Saturday, January 11, 2020

Orpha Shuford. Well done, good and faithful servant.

We lost Orpha Shuford this week. Mrs. Shuford worked at Trinity Village, the Lutheran Home in Hickory, NC, for most of her 50-year nursing career. Mrs. Shuford was a saint! Wife of a Lutheran minister, Mrs. Shuford's ministry was seniors. She ministered to the people who called Trinity Village home. She was professional, quiet, kind, and always at work! Mrs. Shuford died with week at the age of 96, living where she served so diligently, at Trinity Village. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Nursing Home Over-Regulation and Solution

Complaining is a job, problem solving is a vocation. I have always appreciated people who don’t just complain, but come with a plan to fix the problem. That gets harder the bigger the issue, the less control we have. Our current politics and societal changes come to mind.

Recently, I found myself once again railing at the overwhelming issues health care professionals face due in large part to over-regulation. Our national nursing home regulatory process costs millions and doesn’t work. We are regulating nursing homes as we have since the 1970s and just continue to pile on more regulations and more penalties and more paper, but we are not getting the return in quality and cost efficiency our parents, our nation’s senior’s, deserve.

I’d like to offer a solution, not just a complaint. In this age of technology, our federal government is spending millions of dollars a year to drive 4-5 or more inspectors to every nursing home in the United States for 3-5 days every year, or more often. Think of the salaries, the mileage, the hotels and meals. Then add the administrative costs, the teams that inspect the inspectors, and the people who go out and inspect when a complaint is lodged. The government is spending millions of all of our tax dollars, health care professionals aren’t providing care because they are responding to inspectors, and quality is not much affected.

This failed system is not the inspectors’ fault. By and large I have found inspectors to be dedicated public servants, they are just working in a broken system.

There’s a better, simpler, cheaper way than the current broken system. Nursing homes can be monitored through technology, inspections of high performing nursing homes could be curtailed so more time could be spent with true under-performers who need it, all nursing homes can be routinely monitored through current technology, the complaint process could be improved, inspectors can become collaborative consultants, not just inspectors. Quality could go up, and cost go down. How many times do taxpayers get an opportunity like that? Instead, our country continues to live by the quote from Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Refugee Defined

Language matters. As we discuss refugee and immigration issues with people on both ends of the political spectrum, it is clear that language divides. We have not done a good enough job educating people on the simple definitions of a refugee, immigrant, and asylees.

A refugee is a person who has had to flee her/his country of origin out of fear of persecution or death. I have started to use the term legal refugee. Legal refugees are people who have been extreme-vetted, generally wait years in a refugee camp in a third country, and then are invited by the United States government to come live in the United States. Non-legal refugees could slip into the US, but that doesn’t happen often as it’s too difficult to get to the United States. A good example of non-legal refugees would be the boat-loads of Syrian refugees making their way uninvited across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. I would still categorize non-legal refugees as illegal immigrants.

An immigrant is someone who has chosen to leave her/his country of origin for economic and other reasons. Legal immigrants are those who have applied to the United States and been granted permission to enter the country. An illegal immigrant is someone who has entered the U.S. without that permission, or who overstayed their time if here on a time-limited status. A 2017 study estimates that 42% of the illegal immigrants, 4.5 million people, are here because they have overstayed their expired visa!

Asylees are people who have entered the U.S. or arrived at a port of entry and requested asylum to escape persecution or death in their country of origin. Chinese people account for the most asylees in the U.S., followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Mexico, India, Nepal….

When Lutheran Services Carolinas talks about serving legal refugees, and advocating for legal immigrants to fill jobs when there are no Americans to fill them, I have heard no opposition save the most extreme. Language matters.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Seeing Jesus

Dear Friends,

I had the opportunity to visit a border state on June 11, 2019 with a group of health and human services leaders. It's easy to fall into the political debates; it's hard to ignore suffering people.

A bus took us to a very nice neighborhood where a number of the homes have been built by Habitat. In a row of six Habitat houses, three are owned by legal refugees who escaped war and death for a new life in America. The home owners were from Afghanistan and the Congo. They are succeeding! They are working homeowners who keep a spotlessly clean home. All three proudly opened thier homes for us to tour and talk about thier journey. The extreme political rhetoric on both sides doesn't match reality.

Our next stop was an aging auto repair shop where we met the proprietor and another entrepreneur, Iraq and Cuban refugees respectively. Both escaped to come pursue the American dream. The car repairman now employs eight people and has a successful business. The other has started a commercial cleaning service that is growing rapidly. He's keeping his day job till he's got enough business and help to transition to full time. Both took out and quickly repaid a micro loan from a sister Lutheran organization to our Lutheran Services Carolinas. The extreme political rhetoric on both sides doesn't match reality.

Our last stop was to a church where every Monday one or two ICE buses pull up and dump approximately 100 asylum seekers. The Lutheran organization arranges housing, communications, clothing, etc. for these people who are on their way to sponsoring family members across the country. We had the privilege of plating and serving lunch and visiting with 47 of these asylum seekers. They had been in the United States for less than 24 hours. Thanks to the Lutherans, they had had a good night's sleep, a shower, etc. after a horrible ordeal. The extreme political rhetoric on both sides doesn't match reality.

The Bible tells us that when we clothed and fed those in need, we have done the same to Jesus. Wow, I saw Jesus this week.

Monday, May 20, 2019


Criminal podcast 114 was interesting, then went sideways into infuriatingly one-sided. They started bashing nursing homes, ignorant that many organizations have transformed into skilled living communities.

The speakers stated that the big problem with taking care of someone’s body is forgetting about their mind, and giving agency and dignity to people. “No one listens to you when you’re in a nursing home. No one listens to you when you’re over 65.” Then they discussed the rate of suicide, and nursing homes try to make residents easy to manage, just getting their bodies thru the day. Fake news!

Since one person is a thief, do we extrapolate that all people are thieves?

The speakers obviously have not heard of person-centered care, or life in a Lutheran Services Carolinas community: chaplains, activities from singalongs to games to beach trips, one on one visits with bedbound people, snow sledding, painting classes for people with memory issues, drum circles, political discussions,.... People can sleep late, stay up till all hours, it’s their call, not ours.

Go see for yourself! And go visit to make life better for a person living in any assisted or skilled living community!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Remarks to NC Lutheran Assembly

I had the opportunity to share a brief message about Lutheran Services Carolinas with the NC state Lutheran assembly on June 1, 2018. Here's what I shared about the amazing and passionate work of LSC.

Good afternoon!

The theme of this assembly is “We are the church for the sake of the world.”

We are the church with you, and we stand on the shoulders of YOU giants! In 1960 we were birthed by Drs. Norris, Lippard, Conrad, and each of you, the NC Synod. We started with one little health care center in Hickory in 1961 and are now serving from Asheville to Wilmington! We added child and family services in 1979, thanks to Bill Brittain, Dr. Misenheimer, and all of you!

This makes me want us to chant:

God is good - all the time
All the time - God is good

Thank you for your partnership! As the church together, LSC has chosen to reach out as Lutheran, as Christian, and as a diverse and inclusive ministry!

While other Lutheran organizations around the country struggle with identity including taking Lutheran out of their name, we chose to lead with Lutheran as in Lutheran Services Carolinas!

While other Christian ministries are taking Christ out of their missions, LSC has chosen to lead with, “Empowered by Christ!”

LSC purchased an old nursing home in Winston back in 2001 that was filled with precious children of God: 100% indigent and almost all persons of color. We built them a beautiful new $10M health care community in the heart of East Winston, and we’ve been trying to learn and model diversity and inclusion ever since.

We are the church!

We are the church to:
Elders needing nursing home and assisted living care, especially and passionately for those who can’t afford to pay!
Crack babies in need of therapeutic foster care.
Elders needing support at home!
People with developmental disabilities needing a group home or in a home with a host family.
Elders looking for safety, security, and community at Lutheridge, Salisbury, and Wilmington!
Refugees coming to America to escape a death sentence and to start a new life!
Babies looking to be adopted, and foster children to be adopted.
Homes for homeless veterans and homes for people with traumatic brain injury.
Foster homes for unaccompanied alien children whose parents sent them here to escape death or the slow death of gang violence.
Partnerships in low income senior apartments in Hickory and Dallas, and partnerships in PACE programs for low income citizens in Gastonia and Hickory.
Those in crisis and those whose lives have been forever changed by disasters, like Hurricane Matthew!

We are the church to thousands of people. We do this with YOU, thru 2,140 LSC teammates, through $139M worth of programs and services.

And there’s more to come!, more of all of the above along with: Renovations and additions at Salisbury and Albemarle, new senior living apartments in Clemmons, Trinity Landing - a new retirement center in Wilmington, and much more.

Thanks be to God and His NC Synod, who fulfill His mission, “Empowered by Christ, we walk together with all those we serve.”


Thursday, December 14, 2017

A New Reformation

Some thoughts on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

A new Reformation?

Jesus Christ turned our world on its head, but it seems society, then and now, just won’t listen. We persist in allowing society and its winners define who the winners and losers are.

I personally come from a long line of losers: Eve and Adam got kicked out of the garden; Jesus was crucified; Martin Luther was excommunicated. My poor immigrant ancestors fled Germany and then were on the wrong side of the Civil War; and people of my German heritage created one of the saddest eras in human history that included the horrors of Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust.

Times and perspectives change. From that ignominious past, I now find myself more of a winner according to the societal definition: I have a strong family, a good education, and a good job. I’m privileged, and in good health. Much has been handed to me, and I have worked hard to take advantage of what was given to me.

Let’s throw Lutheran Services Carolinas in there too. As CEO I find it difficult to talk independently because we’re all in this together. LSC has been on a path from small nonprofit to fairly significant two-state ministry. With a $139 million budget, LSC has more than 2,000 teammates who work to provide multiple services. LSC has been effective, strong and nimble. We are growing.

What can LSC do as an organization, and what can I do as an individual to honor what God has provided? I guess we and I could protect our positions, but that’s not very godly. I am reminded of the M’s: Matthew and Micah. Christ tells us that the second commandment, right after loving God, is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In Micah we are taught to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Christ turns winners and losers on their heads. Think of the Resurrection. Think of the rich man and the eye of the needle. Think about societal success versus Christ’s vision for humanity.

Here in 2017, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we have the opportunity to participate in a new Reformation to serve seniors, children, and families who don’t have the resources or ability to care for themselves. Our Reformation vision and mission give us hands to serve and voices to advocate. Government is not all bad. In our country, government and nonprofits like LSC collaborate to provide essential services to people – people who could be you and me. So we lift our voices for our neighbors, often those who can’t speak for themselves: for nursing home residents, direct care workers who deserve a living wage, and foster children. We lift our voices for affordable health insurance for all; we lift our voices for veterans, refugees, and people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

Please join LSC in embracing our heritage and using it and our voice to love our neighbor.