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Former ADRA Head Joins Adventist Health in Central California

Charles Sandefur, the former president and CEO of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, will join Adventist Health/Central Valley Network in California. In a newly created vice presidential role, Sandefur will oversee mission and community development beginning in June 2011. The Hanford-based health care network includes three hospitals and 18 rural community care clinics serving a 2500-square-mile region south of Fresno.

Reflecting on a February visit to see Adventist Health’s work, Sandefur recalls:

I was unprepared for how moved I was. I was captured by the range of service, by being in so many towns with clinics and serving such a diverse population with such effectiveness.

Sandefur, who focused on theology and social ethics during his doctoral work at Princeton University, was recently forced out of ADRA leadership by the new General Conference president. Among overall growth, Sandefur left a legacy at ADRA that includes the End It Now campaign (Adventists Say No to Violence Against Women), a pioneering international advocacy collaboration between the humanitarian non-governmental organization and the Women’s Ministry department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In a response to SPECTRUM‘s inquiry about this high profile denominational hire, the president and CEO of AHCVN, Richard Rawson, explains how it will further the hospital’s mission.

We need to develop a systematic process for providing education, wellness and prevention services in addition to the hospital and clinic services we provide now. We also want to help meet community needs beyond traditional health care and apply our mission focus of wholeness to the well-being of the communities we serve. Elder Sandefur’s experience, leadership skills and understanding of communities and health care in a variety of settings positions him well to lead this initiative, which will allow our mission to touch everyone who lives in a community, not just our patients. His passion for making a difference in the lives of others fits well with our culture and our calling. If our mission is distinctive, which I believe it is, we must be evangelical about the work that we do. Sharing God’s love changes lives, and it can change the world, starting in the communities we have been called to serve.

In addition to overseeing mission, chaplaincy, and foundations, Rawson adds that Sandefur’s portfolio might include projects that implement community-specific needs assessments in order to, for example, expand diabetes education in an area where the rate of diabetes is among the highest in the country. They also hope to partner with churches throughout their area to “provide community-based health education and awareness.”

Before joining ADRA in 2002, Sandefur served in various administrative capacities for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, including president of the Hawaii Conference, Rocky Mountain Conference and Mid-America Union Conference. During his time in Hawaii, he was the vice chair of the board for Adventist Health/Castle Medical Center on Oahu.

Expanding on his vision of how Sandefur’s experience administering church institutions will contribute to the Adventist character of the hospital network’s innovative work in rural localities, Rawson adds:

It is our goal to be a trusted partner to communities across the [San Joaquin] Valley with a combined population of over 400,000. This is an awesome task, but one to which we believe that God calls us. We believe that by truly representing God’s love, we can enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve. These are communities with unemployment and poverty rates of over 18%. There is a great deal of work, but as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we are driven by our calling. To share God’s love, as our mission statement says, is a sacred work and a direct action in response to what Christ commissioned us to do.

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