One From the Heart: A Healthy Mission

Nancy Heberling & Madelyn Wiersma

Meet Madelyn & Nancy:
The definition of health has become broader as the role of preventative medicine is becoming better understood. The new term is "Health and Wellness," and it is considered to be mental, spiritual, and physical. This new approach to healing is currently being lived out is by the Health Ministry Team at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island. Madelyn Wiersma who is a member of the Board of Deacons now leads it, but it has earlier roots. Nancy Heberling was one of the originators and is still acting as a mentor to the program.

PINK: Nancy, talk a bit about the beginnings of this ministry at First Prez.
Nancy: Well, in 2005 then pastor Cathy Northrup called together people she knew were interested in wholistic health care in the church, and she knew that I had been a parish nurse in my past church in Ohio. The original group consisted of two nurses, several educators and counselors, and a staff person from the church. We also reached out to St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church and coordinated with their health ministry, and we still frequently touch base with them and share committee functions.

PINK: What were some of your first goals and accomplishments?
Nancy: The very first thing we did was to create a smoke-free church campus. We then worked with the kitchen staff to provide heart healthy menus for our regular Wednesday night dinners. We created an educational program called "Wellness Wednesdays", where information was presented about various forms of cancers, ER care, nutritional programs, depression, and stress. Our ideas came from input by the congregation, and we worked with other community groups to share resources. We created an exercise program called "Fitness With Friends" that has been going on three times a week, year round, for nearly six years. We also developed "Caring Friends" to offer respite to caregivers and "Lay Visitors" to support caregivers on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes just a little time off for these people can make a huge difference. That sounds like a lot when you sum it all up like that, doesn't it?

PINK: Yes, it really does-what a beginning! About a year ago Nancy transitioned her position to the new chairman Madelyn Wiersma. How did you transition to the new chair with all of those things going on? (I asked this question to both women.)

PINK: What sort of preparation and schooling did you have to do all of this?
Nancy: The transition to Madelyn was easy, as we both were hospice nurses and we both believe in the concept of wholistic care-that is the interweaving of physical, mental, and spiritual. We had also worked along side each other almost since the beginning.
Madelyn: I agree. Everything went very smoothly. Nancy is an excellent leader, and she is always willing to give advice and help when needed.

PINK: What are some of the new things you are working on, Madelyn?
Madelyn: We started a group called "SOLOs," which brings singles together for an activity once a month. We are also involved with a bereavement ministry that sends cards and makes phone calls to those who are left alone and keep up contact for up to one year. My skills as a retired hospice care nurse are very helpful in these conversations. We sponsor blood drives, reach out to those with new babies, and make home visits to the chronically ill. We offer transportation to doctor appointments, and make sure that meals are available, too. We also have follow-up home visits to those who have recently been released from the hospital. We have defibrillators, wheel chairs, and first aid boxes available at church for regular use. A countywide program called "Healthy Lifestyles," aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic, is being coordinated by Max Judge, one of our committee members, so we are supporting that effort as well.

PINK: What are you doing on the spiritual side?
Nancy: We keep prayer very high on our agenda. Our pastor, Jan Cook, leads a Service of Remembrance every year, where we celebrate the lives of members who have died during the year. We also bring a message of hope and desire for spiritual well being to any message or presentation we deliver. Our team consists of the committee, sub committees, doctors, hospital staff, speakers, dietitians, and on and on. Our mission statement is: To promote wholeness of body, mind, and spirit by empowering individuals to be responsible stewards of God's gift of life. We try to honestly and faithfully live by this statement.

This group reaches out to the community as a whole, and as you can see from the list of things they accomplish, they truly are spreading their message of health, wellness, and education. The spiritual, physical, and mental triangle is their symbol, and their goal is to bring their message to as many people as possible!

What is next for this wonderful ministry?

The upcoming series is titled "Journeying Toward Wellness" and includes such topics as "Rediscovering the Fountain of Youth" and a special presentation dealing with the topic of organ donation titled "Organ/Tissue Donation: So That They May Live."