Friendship Haven’s new pastor has a ‘listening ear’

Osheim-Owen called to work with older generation

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson The Rev. Jennifer Osheim-Owen, right, visits with Helen Nibel, left, at Friendship Haven, recently. Nibel is a resident at Friendship Haven. Osheim-Owen is the new chaplain there.


As new chaplain, Jennifer Osheim-Owen is there to listen and support residents at Friendship Haven.

“I walk in a room and I don’t want to take your temperature or give you meds,” she said. “I don’t want to do anything other than to visit with you.”

“My mission statement, so to speak, is that I really feel that people want to be seen, heard, and valued, and my goal is to provide a venue for that,” Osheim-Owen added.

Osheim-Owen, a native of West Bend, Wisconsin, began her duties at Friendship Haven on June 1.

She moved from St. Louis, Missouri, where she spent the past three years training.

“My goal and my dream was to be working in a long-term care continuing care facility, like what Friendship Haven is,” she said.

Osheim-Owen holds a master of divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On Friendship Haven’s campus, Osheim-Owen provides spiritual care for residents and staff throughout their nine neighborhoods.

“I make myself available for residents or staff,” she said.

Listening is perhaps most important.

“I do a lot of listening,” Osheim-Owen said. “Listening to what’s going on. I am not necessarily here to fix something, but to provide that listening ear to provide that assurance that God is in our midst.”

The facilities at Friendship Haven make listening a little easier for her.

“Here everything is enclosed, so you can get fairly easily from one end of the building to the other,” Osheim-Owen said. “We are kind of in the middle of the assisted living area. Almost everything is under one roof.”

“I have a great worship space for Sunday mornings,” she added. “We provide a weekly devotion in each of our neighborhoods. It’s nice being able to see people from my office here. I am in a high traffic area here in the building.”

Her office is open for people to stop by and introduce themselves, she said.

“People are able to stop in for a moment and say ‘hi’ or ask for prayer or just conversation,” she said. “To be that listening ear.”

Osheim-Owen said being so close to the residents’ homes is different.

“My work is truly in the midst of my congregation’s home, so to speak,” she said. “It’s a different feel. You hear a lot of things, be a lot of things. So you are always aware that this is their home.”

Throughout the week, Osheim-Owen participates in staff huddles.

“We meet to find out what’s going in the community in terms of residents,” she said.

She is also involved in a weekly care planning conference.

On Sundays, she provides worship.

Back in St. Louis, Osheim-Owen worked at a larger facility.

“This (Friendship Haven) is actually a little smaller than where I was at,” she said. “I was in a community of about 850 residents and 600-plus employees, so we are just under half of that.”

She said Fort Dodge is similar to her hometown in Wisconsin.

“Fort Dodge is a little further away from a major metro area,” she said. “It’s the same size, give or take, of my hometown.”

“We like the hometown feel,” she said. “My husband works from home and is able to get out in the community more. He wasn’t able to do that as much in St. Louis.”

Osheim-Owen is married to Eric Owen. He works as a business travel consultant.

They are members of Grace Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge.

At Friendship Haven, Osheim-Owen said working with older adults is a joy.

“I have been feeling called to working with an older adult population for the past eight to 10 years,” she said. “Older adults are super busy and active, still making a difference in the world.”

Osheim-Owen said she is looking forward to growing in her new position.

“Julie Thorson (Friendship Haven president and chief executive officer) really encourages us to dream big and think outside the box,” she said. “There is a lot of potential for spiritual care here, and seeing what God has in store for Friendship Haven and how I play a part in that journey.”