Staff and Students

Portrait of Bonnie Ballard

Bonnie Ballard, Administrative Associate, joined the Pastoral Care Department in January, 2009. Prior to joining the Pastoral Care Team, she worked in the Registration Department for almost two years. Before coming to Covenant HealthCare, Bonnie worked as a customer service representative/supervisor for many years. She received her Associates Degree in business from Delta College and became a certified professional secretary in 1985. Bonnie is a member/past president of the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Bonnie can be reached at 989.583.6042 or

Portrait of John Behmlander

John Behmlander is serving as an Intern Chaplain. He was born and raised in Midland, Michigan and now lives in Essexville. He graduated from Concordia University-Ann Arbor with a degree in Religious Studies and a minor in Business. It was in college that he first developed a strong interest in practical applications of theology. After graduation, he immediately enrolled at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he furthered his theological education and training. He was privileged to serve three years as an intern in several Lutheran churches. He is passionate about serving God and helping people in their struggles. For fun John enjoys genealogy and taking in the beauty of God’s creation. John can be reached at

Portrait of Kathy Bonn

Kathy Bonn, Director of the Pastoral Care Department, is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She brought a variety of experiences to the role of director in July 2007, including being a high school math teacher, college professor, and Hospice volunteer. During her chaplaincy training, Kathy did her CPE internship at Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center (in La Crosse, WI) and her CPE residency at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center (in Toledo, OH). For her Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry she specialized in hospital chaplaincy, and her Ph.D. is in Curriculum & Instruction. Kathy can be reached at 989.583.6037.

Portrait of Anne Breitag

Anne Breitag is a Roman Catholic Dominican Sister who has worked on Covenant's Pastoral Care Team since August 2000 after completing her Clinical Pastoral Education studies. Before joining Covenant, she was in active parish ministry for 33 years as a teacher, principal, religious education director, and pastoral minister. Sister Anne became a certified chaplain in the summer of 2002. Sister Anne can be contacted at 989.583.4398.

Portrait of Heather Collins

Heather Collins manages the Covenant CPE program and supervises our pastoral students. She moved to Saginaw in 2015 with her husband, David, their three dogs, and two cats when she was offered a position at Covenant. She entered the field of pastoral care and education in 2000 after serving in the congregational setting for seven years as an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She directed the Chaplaincy Services at the Atlanta Medical Center in Georgia for twelve years until she resigned to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with her husband. They completed the 2200 mile journey in April 2015. Heather loves the ministry of caring for people, and of teaching helpful skills for artful ministry. She is gratified to be a part of the Covenant team and can be reached at

Portrait of Jeff England

Jeff England is serving as an Intern Chaplain. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Akron. He spent five years working in the engineering field before being called into full-time vocational ministry. Jeff and his family moved from Ohio to Michigan in 2000 so he could attend Grand Rapids Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Divinity degree in 2004. Jeff has pastored three churches and was ordained in 2009. He has served as a fire chaplain, volunteer hospital chaplain and currently a hospice chaplain and a marketplace chaplain. He enjoys spending time with his family when not working. Jeff can be reached at

Portrait of Ruth Estell

Ruth Estell a 2018-2019 Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Resident Chaplain, grew up in Taiwan where her parents served as missionaries. She completed a B.A. in Christian Education and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies and TESL from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. For the next ten years, she served in China teaching English to college students. She then returned to Taiwan where her areas of ministry included teaching English at a seminary, prison ministry, and special needs ministry. She returned from the mission field and completed an M.Div. from Western Theological College in Holland, MI. During that time, she completed her first unit of CPE at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, MI. Ruth is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and is excited to be at Covenant. Ruth can be reached at

Portrait of Curt Norman

Curt Norman serves as an occasional employee at Covenant. Curt was ordained deacon in 2001 and priest in 2002 in The Episcopal Church, and has been Rector of a local congregation since January 2017. Before arriving in Saginaw, Curt served congregations in California, New Mexico, and Texas. Curt completed one unit of CPE in 1999 at the University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital. He earned his Master of Divinity from the University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee in 2001. Curt received his Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas, and worked for the CBS Radio News affiliate in Dallas before entering full-time ministry. Curt can be reached at

Portrait of Mark Oswald

Mark Oswald is serving as an occasional employee at Covenant. He completed his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship in August of 2016. He is a Lay Minister with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 2008 and has been trained in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. Mark was also a licensed nursing home administrator and has 19 years of experience in firefighting and rescue. He is the leader of the St. John Jail Ministry Team and is married with 3 grown children. Mark can be reached at

Portrait of Brant Piper

Brant Piper, an occasional employee, joined Covenant’s Department of Pastoral Care & Education in January 2019 after moving to Bay City from North Carolina.  Born and raised in Miami, FL, Brant completed his bachelor’s degree in history at Duke University, his master’s degree in religious education at Union Presbyterian Seminary, his M.Div. at Eden Theological Seminary, and, in March of 2010, a unit of CPE at the Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.  He is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church, USA, in which he has served churches in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina.  He completed his training to be a pastoral psychotherapist at the Carolina Institute of Clinical Pastoral Training and served for 12 years as a full-time pastoral counselor.  He can be reached at

Portrait of Elaine Raymond

Elaine Raymond is a Mission Sister of the Holy Spirit and has been an occasional employee at Covenant since 1984 when former director, Ray Dice, was the only full-time chaplain. Ray saw the need for round-the-clock chaplains and prepared four ministers for this ministry on a volunteer basis. At that time Sr. Elaine was a full-time pastoral associate at St. Andrew Catholic Church after which she was appointed Pastoral Administrator at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Merrill from 1989-1999. During this time she continued her chaplaincy with Covenant. She also directs the Special Religious Education Program (SPRED) for developmentally disabled people throughout the Diocese. In 1999, Sr. Elaine returned to St. Andrew and continued there for nine years before retiring. She continues chaplaincy at Covenant, the SPRED program, and is also a hospice chaplain for the Visiting Nurses Association of Covenant. Sr. Elaine can be reached at

Portrait of Dorthy Ruffin

Dorothy Ruffin is serving as a Covenant Intern Chaplain. She is a caring, enthusiastic person with a strong commitment to reaching out to those who are in need of spiritual, emotional and mental support. Dorothy easily interacts with the patients and their family members and encourages her care recipients in their sense of self-worth. Dorothy received her Master of Divinity Degree in 2017 from Andrews University and is pursuing professional chaplaincy as her calling. She is an attentive listener, and enthusiastic about helping people embrace their spiritual qualities believing everyone is precious in God’s sight. For fun Dorothy likes to write, sing, and walk. She can be reached at

Portrait of Rob Schmidt

Rob Schmidt serves as an occasional employee at Covenant. Rob is an ordained clergy in the ELCA and serves as pastor to a local congregation since 2006. Rob has completed one unit of CPE as part of his seminary education at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH, where he earned his masters of divinity. Prior to ministry Rob earned a masters in counseling education and psychology from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s of science with secondary education teaching endorsement. Rob served in the public school system in the state of Michigan where he taught, coached and served as a counselor prior to pursuing his ministerial credentials. Rob can be reached at

Portrait of Lafayette Simpson

Lafayette Simpson, an occasional employee, joined Covenant’s Department of Pastoral Care & Education in October 2015. In 2014, he completed a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship and received his CPE Certification from Covenant’s CPE Program. In 2014, Lafayette was installed as the second pastor of the 63-year-old congregation of the historic Bethlehem Baptist Church of Saginaw. Along his journey serving in ministry for 16 years, he has been ordained and appointed as the Chairman of the Deacon Board, licensed and ordained as a minister.  Lafayette gained ministry knowledge by attending Midwest Bible College in Pontiac, Michigan. He can be reached at

Portrait of Robert Smith

Robert E. Smith, Jr. is a Resident Chaplain (2018-2019) and a native son of Flint, MI. Robert matriculated through Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, receiving a Bachelors of Arts degree in Pastoral Theology, and The C. H. Mason Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, earning the Master of Divinity Degree in Pastoral Counseling. Robert is an ordained Elder with the Church of God in Christ, Inc. (COGIC) since 1983, and formerly served as Senior Pastor of the Zion Hope COGIC, Dublin, GA and the New Hope COGIC, Columbus, GA. Robert has joyfully served in several leadership capacities in COGIC, including Administrative Assistant to the Jurisdictional Bishop in the historic First Jurisdiction of Georgia, and Vice President of the COGIC International Sunday School Department. Robert was also employed with the Muscogee County School District, Columbus, GA. In August 2018, Robert began serving as the Resident Pastor of the historic “Mother COGIC Church” in Flint, MI, The New St. James Memorial COGIC. Robert enjoys singing, teaching and serving others in the loving spirit of Christ Jesus. He can be reached at

Portrait of Carol Wesolek

Carol Wesolek is serving Covenant as an occasional employee. She has completed 4 units of CPE at Covenant, which included a year residency. She has been a licensed ordained chaplain through the International Fellowship of Chaplains since 1999, with emphasis on trauma, grief and loss. Carol is a member of a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and Management team, having taken training through ICISF (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation) of which she is a member, and the IFOC (International Fellowship of Chaplains). She also attended Mid-Michigan Bible Institute. She can be reached at

Portrait of Betty Zeestraten

Betty Zeestraten serves as part of the Pastoral Care Team after many years of ministering in Saginaw area churches and in children residential foster care facilities and substance abuse recovery programs for adults and teens. Her background includes a BA in Education from the University of Toledo, an MA in Pastoral Studies from Marygrove University and another MA in Counseling from Spring Arbor University. She has additional educational experiences in Clinical Pastoral Experience (CPE) units through Covenant’s CPE program. Chaplain Betty enjoys ministering to patients, staff and visitors at Covenant with the WE-CARE values. Chaplain Betty can be reached at