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June 2020 Newsletter

Director's Note, Community Events & Info, Interview with Ellen Warren (FCN Laurel Baptist), and Devotional from Pastor.

Dear beloved community,

This is a time of great pain in our nation and community. Some of us are isolated, afraid, sick from COVID-19. Some of us are experiencing pain as they imagine their friends, sons, brothers, daughters being killed by police in their neighborhoods (George Floyd), while sleeping (Breonna Taylor), or while on a jog (Armaud Arbery).

This violence against black americans is such a known (and accepted) reality that last week a white woman named Amy Cooper threatened to call the cops on a black man (Christian Cooper) who was bird watching in Central Park, who asked her to put a leash on her dog, saying “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” She used her privilege as a weapon, assuming the police would rush to arrest him and perhaps even worse.

For white people, this is a time to listen and to check in with our black brothers and sisters. Last night, my neighbor, who is the mother of two black young men broke down in tears as she told me of the pain of knowing her sons’ risk of dying during an interaction with the police, big or small. She spoke of her husband being pulled over frequently and coaching her to remain as calm as possible when talking to the police. On the other hand, my husband has never, ever been pulled over by the police while we're driving together.

Like all mothers I worry about my three year old son Gabriel, who is white, but I have never feared for his future interactions with police. I have never considered how to coach him to not make any sudden movements or keep his hands out of his pockets. As a white person, I live in a world that is privileged and safe from the daily anxieties of being Black in America.

I urge us all to kneel before God to pray and ask for forgiveness, for compassion, for reconciliation, for justice, and for peace. Ask God to make us the hands of God, the peacemakers. Because as Jesus Christ showed us, the work of radical compassion involves sacrificial love and is not easy but is the way of the Lord.

I hope we can all use this as an opportunity to educate ourselves toward greater empathy. This 10 minute video by Emmanuel Acho was shared by Bellingham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Baker this week and I encourage you to check it out by clicking here (it has already been viewed 6 million times).

I hope that this newsletter will inspire you by highlighting the long health ministry career of FCN Ellen Waren, and featuring a beautiful devotional from Joey Spoelstra, Lead Pastor at Ellen's church (Laurel Church, Bellingham WA) on caring for the sick and marginalized.

And finally, as our work continues in this crisis, Health Ministries Network would like to highlight your health ministry to share inspiration and hope. Please take a moment to fill out this survey to help us highlight Health Ministry during COVID-19 by clicking here. It should take about 10 minutes to complete. Thank you for taking the time to help us share hope.

Amelia Vader Executive Director

Upcoming Events

June Meeting

Friday, June 19, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

John R. Mastalski, MDiv, BCC, HEC-C, Manager of Spiritual Care at PeaceHealth St. Joseph's Medical Center will share about being a chaplain in the time of COVID-19.

Join us on Zoom using the meeting link sent via our email newsletter. Didn't get a link? Email

For those who have not used Zoom before, watch this in-depth instructional video on how to set it up.

Recording disclaimer: The latter half of this meeting is a presentation and Q&A which will be recorded and sent out to FCNs & HMs who cannot attend live. The recording will be, "speaker-view," which means only the person who is talking is visible in the recording, such as the presenter or anyone making a comment or asking a question. If you would not like to be a part of the recording, you can stop sharing video, or mute yourself and use the chat box to ask participate. Contact with any questions.

Community Events & Info

In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish community events and information in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email to add your own.

Coordinating Committee Openings

Whatcom CHW Network

Everyone is invited to serve on the Whatcom Community Health Worker Network Coordinating Committee! The Coordinating Committee has a “bird’s eye view” of the Network’s purpose, goals and growth to help the Network accomplish its purpose. There are five Coordinating Committee members and terms are for one year. We have three immediate openings. Please consider joining us and help grow the CHW Network by emailing us at

Move 4 A Cause

Every Friday, 4 - 4:30 PM - Zoom Video Conference Call

Dementia Support Northwest

Motivation can be hard to find these days, so every Friday from 4 - 4:30 PM Dementia Support Northwest will be moving and grooving to a different decade, beginning with the 1950s!! Register for this free event. $10 suggested donation to benefit Dementia Support Northwest.

Monthly CHW Meeting

Friday June 26, 9 - 11AM - Zoom Video Conference Call

Whatcom Community Health Worker Network

Join other community health workers for networking and resources. Email for the meeting link.

COVID-19 Support for Caregivers

Weekly - Zoom Video Conference Call

WWU Palliative Care Institute

The Palliative Care Institute has initiated a weekly on-line support group for staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, providing in-home care, and/or hospice care, creating a virtual space for them to come together to talk about the impact of the pandemic on their work and their clients and residents -- a kind of ‘COVID coffee break room,’ a place to sit down to talk for a few minutes with others who are also struggling to reconfigure all aspects of care. By gathering their thoughts, PCI hopes be a vehicle for sharing these stories more widely with those outside their worlds. Anyone who would like to join this support group can email to request the Zoom link.


Ellen Warren, FCN

Laurel Church, Bellingham, WA

16 years of health ministry (since 2004)

Tell me about your nursing and faith background.

I was a home health nurse in Missoula, Montana for many years working for an organization connected with the hospital there. I have always been a person who wants to learn everything, so I found myself doing a number of things such as hospice, infusion, and a title III program for disabled seniors living at home with low income. Because of my home health background, I always keep my nurse’s bag with me stocked with a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, pulse oximeter, food for low blood sugar, Afterbite for wasp and bee stings, and a number of other things I have learned to keep with me over the years. Being a faith community nurse is a cross between being a mom and a nurse. That’s actually why I got into being a nurse, just as an extension of being a mom.

As for faith, I have more conservative roots having been raised episcopal. I was catholic for a while, part of the unity church, and am now Baptist. I consider myself a very old soul and wear a medallion that has the star of David, the cross, a circle and names in English, Hebrew, and Greek for Jesus Christ as an expression of my faith.

Why do you do health ministry? Why does it matter?

It’s a calling, a spiritual calling. I experienced a lot of personal spiritual growth during a time in my life when I belonged to the unity church because it embraced so much of the work that God does. I learned a saying there that goes, “religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, spirituality is for people who have been there.” I consider myself a very spiritual person. I’ve always had religion in my life in one way or another, but now I know that my calling is to go where God sets my feet upon a path.

How has COVID-19 affected your health ministry?

COVID-19 has put a damper on my health ministry with mixed blessings. The situation has brought our church a little closer together thanks to our new minister, Joey Spoelstra and ten couples from the congregation organizing a team effort for communication and outreach. I am on the receiving end of these efforts and have been able to provide feedback to bolster my FCN work.

These ten couples and the minister have been contacting the congregants via phone. Just checking on everyone, praying and sharing our needs with others. I am not on the front lines as part of this team, but I do appreciate their work. It is something our church has needed for a long time.

How have you been coping with COVID-19’s effects on your daily life?

My coping skills have been tested to another higher level or degree. However, due to many decades of learning various skills I have managed to maintain the focus of God’s work. And, I remain flexible to some degree with the need for rest, recovery and recreation within reasonable guidelines. Some days I cope really well. Other days I raid the stash of premium ice cream in my freezer! God is good!

What programs or activities usually make up your ministry?

The biggest health issues facing my fellow congregants are age-related. Like most churches, the population at Laurel Church is aging, and on top of that people have learned to be independent, living out in the country. I do home visits and often refer people to home health services, physical therapy, caregivers, meals on wheels, or a social worker who can help get folks into assisted living. I try and recommend the level of assisted living that I see fit and remove any misunderstanding people may have about living in a nursing home. One congregant lived to be 100, another 98, and I helped both of them live at home until death.

I also do blood pressure checks. Laurel Church is a disaster relief center through the Red Cross, so I keep our response supplies and first aid in order and up to date. In the past, I have taught CPR classes here. A lot of my contribution is just being prepared for whatever situation may arise.

What challenges have you encountered over the course of your health ministry?

One challenge has been gaining the trust of people who are used to being very independent. A gentleman who lived to be 100 always walked around with a crutch, and one day he fell in church. People rushed in with a wheelchair, but he wouldn’t let anyone help him up. That’s when I told everyone to give him space and said, “he’ll live another 98 years.” It’s important to give people the chance to do what they want to do. He maintained his dignity. For most of us, it’s so difficult to ask for help until you realize you need help, but you have to come to that decision on your own.

What’s upcoming in your health ministry?

I’d love to retire and take time for myself. I have been busy caring for others here and on the care transitions team for Christian Health Care Center, as well as my fiancé who recently had surgery, two dogs, a cat, and whatever neighborhood animals come to my doorstep. I have plans to become a snowbird and don’t know if I will continue this work or not, maybe just in the summers.

Do you have a story of when health ministry made a difference in somebody's life?

I have brought communion to several people when they were unable to come to church, one of which was in a nursing home. Our recently retired pastor had a special communion set that his grandfather had given him, and he trusted me to use it and give communion to a woman. She had a roommate with only a curtain to divide us, and she overheard us taking communion and asked if I would anoint each of them with anointing oil she had. I have no formal training in that, if there is such a thing, but I did and we all shared communion together. When I returned the communion set to my pastor I said, “I don’t know who was more blessed -- me or those ladies.” There was a special vibration about that moment which that lady had picked up on, and we all just felt very in-tune with everything. That’s how I know when I’m doing what God has called me to do, it just feels right.

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado in April 2020.


Courtesy of Joey Spoelstra, Lead Pastor at Laurel Church, Bellingham WA

Faith community nurses, health ministers, health care workers,

I want to express how deeply and genuinely I appreciate you and all that you do. And I know that I’m not alone. There are so many lives that you have impacted as a result of carrying out your God given passion and desire for people to experience wholeness and healing.

The value of seeing people emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy is truly God given because I see this value at the very heart of Jesus. He once said that, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do” (Matthew 9:12). His mission was to save the lost, lift up the downtrodden, speak on behalf of the voiceless, seek out the marginalized, give life to the dying, and heal the hurting. He saw the damage, destruction, deception, and death that sin brings. Which is why he sought to reverse the curse, to become sin so we may become righteous, to enter into death, defeat death, and resurrect in victory. Making forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin possible. And he invites all to receive and participate in the reality of this good news!

Be encouraged that you can proclaim this powerful message through practically serving others. That by caring for others, you are showing the compassion of Christ. That by tending to others, you are showing the tender mercy of Christ. You are on the front lines of healing. You are on the front lines of pointing people to the Great Physician.

To see the pain, discomfort, and suffering from so many isn’t an easy thing to witness or process. But Jesus so lovingly and faithfully reminds us that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Keep going. Keep loving. Keep serving. You are changing lives. You are changing the world. And know that you have so many that are “in your corner” rooting you on. We believe in you and in the importance of what you do.

“Father, help us to see people how you see people. We ask for wisdom to handle the many situations we face.
Rid us of our own strength and supply us with your supernatural strength to keep going.
Thank you for giving us the ministry and the opportunities to promote healing. And we thank you, Lord Jesus, that you will make all things new.”

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