Is my cholesterol OK?” “Do I have high blood pressure?” “Is there anything I can do to help with stress?”
Imagine visiting a place where you can find answers to these and many other questions in a friendly environment and free of charge! You would wish to go back with your family and friends, wouldn’t you? Does such a place exist? Yes! Not one but hundreds of them. They are modern-day health expos.
Started in the 1980s at Weimar Institute in California and reshaped in 2000 at Wildwood Lifestyle Center in Georgia, health expos have been providing opportunities for the public to meet Adventists face to face around a point of need: health. The church has much to offer in this area; the Bible-based Adventist health message has been helping millions of people to enjoy better health.
Health expos are single events that run for one to five days in public places such as community halls, schools, and shopping malls. They comprise eight to 12 stations addressing spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health. At the “nutrition station,” for example, two attractive banners provide the background for simple tests to measure cholesterol and glucose in the blood. Results are available in less than five minutes and provide an excellent opportunity to share practical advice on healthful eating. Other health stations address lifestyle principles such as exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, pure air, rest, trust in God, integrity, and social support. The banners have been translated into 40 languages, including Chinese and Hindi.
A new program especially designed for children was launched in 2009. The children’s health expo, aimed at reaching 7- to 12- year-olds, is gaining popularity worldwide. It helps children understand the beauty of health as a gift of God. It also provides church members an opportunity to work in schools, where these expos are most popular.
Many people ask: “How can we organize a health expo if we have only one or two health professionals in our church?”
The answer is quite simple: “Involve nonmedical volunteers and work together with other churches and organizations that have more health professionals.”
Credibility, care, and integrity must characterize health expos. Proper training of nonmedical volunteers is vital. Some health professionals must be present, but they don’t have to perform all the tasks. For example, it isn’t necessary to have a health professional weigh people; a nonmedical volunteer can effectively do this. After completing the circuit of tests, however, participants can have a brief conversation with health professionals, who will review all the results and advise people about important lifestyle principles.
Years ago the first health expo in Western Europe was organized in the Azores, a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The local Adventist church had 45 members and one nurse. The pastor, however, wasn’t discouraged by the daunting task. He invited teachers and students from the local nursing school to help. He also approached local government officials and secured the use of a 400-seat hall. Organizers wondered whether anyone would come, but comforting thoughts came quickly to the team: We are doing God´s work in the way we understand it should be done, they thought, so God will bring whomever He wants to bring.
The turnout was overwhelming. Sixteen nurses responded to the call, and 650 people visited in just a few days! This was the beginning of the health expo success story in Western Europe, where an estimated 500,000 people have been helped in more than 15 countries.
Health expos are now conducted worldwide, touching lives with the healing ministry of Jesus. It is the church in action. Why not try it in your own church? The results will be “out of this world.”
For more information on health expos, visit www.healthexpos.org and www.healthministries.com.