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The Ministry of Presence

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For Siouxland PACE Chaplain Kathy Yoder, the priority in ministering to participants is simple: Be there.

As a long-time UnityPoint Health chaplain who has served participants of the PACE program for more than seven years, Yoder says presence is at the center of her practice.


“To bring spiritual care to people, you need to have a listening ear,” says Yoder, who is a licensed minister in the Assembly of God church. “My ministry is a ministry of presence. I don’t try to fix problems or fix things. I am there to listen to them and to meet them where they are.”

“I serve a variety of people,” she continues. “Some are Christians, some are atheists, some are something else. The way I can reach them all is to be there in the moment with them.”

Yoder is a member of a Siouxland PACE team that numbers close to 100. The interdisciplinary team is focused on working with older adults and their family members to develop health, well-being and lifestyle goals while implementing plans that employ the right combination of services for each individual.

PACE services include everything from primary care and medication management, to social work, in-home care, durable medical equipment, transportation and more. Some participants may only require one or two services, while others may require several. Yoder’s role is to foster spiritual health in participants and she says her ministry is made more meaningful by the team she works with.

“One of the most important things about PACE is that it is a team effort,” Yoder says. “We take a holistic approach and work together to improve the lives of our participants and their family members. I have a lot of respect for the people I work with. No matter the job, we have outstanding people in place.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yoder did a lot of group work, hosting meetings for as many as 20 people in locations across Siouxland. The groups covered a range of topics from one that served as a forum for parents who had lost a child, to another geared toward residents of assisted living facilities, another for caregivers, and another for those recovering from addiction.

“I worked to build the groups so I could reach more people and we could expand the impact we were having,” Yoder says. “There is power in people coming together and helping one another. In the group setting, we can all help one another.”

When the pandemic descended upon Siouxland, Yoder was forced to get creative in reaching participants. And while it changed the method of her work, it didn’t diminish her purpose at all.

“The main thing that I have experienced is that people are a little more isolated than they were before the pandemic,” Yoder says. “So, sometimes it is as simple as me reaching out with a phone call to someone who may live alone and doesn’t have a lot of contact with people from the outside, especially now. Just picking up the phone to see how they are can be so important. We all need that human contact.”

In that way, Yoder is sharing her presence – even if it is over the phone in the midst of a pandemic.

“That is my ministry of presence,” Yoder says. “I can still be there with them and meet them where they are. In so many ways, health goes beyond physical needs. It is emotional and spiritual too. And spiritual care is about more than sitting with someone and praying or talking about faith. Even on a phone call there is presence.”

The Foundation of Her Ministry
Yoder points to an experience decades ago that proved formative in her ministry today. A photojournalist, she was called to the scene of an auto accident in southeast Iowa in the middle of the night. A small car had swerved into the path of a semi-trailer. The semi could not avoid the car and after the collision the truck plunged down a 100-foot embankment.

The scene was chaotic and in the midst of gathering information and taking photos, Yoder heard a faint crying in the distance.

“It was such a mournful sound, and I was called to follow it,” Yoder recalls. She eventually came upon the truck’s driver, sitting on the hill his truck had just gone over, weeping.

“I sat down next to him and I told him that nobody blamed him for the accident. That everyone knew he risked his life trying to save the other driver,” Yoder says. “I was about 23 years old and there I was trying to fix it for him. In that moment, it hit me. I couldn’t fix it. No one could fix it.”

Yoder was compelled to walk with the man as they crested the hill and got back to the road. She held his hand. He cried. They spent time together, without speaking, just being. That experience provided a spiritual grounding.

“That taught me I can’t fix things for people, but I can be present in times of pain and sorrow,” Yoder says. “I can be a witness to what is happening. And a lot of times that is all people need.”

Siouxland PACE
Operated by UnityPoint Health – St. Luke's, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) helps older adults live as independently and healthy as possible in the home and within the community through a range of services. 

Siouxland PACE offers easy access to a variety of programs designed to help participants with their unique health care needs. From home health right through rehabilitation, our PACE team coordinates a full-range of resources for participants including primary and specialty medical care, medications, medical transportation and therapy.

To learn more about how UnityPoint Health is serving older adults in the Siouxland, visit  https://www.unitypoint.org/siouxcity/services-pace.aspx

Siouxland PACE is currently enrolling new participants. To talk to an enrollment coordinator, call (712) 224-7223.