November 14, 2022

Adventist Leaders Challenged to Deepen the Wholeness Agenda

AdventHealth Conference on Mission calls attendees to redouble efforts to help people.

Elizabeth Camps, Southern Tidings
[Photo: Tim Brown]

“I commend you — you are already doing so much for the whole person. My question is, what haven’t you tried yet?”

This was the closing statement that Chris Oberg, CEO of Path of Life Ministries, gave to a room of AdventHealth Board members and executive leaders, key representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and local community leaders who attended AdventHealth’s 32nd annual Conference on Mission. Oberg challenged attendees to live up to the AdventHealth brand promise: feel whole.

Over the course of the three-day conference, the presenters responded to that challenge through a deep exploration of understanding what wholeness is, how it’s quantified, and how to help communities feel whole.

Hosted by AdventHealth, this annual event brought together key leaders from the Adventist Church and AdventHealth to discuss foundational issues, industry trends, and the delivery of transformational whole-person care to millions of individuals. For the past five years, AdventHealth has been on a journey to understand and live its brand promise in a way no other organization has done. In this multi-year process, attendees have grappled with what wholeness looks like for the body, mind, and spirit. Previous years of the event invited attendees to work through key issues such as mental health, spiritual care, and health equity.

This year’s Conference on Mission, with the theme “Guided by Purpose,” gave attendees the opportunity to explore the results of the years-long research that AdventHealth has dedicated to defining wholeness. The event began with an opening keynote from Oberg, in which she challenged those present to go beyond what was already being done and look for what more can be done.

“When you put wholeness in your brand, you’re taking on a big responsibility,” Terry Shaw, president and CEO of AdventHealth, said. “We started this journey by putting spiritual care in the outpatient setting and adding mental health services into primary care. Now we have a wholeness model to help us look at, from a business perspective, what it means to feel whole. And, we have our diversity, equity, and inclusion councils to better enable us to help people feel whole.”

David Banks, senior executive vice president and chief strategy and organizational transformation officer for AdventHealth, presented attendees with the business case for wholeness, journeying through a history of pivotal moments in health care and forces that shaped health care into what it is today. With this established context, Banks presented the strategic aspirations of AdventHealth through the year 2030, and how these aspirations are rooted in a legacy of whole-person care and come together to make AdventHealth a nationally recognized leader in whole-person care.

“Wholeness is delivered every day in this organization,” Banks said. “The opportunity we have is, can we do it more often? Can we be more consistent? Can we ensure more people get to experience it?”

Carla Park, executive director of wholeness and faith strategy for AdventHealth, led conference attendees through an overview of the AdventHealth wholeness model.

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“For our concept of wholeness at AdventHealth, there is no such thing as an individual,” Park said. “We are each a connected entity: to self, to God, and to others.”

Park’s statement came alive throughout the entire event. Each element of the conference — speakers, environment, storytelling, integration of the arts, and mission threaded throughout — created a unique experience that was truly a conference on mission. The key takeaway for attendees was their readiness to work on connecting together with God to move forward in a way that will change AdventHealth and change the world.

“God’s presence was felt,” Park said in reflection of the conference. “It wasn’t just us sitting around, but the presence of the Holy Spirit was there. God worked through humans to do something beautiful.”

To close out the event on Saturday (Sabbath) morning, attendees heard an inspiring message from Sam Leonor Jr., mission and spiritual care executive at Adventist Health. Leonor spoke on the unchanging mission of Adventist health care and how it connects to wholeness. The message highlighted how the healing miracles performed by Jesus during His time on earth did more than just heal a broken body, that His miracles healed the mind and spirit of the recipient too.

“We must be the kind of people who see people as Jesus did, and we must enter into the work ahead with our eyes wide open,” Leonor said. “We must choose to see the real need, what people actually seek: belonging, fulfillment, and meaning. Once our eyes are open to that, it is impossible to ignore. This will make AdventHealth an organization more closely aligned with the mission and values of our founder: Jesus.”

Reflections from the 2022 Conference on Mission Attendees

“Taking this time every year for our whole company to come together to focus on our mission keeps us connected and energized in the sacred work of caring for our communities in their greatest time of need,” Michael Knecht, president at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, said. “This year’s conference personally inspired me to challenge our thinking of how we serve the most vulnerable in our community.”

“While I have felt inspired and energized with each one, the conference this year was on another level!” Eric Shadle, vice president of mission integration for Centura Health, said. “At various times throughout the conference, I found myself being intellectually challenged, easily amused, and deeply touched in my soul — so much so that I was brought to tears. It was an amazing time of spiritual, mental, and operational insights that made me emboldened to come back to Colorado and Centura Health to fully live our ministry’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ, and vision of ensuring every community, every neighborhood, and every life is whole and healthy.”

“Of all the events we have throughout the year, this one is my favorite,” Thor Thordarson, president and CEO of AdventHealth in the Great Lakes Region, said. “It’s a time where we can step back and really focus on how we are doing in living our mission. It’s a time to recharge our spiritual batteries, to be inspired, and really understand the ‘why’ behind our work.”

“I appreciate the intentionality of AdventHealth in staying true to the core values of our faith, and in building on the hospital foundation of the health system, to continue to stay on the path of bringing wholeness to people,” Elden Ramirez, executive secretary of the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and member of the AdventHealth Board, said.

“If we allow ourselves as an organization to expand our ministry beyond caring for the acutely ill, meaning we address the whole person across the continuum of health and the life experiences that define them, we could implement great transformation,” Ronny Ford, vice president and CMO of Texas Health Huguley, said. “As caregivers and Christians, not only would it be transformational for the people we care for and for ourselves, but it could redefine the health-care industry. In that, I can only imagine a Voice saying, ‘I am well pleased.’ ”

The original version of this story was posted by Southern Tidings.