In a beautiful park-like setting stands the Krankenhaus Waldfriede, Berlin-Zehlendorf. It was founded in 1920, modeled on the concept of John Harvey Kellogg’s hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. Situated within a few kilometers of the current homes of the president and the chancellor of Germany, it has seen the relentless march of decades of political and healthcare history. Interestingly, despite the 310 air raids over Berlin during the Second World War, not one of the buildings of Krankenhaus Waldfriede was damaged.
I have been deeply impressed by the importance of the concept
of “blended ministry.”
Possibly better known around the world as Waldfriede Adventist Hospital, this institution offers general medical, surgical, and preventive healthcare, but has niche services that form a distinctive bouquet of healthcare.
The emergency room was busy the day I was visiting. The hospital chaplain, who was accompanying me, left to comfort a grieving family. Despite all the activity, there was an atmosphere of calm and, perhaps even more noticeable, a lack of the “noise” of busyness so often present in such settings. My clinical eyes roamed the corridors, ceilings, floors, and windows; all were spotlessly clean and immaculately maintained. I was immersed in the history, challenges, plans, and achievements of this place of hope and healing through the detailed and interesting commentary by the energetic Dr. Bernd Quoss, president and CEO of the hospital. One readily recognized that for him and his team, this was not just a job or a career but rather a calling. No wonder I perceived a sense of stewardship in all that was happening here.
I have spent much of my professional life working in hospitals of various sizes and levels of care. On this visit I was noticing things not only as a physician; the intentional and diverse structure of programs and infrastructure of the plant drew my focus to the patients’ perspective of their care and the way it is delivered, as well.
There is a top-quality breast cancer center with thoughtfully created in- and out-patient facilities. The rooms and offices are bright and cheery. It is one of the eight recognized breast cancer centers in Berlin. As I drank in all the facts, figures, and accolades—and there were many—the next comment by the CEO opened my thinking even further: “We are the only breast cancer center in Berlin that has only women on the entire team at every level and in every function,” from the social worker to the surgeon, from the scheduler to the pharmacist. Having witnessed the various reactions to the diagnosis and the invasiveness that cancer implies—of persona and psyche—I reflected on the considered thoughtfulness behind this approach: the stewardship of body, mind, and emotions. We need more of this, I thought, and, sure enough, there was more!
In 2013, Krankenhaus Waldfriede inaugurated the “Desert Flower Center.” This center provides unique, wholistic care for women and girls who have been victims of genital mutilation. It is world renowned, and the services are internationally sought after. Additionally, the interdisciplinary Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Floor Surgery, founded in 2006, became a European training center for surgical techniques in coloproctology in 2008. It services doctors from Germany and abroad in education and practical training. Again, as so many of our Adventist hospitals do, Waldfriede Hospital is making a difference in the stewardship of restoration.
My tour reminded me of one of the experiences that made a huge impression on my mind when I first visited Krankenhaus Waldfriede years ago. In 2000, this hospital became the first, worldwide, to provide a baby hatch along with comprehensive consultation and support to mothers in distress. A baby hatch is a system that offers an opportunity for an “unwanted” baby to be placed anonymously in a safe receptacle in one of the hospital walls. As soon as a baby is placed there, a bell rings and notifies the staff that an infant has arrived. The appropriate medical and social services are immediately activated. Numerous babies have been placed anonymously; and many births have been conducted anonymously because the hospital chaplains and staff are providing an invaluable and beneficial humane service in this unfathomable human tragedy of abandoned and unwanted infants. What a beautiful illustration of the stewardship of relationships and bonding—something we all need, and for which we are hardwired!
The hospital pays special attention to health promotion and wellness through its center “Prima Vita.” The Prima Vita program offers a broad spectrum of preventive courses and seminars on health, including exercise, nutrition, weight management, and general lifestyle. It is offered by physicians, nutritionists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and volunteers. Since 2005 the hospital has been a smoke-free zone.
The prevention and wellness services, as well as focused attention to being a smoke-free facility, affirm the importance of the stewardship of our bodies and our environment.
Ever since my days as a medical student, I have been deeply impressed by the importance of the concept of “blended ministry.” Of course, this implies the importance of healthcare professionals and gospel workers working together in spreading the wonderful news of salvation at the same time as extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. It also stresses the imperative and opportunity health workers have to minister wholistically to the body, mind, and spirit, as well as the social and emotional components of the human existence. Blended ministry became my passion. This has continued unabated throughout my career. You can imagine my joy when I was shown the very active and well-developed Hand Surgery, Extremity, and Foot Surgery Center for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery. This service has been a sub-branch of orthopedics and trauma surgery since 1994, offering a comprehensive spectrum of surgical and outpatient services.
The highly experienced and outstanding team has developed a special interest in hand surgery, and the logo for the unit is, interestingly, the right hand! This really appealed to me; we’ve been told that the blended ministry is the “right hand of the gospel.” Ellen White often uses this analogy:
“Medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel. It is necessary to the advancement of the cause of God. As through it men and women are led to see the importance of right habits of living, the saving power of the truth will be made known.... As the right hand of the third angel’s message, God's methods of treating disease will open doors for the entrance of present truth” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 59).
There is so much more that could be said, not only about Krankenhaus Waldfriede but also the many clinics, dispensaries, rural hospitals, tertiary and quaternary care urban medical centers, medical schools, and nursing schools that are actively engaged in extending the wholistic healing ministry of Jesus Christ. This gives me pause to think: these entities and individuals are faithfully fulfilling the definition of stewardship, which is essentially being careful and responsible in the management of something entrusted to one’s care. In this situation it means the care of people and all aspects of their health.
Our visit to Krankenhaus Waldfriede leaves me grateful that the wholistic healthcare provided by the Adventist health networks and dedicated Adventist health professionals around the world are carefully and responsibly making the difference in millions of lives each year. They are, indeed, faithful stewards!