her 90th birthday, sent more encouraging cards and notes to me over the past twenty-four years than anyone else. And Helene Hill, a deaconess in The United Methodist Church, was a prophet and leader in the area of social justice for the very least of God’s children. If only I could be more like Dorothy and Helene.
  • Reveling in the sweet song of a cardinal in a tree.
  • The wonder and innocence of small children.

  • Appointive cabinets across the country working prayerfully, strategically, and fruitfully to make clergy appointments.
  • Clergy giving themselves fully to ministry, yet also intentionally caring for their own physical, mental, and spiritual health.
  • Those who believe that the church is a big, big tent where there is room for all of us to live in peace, follow our passions, and change the world together.
  • A flower poking up through the ground in February.

  • Reading Exodus 3 and reminding myself that the God who self-identified as “I am who I am,” is also the One who will always be there for you and me.
  • Late night comedy shows that remind me it’s okay to lighten up once in a while.
  • Dear souls who pray for me and make sure I get where I am supposed to be.

What is saving my life?

  • Interacting with people who are bent over by the pain of the world but at the same time stand tall and reach out to others in need.
  • Welcoming to our churches those who are openly skeptical but have found a sanctuary where they can explore who God is and who they are called to become.
  • A husband and children who love me as I am and are doing their part to change the world.
  • Watching ordinary people do extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • An Iowa sunrise from a different perspective

  • Children of God who are hungry to learn, grow, and serve.
  • Stimulating interfaith conversations with Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists, confirming that we humans are more alike than we are different.
  • Saying “I’m sorry” and receiving grace.
  • After Meals on Wheels was in the news last week, remembering my mother, who served Meals on Wheels for many years and modeled for me the importance of using our time and gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Saving my life by losing it, and losing my life in order to find it.

What is saving your life right now?