Adventist Health Is Ministry
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alex Bryan, Adventist Health administrative director for mission identity, recently interviewed Joyce Newmyer for the Together Inspired podcast. Newmyer serves as president for the Pacific Northwest Region of Adventist Health. Excerpted and edited to fit the available print space, here are portions of that interview. The full 50-minute audio podcast is available online or embedded below.
Alex Bryan: How has your understanding of Adventist health care grown through the years?
Joyce Newmyer: I grew up near Sonora, California, where health care became my parents’ work and part of our family. We hung out with people from the hospital. We shared Sabbath lunches with them. I learned there was a way to work for the church, even if you weren’t a preacher or teacher. What I didn’t know was that it could become a complete life ministry. It never occurred to me that working in a hospital was ministry. In my professional health care career, my journey has taken me to Simi Valley Hospital, Tennessee Christian Medical Center, Florida Hospital, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Washington Adventist Hospital and now out here to Adventist Health on the West Coast. I’m absolutely convinced that what we do is ministry — and, it’s not just what we do, it’s what we are. I wake up every morning feeling blessed to be involved in a ministry that touches and changes and heals lives, and that brings hope.
Bryan: Give us some texture to what that looks like Monday through Friday.
Newmyer: Well, there are days it’s harder to remember than others — when you’re in meetings about the budget or the mechanics of the day-to-day operation. But the reality is that every encounter matters to every patient every single time. How we engage with them tells them whether we’re living God’s love or whether it’s just a job.
Bryan: What things are essential to making that ministry happen each day?
Newmyer: People are not numbers. They’re not positions or titles or diagnoses. It should never be difficult to warmly look someone in the eye and offer kind assistance. So, making a human connection is very important. The other area we focus on is trying to reduce anxiety and fear. When patients and their families come to us, they’d rather be doing just about anything else, anywhere else. A hospital is not their first choice of a place to visit. In the midst of their anxiety, it’s important that we get outside of ourselves and really connect with them and their concerns. I’ve determined to always be my authentic self, the same person at work, a grocery store, church or a baseball game. Everything matters in that journey. If I’m walking down the hall at work and I’m paying more attention to my cell phone than an employee or physician or a family member who’s walking toward me, what does that tell them about me?
Bryan: When you describe health care as God’s work, what do you mean?
Newmyer: When Jesus was here on Earth, He spent more time healing than preaching. He knew that people couldn’t hear His spiritual message until their practical, physical needs were met. When people are hurting, that’s about all they can think about. I believe Jesus also healed to set an example, to say, “This is what I want you to do. Care for My children in this way.” We do what we do because He did what He did. That’s our big “why.”
Bryan: You’ve been instrumental in helping forge a relationship between Adventist Health in Portland and Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) — two organizations with different missions. Why is this a good thing?
Newmyer: It’s an expanded chance to share our unique mission with the larger community. When we first started talking with them about a potential partnership, we didn’t begin with the mechanics of how this would work. The first meetings were spent talking about the missions of the organizations. We were up in an OHSU conference room one evening, looking out over Portland, and their president turned to me and said, “Tell me about the mission of Adventist Health.” And I had an opportunity at the beginning of this relationship to talk about what we believe and why — how we heal because Jesus healed, how we’re part of a grander picture in God’s plan for this world. And they respect that. As this relationship moves forward, we still own our buildings, employ our own employees and are still responsible to our own missions.
Bryan: Is there a connection here between what Joseph did in working in cooperation with the Egyptians to improve life there and with Daniel’s role in the Babylonian society?
Newmyer: Absolutely. If we just do what we do in a vacuum, without integrating with other agencies, what opportunities will likely be missed? I don’t think that approach serves any effective, purposeful mission. When I recruited Terry Johnsson to lead mission integration here, I did not want him limited to a traditional chaplain role. Chaplains ministering to our hospital patients are essential, but I don’t think we can stop there. And that means taking our purpose and integrating it with the communities we serve — including the shelters and soup kitchens. Why should they come to us, if we’ve never come to them? The essential care inside our hospitals is just one part of our work. We can partner with other organization to do so much more than what we could accomplish just by ourselves.
Bryan: Adventist Health is all about health, wholeness and hope. What makes you hopeful?
Newmyer: Jesus makes me hopeful. His love just astounds me — that He knows me and loves me and saves me is astounding to me. Knowing that I have the promise of forever with Him is the biggest hope I could ever have.