Sustaining Spiritual Care for Michigan Veterans During Major Change

By Chaplain Bruce Kalish, Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV)

 Dear Chaplain Andy,

In addition to the brief on-line report that I submitted today, I am sending this letter to further define my chaplaincy work this first half of 2018.

The backdrop for our current operational climate at the Home is the on-going plan to construct a new 128-unit skilled nursing home on our present campus and several more across Michigan in the next decade. The first site plan was challenged and discarded when it was found to be on a wetlands section of our property. The new site plan has been approved, but will require removal of several buildings, including the chapel.

While all this change hovers overhead and infuses any conversation of more than ten-minutes between staff or members; the work of chaplaincy continues:

  • We had 25 deaths and No Member Dies Alone* volunteers were activated for 13 of these.
  • In addition to the individual contacts noted in the on-line report, 123 spiritual screens were done, mostly by interns, completing our census roster, and setting a baseline for annual screens starting this month.
  • My role was expanded to become the clinical spiritual care expert on our five-daily, unit Inter-disciplinary team rounds and on weekly Behavioral Management meetings (assessing psych med prescriptions and alternatives).
  • Three chaplain interns were trained: In the fall, two will enter CPE programs and the third will enter USN pre-chaplaincy program (hopefully).
  • I was asked to edit updated policies and procedures for GRHV and to create spiritual care-plan templates for the Electronic Medical Records data base.
  • I was also recruited to participate on an advisory workgroup for the new site plan, especially as it affects the chapel services and our many monuments and memorials. This will continue to December 2018.

In early June, the chaplains were informed by our supervisor that our department was being re-organized to align it with the future needs of a reduced census. We chaplains anticipated changes would come, but we thought they would begin next year. Wrong.

Beginning mid-June, two of our three P-11 chaplains would be approved for twenty-hour work weeks. The third chaplain’s position would go unfilled. Since I was the last hire, my position would be unfilled. (This could be done because we are considered permanent intermittent employees, neither full-time nor part-time. At the will of our supervisor, we can work between five and forty hours. She can cap our hours according to departmental need.)

In the same conversation this reorganization was presented, I was offered the opportunity to apply for a new position as administrative lead chaplain. Since I am the only Board-Certified Chaplain, I am the only one of us who meets this basic qualification for the advanced position.

Until the position is filled, I have been assigned its duties, working out of class at forty hours weekly. Meanwhile, the Administrative Chaplain, P-12 was posted 03 July within the DMVA. I have applied. Posting will close on 10 July 2018. Interviews will follow and the position will be filled by the end of July. At that time, I will either be employed or seeking employment. Either way, God will provide.

Of course, I’d prefer to remain working at GRHV full-time for the next five years. I would like this to be the capstone of my ministry life. I embrace the challenge of shaping our department into a model that can be reproduced in the six Michigan Veteran homes to be built over the next decade and beyond. Like Caleb, I have a mountain-sized appetite only God can fill. Your prayer support is welcome!

Thanks for your chaplaincy updates, your work, your prayers, and your support.

With you in Christ,

Bruce
Bruce Kalish
06 July 2018
Grand Rapids, MI

*No Member Dies Alone, is a staff-coordinated, volunteer program developed and implemented under Chaplain Kalish’s leadership.  Its Mission: “When one of our members enters the final stages of life having no family or friends present, or if those present need respite; GRHV will enfold that member with dignity and honor by continuous support and companionship, ensuring no member dies alone.”

Director’s Note: Whereas most people think of the VHA (Veterans Health Administration) as the main provider of our Nation’s Veterans’ healthcare and disability, many are unaware of the long-term skilled nursing and end of life care provided by State-run Veteran’s Facilities. My home state, Colorado, has five (5) such care facilities that I visited annually with the State Adjutant General by Army Guard Helicopter (the same ones used to drop buckets of water on Western wildfires).  We were impressed by the compassionate, skilled level of care provided to our aging Veterans at these State-run Veterans’ Homes.  My wife, Myra, and I currently volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Sub Vets to run a monthly BINGO session.  Our oldest participant is Angie, a spry Army widow who recently turned 101! (She brings her own special cards.) Our nation’s Veterans are dear to our hearts.

Chaplain Bruce Kalish’s ministry is unique. He is the only CBAmerica chaplain currently serving fulltime in a State-run (Michigan) home for Veterans.  Though exciting to learn of Michigan’s plan to build and staff a network of six Veteran Homes, the chaos of the upcoming process is unimaginable.  Despite the turmoil of this great endeavor, Chaplain Kalish has developed a sustainable, working model of effective chaplaincy for aging and terminally ill Veterans. Join me in praying with Bruce for the wisdom, stamina, and organizational support to see this effective ministry implanted in each planned Veteran’s Home in the Great State of Michigan.

Pray for Chaplain Kalish, during this next phase of life and ministry, along with CBAmerica’s other 195 chaplains (military and civilian). For more stories of chaplain life and ministry, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To inquire about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplaincy ministries email Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.