Mark Bondarenko is AMITA Health's interim mission officer. He's pictured with his wife, Tatiana Pak, a registered nurse in the medical-surgical unit at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale, and their children, Christian, 6, and Regina, 9.

July 23, 2020

Life is a spiritual journey — interim mission officer follows God’s lead 

Mark Bondarenko shares how his faith in God had lead him through new challenges during COVID-19.

God has opened many doors for Mark Bondarenko, MDiv, MBA, interim chief Adventist mission officer, AMITA Health. His faith has taken him on a spiritual journey that started in Russia, where he was born, and led him to Chicago — with several stops in between.

“It’s not an accident — how we live our lives,” said the ordained minister. “God gives us opportunities and it is up to us to accept them. I chose the latter.” 

In October 2019, Bondarenko arrived at AMITA Health to serve as a regional manager for Spiritual Care. Prior to that, he was director of Pastoral Care at AdventHealth, Manchester, Ken., where he worked for five years. He began his work as a healthcare chaplain in Orlando and completed a clinical pastoral education residency at AdventHealth, Orlando, while studying for his Master of Divinity degree. 

AdventHealth Manchester gave him the experience needed to work at AMITA and, when the call came, he was ready for a new challenge. He landed the job and his family moved north. His wife, Tatiana Pak, is now a registered nurse in the medical-surgical unit at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale, a suburb of Chicago. The couple has two children, Christian, 6, and Regina, 9. They are members of the Hinsdale Church. 

One of the biggest challenges he faced at AMITA this year is managing spiritual care during the historic COVID-19 pandemic. There were a lot of unknowns at first for the chaplains, who usually provide face-to-face care. His team includes 20 chaplains and a team of Clinical Mission integration specialists at four hospitals and outpatient facilities. 

“We didn’t know what to expect with new procedures or how safe the chaplains would be,” he said. “The challenge was making sure there was a spiritual presence for patients and families, while at the same time making sure the team was safe. We were proactive in following the established safety protocols for my team’s own care, including an emotional-spiritual hotline where all associates could call in and debrief.”  

With limited visitors allowed at the hospitals, his team works closely with nurses to help connect patients and families via video visits. With COVID-19, it is necessary to have support from bioethics and ethics committees at all four Adventist hospitals to make sure clinical teams provide the most appropriate and compassionate care.   

“It was a test of faith and, so far, none of my chaplains have been sick,” said Bondarenko, noting that hospitals are a safe place as far as exposure to the virus, with protocols and best-care guidelines in place.  

A typical week includes checking in with all the chaplains. “Even though our team is dispersed, we are very connected via Skype meetings,” he said. “Our team is very creative and works hard to genuinely connect with hospital associates and patients to provide whole-person care. We want to connect on a deeper level with patients.”  

Bondarenko’s connection with God has always been important to him. “Life is a journey. I can decide where to be, but it’s more fun and interesting if I follow God’s lead,” he said. 

Julie Busch, associate vice president, AMITA Health