ear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).
Jesus’ disciples witnessed and understood the basis, foundation, and reach of wholistic health and ministry—caring for the whole person: physical, mental, spiritual, and social. Jesus built on the scriptural foundations of healthful living and practices shared with Israel of old, and, through the revelations given to Ellen G. White, expanded the vision and mission entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The “Adventist advantage” has been given to us to share and to fit us for service; the wonderful blessing is that if we heed and have faith in His prophets, we shall be “upheld . . . and successful” (2 Chron. 20:20).
Moving Forward Collaboratively
The theme of service that attendees at the last worldwide health advisory adopted built upon the previous quinquennium’s goal: “Every Church a Community Health Center.” This quinquennium’s expanded vision included “Every Member a Medical Missionary” (health educator that shares the theory and practice of wholistic, grace-filled health ministry).
Congregations across the world divisions accepted the challenge and enthusiastically embarked on training activities and community outreach through exercise clubs, vegetarian cooking schools, smoking-cessation initiatives, health screening, addiction prevention, and education, to name just a few. General Conference (GC) president Ted Wilson’s focus on comprehensive health ministry boosted these endeavors, and various church ministries collaborated in emphasizing Christ’s method and ministry of reaching the whole person. The results have been exciting partnerships and projects.
Health and Media
Health is something to celebrate, rejoicing in the promise of wholeness in our brokenness; and we all are broken. Through a generous donation from a church member, we published and distributed the book Celebrations. This manual embraces the eight natural remedies for prevention of disease and promotion of health and well-being, as well as choices, optimism, environment, integrity, and social support and relationships. It’s being printed in various languages worldwide, including Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. Twelve accompanying health sermons with graphics are also available.
The Health Ministries team enjoyed a deepening and productive relationship with our church’s media. Adventist Review and Adventist World carry regular health articles and features. Hope Channel International continues to air Life’s Beat, and the Health Ministries team regularly features on the popular Go Healthy program. In July 2014, Adventist Review, in collaboration with GCHM, published a special 64-page edition entitled “A Picture of Health,” to mark the worldwide “launch” and training program in comprehensive health ministry at the Second Global Conference on Lifestyle and Health held in Geneva, Switzerland. This edition on what health and balanced living “looks like” was well received at the conference. GCHM also teamed up with the Institute for the Prevention of Addictions to produce a focus edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Adventist Education on addictions, a useful tool for both Adventist educators and students.
Second Global Conference on Lifestyle and Health
The Geneva conference on lifestyle and health, held July 7-12, 2014, was exhilarating and educative. The theme was “Noncommunicable Diseases: Lifelong Lifestyle and Prevention, Accessible to All.” There were 1,300 participants from 83 countries. Simultaneous translation from English was provided in five other languages. Many internationally renowned keynote and plenary speakers and more than 100 presenters participated in the lectures and 27 breakout sessions. These sessions provided opportunity for training, learning, and presentation of original research. Mark Finley, assistant to the GC president, started each day with the Spirituality and Health Focus on the uniqueness of the Adventist health message. Ted Wilson, keynote speaker, was joined by speakers from Harvard, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the University of Maryland, Loma Linda University, Andrews University, and many other prestigious institutions. It was a potpourri of academic excellence, spiritual sensitivity, focused fellowship, topical training, and necessary networking, as well as a bright light shining on the opportunities, needs, and responsibility of comprehensive health ministry. We praise the Lord for gracing the conference with His presence. A special word of appreciation is due to the Hope Channel, Hope Channel Germany, and the Inter-European Division for logistical and indispensable audiovisual, technical, and financial support.
During this quinquennium the Adventist Church and Health Ministries renewed our collective commitment to assist smokers to quit tobacco use. The Breath Free 2 program, an updated, Web-based stop-smoking program, was released at the 2014 Geneva health conference. The new version is a makeover of the highly successful Breathe-Free program. It was developed as a collaborative initiative of the GCHM team, the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (ICPA), Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and the United Arab Emirates University. The program is gaining traction worldwide as an efficient, user-friendly tool to combat tobacco addiction.
Thousands of pastors, health professionals, and seminary and health profession students, as well as other church members, have received training in various aspects of comprehensive health ministry in all the divisions and attached unions/fields of the world church during these past five years. New curricula have been planned and implemented to prepare seminary and medical students for lifetime careers of blended wholistic healing ministry. Integrated evangelism has been modeled and taught, with collaborating events from such territories as the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, China, Africa, Indonesia, the United States, and Peru.
The prevention of at-risk behaviors in youth and college/university-age students is a high priority for GCHM. Teaching young people the values of honor, dignity, and respect—emphasizing the importance of connectedness to one another and (most important) to Jesus Christ—is the method in which Youth Alive makes the difference. This program has been run from Namibia to Negros, Swaziland to the Seychelles, and the United Kingdom to Angola. God has blessed this initiative with many trainers trained and many more young people’s lives changed for the good.
The General Conference Nutrition Council (GCNC), which meets at least every other year, runs vegetarian conferences around the world (three this quinquennium) and updates nutrition guidelines and position statements. The first International GCNC meeting was held in Brazil in 2015, with excellent attendance and presentations. The GCNC is engaging more young people and intentionally embracing diversity.
Partnerships with divisions, supporting ministries, and nongovernmental organizations have been fruitful. GCHM continues to work with PAHO, especially in South America and Inter-America. Our very active collaboration with the Loma Linda University School of Nursing has seen the start-up of a partnership between GCHM, WHO, and LLU to positively impact maternal health and decrease infant mortality. Two new medical schools have developed in the past five years in Nigeria and in Peru. A third new medical school in the Philippines has been approved to open in August. Three dental schools are in the pipeline for the South American Division. GCHM and the Loma Linda School of Dentistry continue to collaboratively foster dental missions throughout the 13 divisions.
The tragedy of Ebola in West-Central Africa saw GCHM, Adventist Health International, Adventist Community Services, Hope for Humanity, and Adventist Risk Management lock steps to bring relief and resources to the untold scale of human suffering in these territories. These partnerships continue to assist and develop our mission hospitals around the world.
In 2013 Dr. Allan R. Handysides retired after serving as director of Health Ministries for 15 years. We salute his visionary, energetic, and Christ-focused leadership. Dr. Viriato Ferreira, from Portugal, joined the team as the new in-house associate director, and we welcome him! The GCHM team was further enriched by the appointments of departmental associates, Drs. David Williams and Albert Reece, professor of public health at Harvard University and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, respectively. We are blessed to have talented, diverse, and committed health ministry teams around world.
We thank the Lord for His unstinting grace and support, and for the prayers and ongoing cooperation of the church members. Maranatha!