Surviving and Thriving in the Lord

I never thought much about dates and the significance of remembering where I was when something happened. But I do remember the date of my last mammogram. April 26th, 2022. I had let some years pass since my previous one, approximately six years to be exact. But I started to think about getting a mammogram after a young woman in the church had gotten hers and then urged her Mom who was in my Sunday School class to get hers. In an unusual twist, they both were positive, underwent treatment together and will always be connected by their diagnosis.

I got a 3-D mammogram and was very impressed with the technology and the ease of which the mammogram took place. I was to get results in a week. I arrived at my home and got a call from my sister that my mother, who was in hospice, had taken a turn for the worse and had only hours or at most, days to live. I did a quick pack and off I drove to Maryland. I saw my Mom that evening, she was miserable.

The next morning, I got a call on my mammogram results. Something was spotted and a diagnostic mammogram would be scheduled upon my return. The hours became days, and the days became a week and Mom turned the corner and returned to a good place in which she could smile, recognize us and we shared our love for one another.

Back to Tennessee I came. The diagnostic mammogram resulted in a biopsy, the biopsy confirmed cancer and I was scheduled for a partial mastectomy which was more akin to a lumpectomy. After the surgery, I had to wait for healing before radiation would begin. Radiation started six weeks after the surgery and lasted 4 weeks. I was able to schedule the radiation treatments at the end of my workday which was so convenient.

I never once doubted that God’s plan was in play. He took away any anxieties and replaced them with joy and appreciation. God provided me with His vision to see the goodness in His people and I was loved in new ways. It is during such times as these that I know we can be messengers of God’s hope and love.  It has been a privilege to represent Him during this unexpected side trip, but I recognize His working on my behalf every day and I truly have felt His presence every bit of the way.

God is good all the time, all the time God is good! I believe this!

Julia’s Dad- His Story

Julia is a staff member here at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic. She is our Director of Community Services and Quality. Her dad passed away last year from Covid and we wanted to make sure his story had a permanent place.


“Once there was a man who loved God and his country. He fell in love, married and he and his wife had three daughters. He served his country with his family at his side in many nations around the world for a lifetime and eventually returned and retired in the USA until he died in September 2021.”  

It is short, to the point and without emotion. I can say this quickly and as a matter of fact. But wait, there is more there that deserves to be said. I will have to open my heart and share more of myself with you for you to better understand this man and what he meant to me.  

One year ago, on September 19, 2021, Don Wickstrand, my dad, passed from this world to the next due to complications from Covid. Words have been left unsaid because we have yet to have his memorial service. This is to occur at some point in 2023. But my thoughts continue to try to wrap my mind around the loss of my beloved Papa San, a year later. (I called my Dad, “Papa San,” because I was born in Japan during my dad’s tour of duty. “San” is a respected term used for elders in the Japanese culture. The endearment just seemed to stick during all these years.) 

Dad was a first generation American, born to Swedish immigrants, Edna and Oscar Wickstrand in Portland, Oregon in 1934. Grandpa Oscar was an experienced tradesman, Grandma Edna was a stay-at-home Mom, who started their family later in life. Dad was their second born son, and within a few years he would be their only son after the unexpected death of his older brother, Kenneth.  

There was so much that Dad learned in these formative years that he passed on to his daughters, and we in turn taught our children these values: love God, put your family first, do your best, honor your parents, work hard, save up, be honest, help others, lead by example, and serve your country.  

Dad taught us that our wounds enable us to make a difference, to listen with love, and connect with others. Sometimes our hardest times become a place from which to live a good life. Even if it is not an easy life. We learned that experiences become part of our stories. And we can use our stories to nourish others and support one another. These are times when our story helps us to live more fully.  

My dad was an infinite resource to me. He was a kind listener and listened with gentle ears. That was such an encouragement. He listened to every word I spoke; he followed my twists and turns before expressing his support of my conclusion, which usually resulted in tough decisions. He never spoke of perfection because he knew it was not achievable, he did not want us struggling to become something we were not. He loved us for what we were and embraced us more for what we were becoming. 

His life was characterized by a focus on health, reverence for life, courage, and love. He was a man of integrity. His “yes” meant “yes” and his “no” meant “no.” I clearly see all these attributes during his life, but perhaps more enhanced during the last year of his life. I replay all the interactions I had with him up until his death to try to make sense of any unknowns. He knew his body was failing and he had just a while to live. It was his voice that directed his choices during the last few days of his life. He was ready. He called each of us to let us know how much he loved us, how proud he was of us, and that we were the best daughters he could have ever hoped for… a gift that equals none other. 

For the most part, I see a part of dad in my everyday life. In those moments, I do not grieve, I just enjoy him. There is comfort and reassurance in those times. Although, I can retreat at times and miss him desperately, these times are unexpected and catch me off-guard. It is like I touch a shadow, pause, but then I turn and run into the light. I think these times are becoming less as I reflect on our shared experiences.  

I can clearly see his story continue all around me in the lives of my family … in expressions, mannerisms, reactions, opinions, and the many memories shared through their stories.  In an odd way, I think that if I had left the first paragraph stand alone and did not share the feelings behind it, I would have missed the opportunity of your getting to know my Papa San through these words. Perhaps in sharing, something mentioned has changed one of your thoughts, words, actions or just lingered. And this would mean that my dad’s story has touched your story.   

I am grateful, thankful, and blessed that dad is a big part of my story. His story is not finished. This makes me look forward to his memorial service in which I anticipate meeting some people that can tell me about their experiences with my dad because a part of his story is interwoven in their story.  


This is one of the greatest comforts God has given me. 

September- Suicide Prevention Month

September- Suicide Prevention Month

Here at Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic, we understand the importance of mental health. We have expanded our behavioral health services and now offer therapy visits. We see the great need for this resource and are planning to increase our services. There is a new national lifeline for Suicide and Crisis. The number is 988. We want to always let people know there is hope. Please let us know how we can help.

Service Expansion

Service Expansion

We have expanded our services to better serve our patients with the addition of two Community Health Workers (CHWs). Elaine Icenogle and Michelle Hurton joined our staff in the fall of 2021 to work with our patients to remove barriers to care by providing support, tools and encouragement to help them reduce stressors in their life so they can improve their quality of life. The CHWs work directly with the patients at the Clinic. Patients can tell us they have a need or they may identify that need in other ways.


You also might see Michelle and Elaine out in the community from time to time. They attend community events where our residents will be the main attendees, school events and they also keep hours at the local libraries. They can be found at Pigeon Forge Library, King Family Library, Anna Porter Library and Kodak Library on a monthly schedule. You can contact the Clinic to find out where they will be next. By being out in the community, they bring more awareness to the services they offer and awareness about the Clinic in general.


The CHWs also attend association meetings, trainings and workshops to continuously learn how they can better serve our population. Each month they provide patient education on different topics. They have displays on the topic in our lobby where can patients can view it while they are waiting.


Combined, Elaine and Michelle have over 40 years’ experience working in Sevier County providing community outreach services. We are so thankful for these ladies and the blessing they have been to our patients.


Pastor Arne Walker’s book, “Spirit Promptings,” has raised over $12,000 to date for Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic.

Sevierville, TN- May 28, 2021

Pastor Arne Walker of Gatlinburg, who has written several books, dedicated his latest one, “Spirit Promptings” to Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic and former Executive Director, Mary Vance.

Spirit Promptings is a compilation of columns that Pastor Walker has written for the Public Pulpit. This book took about a year to complete.  He said, “I’m not really a writer. I sort of, in a stream of consciousness, when I am out on my prayer walk, I get thoughts and then I just write them down.” His thought-provoking prayer walks have become a huge blessing to Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic. To date, the Clinic has received donations totaling a little over $12,000.00 with additional donations anticipated. It has been a joy for the Clinic staff to see where the donations originate from because they are coming from all over the country. Pastor Walker said, “I’m blessed to have friends from coast to coast and internationally.”

When asked why he chose Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic to receive donated proceeds from his latest book he said, “I was part of the early beginnings. Dr. Reese came to me and described what she was seeing at Pi Beta Phi Elementary school and we said together, if that’s what’s going on, at what was at the time the best in terms of economic status grade school in the county, what can we imagine is going on elsewhere? That is when we began the work and the move from the school to a beginning ministry at the Fathers House, who graciously allowed us to use half of their youth building in Pigeon Forge. So, my interest was right from the beginning. I started out pre-med, so I have had an interest in medical issues all of my life and we have one son who is a doctor in Florida.”

In the past year, the Clinic has added 8 additional exam rooms and an educational room where this interview with Pastor Walker took place. As Pastor Walker commented on the space expansion, he stated, “Hopefully it will be able to serve the needs of the thousands of patients that the clinic serves because it bothered us, when I was on the board, that we were turning about 100 away every month.” The Clinic no longer turns patients away due to space constraints and continues to serve the community with an increased number of patient visits.

The Clinic will always hold a special place in the heart of Pastor Walker. He served on the Board of Directors in the early years and has continued to stay in touch and advocate for the Clinic. Pastor Walker said, “I found it a privilege, getting to know people during the 16 years that I served on the board.” The Clinic is very grateful for his years of leadership and dedication. Our service to others has been based upon the guiding principles established in those early years by founders, Dr. Reese and Sue Ellen Riddle, a group of visionary board members, and a dedicated executive director. Pastor Walker shares the many contributions of Mary Vance noting, “Mary gave flesh to her Christian faith by giving Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic foundational excellence.”