The Council is excited to introduce you to one of our newest staff members, Arlecia Simmons. Arlecia joined us earlier this month in the position of East Regional Associate Director for Partners in Health and Wholeness. Read more about Arlecia:
My 94-year-old grandmother often looks at me and says, “People would never look at you and know what you’ve gone through.” As a child, my skin with peel and pus would ooze from the crevices of my wrists. The Charleston, S.C., humidity didn’t help. My elementary school classroom without air conditioning would have to be exchanged for our living room, where teachers brought my schoolwork and instructed me at a card table in front of our AC wall unit. These days, it’s hard to see the scars from years of eczema that required lengthy hospitalizations. My family sought help from the physicians at the Medical University of South Carolina, gathered with prayer circles, and even contacted communal healers in the Gullah Geechee community for remedies to make the inflammation go away. For years, nothing worked until I hit adolescence, and my skin problems became more manageable.
During all the diagnosing, praying, and laying on of hands, I don’t recall anyone ever wondering if the plants producing harmful chemicals within a 2-mile radius of our home had anything to do with my eczema and the health and respiratory issues others in the community experienced.
Because of that journey that began more than 40 years ago, health and wellness matters have always interested me. As a news reporter in Eden, N.C., and later in Sumter, S.C., I often found myself intrigued with covering stories that involved persons with rare or terminal illnesses and telling stories where healing miracles had taken place. Additionally, my reporting always involved some element of faith that I would learn about during interviews. Then, about 25 years ago, a newspaper reader sent a note expressing that they read my columns and writing and suspected that God was doing work in me as I reported such stories. Little did I know, their words confirmed my current reality.
During my chaplaincy residency at the Durham VA Medical Center, I was reminded that my childhood illness was not a distant memory, and it informed how I navigated the world as a Christian minister.
In my new role as the East Regional Associate Director with Partners in Health and Wholeness, I can shift my focus slightly and move beyond sickness. I now use my personal and professional experiences and theological training to help worship communities find resources and execute programming that promotes health preservation and wellness. I am excited about this new assignment and look forward to working with our existing partners and forming new relationships with faith communities in Eastern North Carolina.
Often when we hear the Apostle Paul’s promise in Romans 8:28, some may wonder how all the illness and pain in our lives could ever have any redemptive value. As I work with our team to plan the Faith and Health Summit and follow up with our mini-grant recipients, I recognize that the circumstances we don’t understand in one season can work together for our good in a future season!