From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Pastor Returns to Work after Liver Transplant

Date Wed, 15 Jul 2009 09:57:20 -0500

Title: ELCA Pastor Returns to Work after Liver Transplant

>July 15, 2009  

ELCA Pastor Returns to Work after Liver Transplant

CHICAGO (ELCA) - The Rev. Charles A. Axness doesn't know who his new
liver came from, but he's grateful.

"I don't know if that person was male or female; black, white or
bronze," he wrote in a recent newsletter to his congregation, First
Lutheran Church, Fremont, Neb.  "Someone made a conscious decision to
give life to another human being."

Axness was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder in 2007.  The
deficiency attacks either the lungs or liver.  In Axness' case, his liver
was damaged to the point that he needed a transplant to survive.

"They were more or less keeping me alive on medications," Axness

After about a month of waiting, Axness received a new liver on
March 29.  To him, it was a second chance at life.

He is learning how to take care of himself better.  When Axness
returned to work on July 5, it was full-time with a few modifications.
He works until noon and then takes a two-hour rest before returning to

"It really reminded me of the need to take care of our bodies," he

Tammy Devine, wellness manager of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America Board of Pensions said that professional church leaders have a
tendency to "give at (their) own expense."

Devine is a registered nurse and an ELCA diaconal minister.

The ELCA Board of Pensions started researching the health of church
leaders in 2000 under the initiative "Health Leaders Enhance Lives."
Part of Devine's ministry is to "educate, support and inspire leaders to
live well."

"We're seeing our average number of risk factors has dropped"
because of the work Healthy Leaders Enhance Lives has done, Devine said.

Four of five medical risks have decreased, and five of six
lifestyle risks have decreased since the program's start, she said.

"Our leaders are feeling more inclined to make a change in their
health," Devine said.

She added that it is important for church leaders to be stewards of
good health and that being in better health themselves is helping
professional church leaders heard their flocks in a healthier direction.

Axness' health issues have helped his congregation take steps to
learn about different kinds of transplants while he was in the hospital
recovering.  The church also runs a section on health news in its monthly newsletter.

Axness plans to lead by example by starting a new weekly service on
July 22 about the miracles of medicine and his experiences.

"Fortunately, I have a second opportunity," he said, "and not a lot
of people get that."


First Lutheran Church can be found at on the
Web. Information about the ELCA Board of Pensions Wellness program can be
found at on the Web.

*Carrie L. Draeger is a senior communication major with a
concentration in journalism at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash.
This summer she is an intern with the ELCA News Service.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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