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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Follow Up From Florida, Texas, and Gulf Coast Disasters

Dear Lutheran Services Carolinas Family and Friends:

You have seen news coverage about the emergency response following the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas and along the Gulf Coast. Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of these natural disasters. You have seen news reports about the evacuations of people and institutions. Our mission statement is: “Empowered by Christ, we walk together with all we serve.” Walking together starts with safety, so I want reassure you that the safety of the people we serve is our top priority.

Each of our senior living and long term care communities, foster families, homes for people with developmental disabilities, etc. has a detailed disaster plan. Each of our senior communities has a generator, and LSC’s four newest communities have a generator that will operate the entire building. The plan for our communities and group homes includes procedures for sheltering in place as well as evacuating safely, if that is necessary. We ensure that food, water and medical supplies are available. We also have detailed plans for communicating with family members during an emergency.

Having a plan is important, but it’s just the first step. Our staff has taken time to practice implementing our emergency procedures. Throughout the year, we conduct regular fire drills as well as other disaster training. We work closely with our local first responders, including fire and police departments as well as the power company, food suppliers, water supplier, etc. to ensure we have their support during any situation that occurs.

We are entrusted with the care of our parents, grandparents, children, and friends. Each day, we do all we can to fulfill that promise. That includes being prepared for all circumstances, including natural disasters or other emergencies. While complete preparation is impossible as disasters are so unpredictable and unique, we commit to routine planning and preparation to do our best.

LSC continues to provide disaster recovery services from long-forgotten disasters in both South and North Carolina. This work is helping many who need it most, and it's raising disaster awareness for all of us. Let's let all these disasters be a lesson for all of us to plan for disasters professionally and personally!

Please be in touch with us if we can answer any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your prayers, and for reading this.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tilting At Windmills, Parts 1 and 2

I try to keep my head down and do my work, but every once in a while I just can’t help but tilt at a windmill. I’ve tilted twice recently, and with the same results as Don Quixote.

My first windmill is an issue that frustrates long term care providers across the country, specifically for me here in North Carolina. The federal government has created a punitive and in many cases perfection-requiring regulatory environment. Violations can easily result in fines and other penalties. The fines were my latest windmill.

The federal government (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS) determined that these fines will accumulate and then can only be used to improve the quality in nursing homes across in our case the state of NC. The fines can only be accessed by applying for grants from the fund of fines. It was particularly frustrating to hear that the fines have accumulated to a total of $23 million! That money sitting in the bank is not improving quality for anyone.

In NC, state employees and the NC Culture Change Coalition review and preliminarily approve all grants, which are then approved or disapproved by the federal government. The state employees and the Coalition have been extremely helpful and collaborative. But the federal restrictions are onerous.

I wrote the head of CMS in hopes that the new federal administration’s desire to relieve regulatory burdens might provide some relief. Utilizing fines to improve quality is a worthy goal; it’s just that the bureaucracy gets in the way. The Death of Common Sense is the book that helped shape me years ago. Read it if you have time.

Now, I realize my plan was way out there, and way too simple. Since there is $23 million sitting there, nearly inaccessible, why not call a re-set. My suggestion was to leave $3 million in the fund to fund the few grant requests that can pass muster. I suggested the other $20 million be used to give a $500 bonus to every full time certified nursing assistant (CNA) who works in nursing homes in North Carolina. Even today, I cannot think of anything that would be more beneficial to the quality of care of all of our state’s residents than the promise of two years of bonuses. But apparently and sadly, the federal rules do not allow the fine money to be used for the things like wages or bonuses that would have the greatest impact on quality.

There were two reasons for tilting at this particular windmill: to honor every North Carolina CNA for their hard, hard work and because I thought we could take the lead on this issue. You see, LSC’s nursing home leaders have been very innovative, and we were willing to brave the regulatory requirements. We’ve gotten our fair share of the grant money, or more, so we didn’t have to whine because we weren’t getting grants.

Anyway, I had my say and got the reply I was expecting. My only hope is that this attention and the current administration’s desire to rein in over-regulation might conspire to get that money used to improve the quality in our state’s nursing facilities.
Round two is not quite so bad, and I didn’t start it, thank you very much!

The last week in August 2017 the Governor of South Carolina sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting that no refugees from the 6 Muslim countries in the Afghanistan area be relocated to SC. We immediately started getting press requests.

I shared that LSC has resettled thousands of South Carolinians from around the world, and will continue to do so in accordance with all applicable laws. The United States already performs extreme vetting on every refugee entering the country, which we feel is important to keep us all safe. After resettling over 12,000 refugees in the Carolinas without incident, LSC encourages all people to fulfill our biblical mandates to love one another and to welcome the stranger.

Further, we are in midst of the largest humanitarian crisis in world history. The US has always been a world leader and we need to be leading now.

At a time when our government has drastically cut the number of refugees coming to freedom, I have been advocating the US should be admitting 200,000 refugees each year. If we are going the be the leaders of the free world, we need to start leading!

The tilting is really trying to make sense out of the discussion. Refugees are already extreme vetted! No refugee has killed anyone in the United States since the Refugee Act of 1980 was enacted! Refugees are not a threat. I want our governments spending their time and energy on a government’s mission of public welfare and public safety. That means jobs, mental health, crime, drugs, and national defense. Now that’s tilting!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Refugee Services

A friend pointed out to me last week that our Facebook page had been heavily filled with refugee services for the last couple weeks, and what was up with that. That is true and it is as it should be. LSC and I have posted a number of pictures of nursing home visits and other services, but refugees are the current hot topic.

LSC's refugee services is a relatively small program, about $2.5 million in our budget of about $130 million. But size doesn't matter when we stand up for what's right. There's a song about needing to stand up for something or you'll fall for anything.

Much like a big sister standing up for her little brother, LSC stands for and stands up for the people we serve--in every program. Today it's refugees, tomorrow it will be nursing home residents or foster children.

Refugee services has become a political issue; facts are irrelevant to red meat politics. That's a sad state of affairs, but one we have to address with steadfastness and facts. The truth is LSC has been resettling refugees in the Carolinas since 1979. We have resettled people from many different religions and from all parts of the world. And with no issues! Refugees coming to the United States are already "extreme vetted," including biometric screening, interrogation-style interviews with trained professionals, and years of waiting in refugee camps. That is extreme!

Much of the problem is education. Our refugees get lumped in with the refugee flood into Europe, which is the exact opposite: no vetting, no identification, just people walking right in to European countries. People also don't understand the concept of undocumented immigrants, often called illegal immigrants as compared to refugees. Again, they are sneaking in or overstaying visas. Refugees are officially invited in by the United States government after "extreme vetting," and after approval by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

LSC's refugee services will probably shrink for the next few years from a paltry 460 to an even smaller probably 250. The U.S. has decided to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the US from 110,000 to 50,000. LSC will continue to serve, and eventually politics will move on to other issues. In my opinion, the US should be resettling at least 200,000 refugees each year to participate as a humanitarian leader in the world. US leadership is needed now more that ever, as the world is in its largest crisis of displaced people in recorded history: 65 million displaced people, among them includes $21 million refugees worldwide.

Facts matter. LSC will continue to do this important work. Today refugees are front and center, tomorrow it will be another group of people. But always, LSC will fulfill its mission: Empowered by Christ, we walk together with all we serve!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Columbia, SC

Below is a letter I just mailed to Pastor John Trump and the saints at St. Andrew's Lutheran, Columbia, SC. Cheryl and I spent most of Sunday, 9-11-16, with them. Wonderful visit and wonderful partnership.

September 13, 2016

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church
1416 Broad River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29210-7623

Dear Pastor John and the St. Andrew’s Family:

Thank you for allowing me to be with you on September 11, 2016 at both services, the Sunday School hour, the after-church meal, and the tour of Welcome House. The Burmese youth choir was a beautiful addition! And thank you for the work we do together. I continue to bask in our Sunday fellowship and decided to reiterate the points I tried to make during my brief remarks to the congregation.

Thank you for the partnership between the South Carolina Synod and Lutheran Services Carolinas! That partnership allows us to serve in so many ways, from veterans to foster care, to people with developmental disabilities, to refugees. And no congregation in the Carolinas has a closer connection to Lutheran Services Carolinas than St. Andrew’s.

The Catholic Church just made one of my personal heroes, Mother Teresa, a saint. I have always taken to heart her words, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Few saints do more than the saints here at St. Andrews. Thank you again for your partnership and ministry through Welcome House and beyond!

We are the church together! Separately, we are so thin; together we are so strong! Your chocolate – the old parsonage, and our peanut butter – the refugee services program, make a great partnership. Serving and partnering is never easy. Wear and tear, constant turnover, cultural differences, cooking and bathroom issues – some days I’m sure you throw up your hands and lament, “No good deed goes unpunished!” But we are the church together! We overcome the obstacles and stand together to welcome people who are escaping death and death threats and persecution and starvation.

Lutheran Services Carolinas has resettled over 14,000 refugees since 1979 from every corner of the world and from many religions of the world. And without incident. We will continue to be the hands of Christ, to work with and for you in this imperfect world.

Thank you for your time Sunday and for God’s richest blessings on your ministry here at St. Andrew’s every day!

Yours in Christ,

Ted W. Goins, Jr.
President

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lutheran Services Carolinas and Grace Lutheran, Hendersonville, NC

Grace Lutheran celebrated their 100th anniversary on 9-4-16. They invited fellow church organizations to share connections. When I started thinking about it, there were so many connections. We are the Church together! My letter to Grace:

Grace Lutheran Church
1245 6th Ave. W
Hendersonville, NC 28739-3311

Dear Friends:

Congratulations and God’s richest blessings as you celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Grace Lutheran Church. Grace has meant a great deal to Lutheran Services Carolinas, and to me personally.

Crescent View, now known as Trinity View, is a ministry of Lutheran Services Carolinas. Trinity View opened in 1991 to serve seniors in western North Carolina. Trinity View fulfills its mission as a faith-based, small, affordable, rental community.

Grace Lutheran Church has been instrumental in Trinity View’s founding and success. Your pastors and the congregation have been developers, supporters, volunteers, friends, employees, donors, board members, and always brothers and sisters in Christ. Grace and Trinity View have been an example of all of us being the church together! We are especially grateful that Grace and Pastor Greg & Brenda shared LSC teammate Elliott Williams with us.

Probably the most impactful connection between Grace Lutheran and Lutheran Services Carolinas is The Rev. Doctor Jefferson Norris, grandfather of Brenda Williams and great grandfather of Elliott. Dr. Norris, a former pastor at Grace, was a founder of Lutheran Services Carolinas, leaving Grace to become the first Executive Director of The Lutheran Home in Hickory, LSC’s first ministry. His legacy has grown into a $130 million ministry that serves the Carolinas through adoptions, foster care, refugee services, services for those with developmental disabilities, nursing homes, retirement centers, and much more.

Again, congratulations and blessings on your one hundredth anniversary, on our twenty-fifth anniversary together, and on the next generation of collaboration and mutual support. And on a personal note, Cheryl and I were married at Grace on October 27, 1990. We thank you for tying the knot tight allowing Cheryl and me a long and happy marriage!

Yours in Christ,



Ted W. Goins, Jr.
President

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lutheran Services Carolinas at SC Lutheran Assembly

The SC Lutheran Synod was nice enough to allow LSC to present to the Assembly. Below are my remarks. Then LSC Director of Refugee Services Bedrija Jazic was allowed extended time to share the current state of our refugee services work in the State of South Carolina.

Lutheran Services Carolinas is proud to be part of A Reforming Church: Living out Reconciliation and Renewal!

The Synod and LSC do that together.

We do that together when the Ku Klux Klan targets our Columbia office because we serve refugees who are escaping persecution and death. Bishop Yoos and the Synod stood foursquare against the Klan and to oppose anti refugee legislation.

We stand together to serve hundreds of foster children coming out of saddening and often horrendous broken home circumstances.

We have stood together in the last two years developing now 10 group homes for people with developmental disabilities.

We stand together serving homeless veterans, even though that is getting increasingly difficult due to government changes.

We stand together as we partner with WELCA to share books with disadvantaged children.

We stand together in local partnerships to meet local needs: St. Andrew’s Columbia’s refugee Welcome House, St. Luke Florence for use of their ministry house, All Saints Mt. Pleasant’s birthday cakes for foster children, St. John’s Beaufort for Christmas presents for foster children, St. Luke’s Summerville for hosting our foster care Christmas party since the early 2000s, and Reformation Columbia for our shared office/meeting space!

In 2011, our child and family services were about a $15 million ministry. About 10 in NC and 5 in SC.

Today, we have grown from $15 million to a budget of $19M, and one half of that budget is managed out of the Columbia office. I only mention budget because that means we are serving more people who need services!

That growth in ministry is coming through opportunities across the state, and an entrepreneurial and innovative staff in Columbia and around the state. Executive Director Bethany Vause and her staff have been passionate leaders in reform and in ministry.

LSC is just getting started. There are great needs across the state. In part to try to address those needs, the Synod has graciously given us permission to conduct a synod-wide capital campaign beginning in 2018.

One example, I am pleased to announce that LSC, with a grant from the ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response, will be employing a case manager in the ongoing aftermath of the October floods that devastated the area. And at the same time, LSC, with a grant from Lutheran Services in America, will be employing a VISTA worker for the next three years to help indigent and underserved populations be better prepared in the event of disasters. The emergency crews are long gone, but I am proud that our church is walking with those with the greatest need as they rebuild their lives.

Thank you for standing together with us as The Reforming Church, for your prayers, and for allowing me to be here today.

And now the star of the show. Refugee services is one of the hottest topics in the state and in the country. Bedrija Jazik is one of those passionate leaders I mentioned earlier. Our refugee services are growing in ministry and in size and in service. To brief you on the latest in refugee services, please join me in welcoming one of the most dedicated, sacrificing, passionate people I know, Bedrija Jazik.